KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russia on Tuesday announced a significant reduction in military operations near the Ukrainian capital and northern city, as the outcome of a possible round of talks on ending the grinding war came to light in recent rounds of talks.
At the conference in Istanbul, Ukraine’s delegation laid down a framework for declaring the country neutral and its security guaranteed by the order of other countries.
Moscow’s general reaction was positive, and talks are expected to resume on Wednesday in five weeks, which has turned into a bloody war, with thousands dead and nearly 4 million Ukrainians fleeing the country.
In the midst of the talks, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said that Moscow had decided to “basically … reduce military operations in the direction of Kiev and Chernihiv” to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further talks.”
He did not immediately pronounce what it meant in practice.
The announcement drew suspicion from the United States and others.
Although Moscow portrays it as an act of goodwill, its ground forces have been embroiled in an attempt to capture Kiev and other cities, and have suffered heavy casualties. Last week and Tuesday, the Kremlin appeared to have downplayed its war aims, saying its “main goal” was to gain control of the Russian-speaking Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden asked if the Russian announcement was a sign of progress in the talks or an attempt by Moscow to buy time to continue its offensive: “We will see. I will not read anything in it until I see what their actions are.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he did not see anything indicating that the talks were moving forward “constructively” and suggested that signs of a Russian retreat could be Moscow’s attempt to “deceive and divert attention”.
In Morocco, Blinken said, “What Russia says and what Russia does, we focus on the latter. What Russia is doing is a continuing brutality of Ukraine.”
Western officials say they are strengthening troops at the Moscow Donbass in an attempt to encircle Ukraine’s best-trained and well-armed forces concentrated in the east. In the south of the country, civilians trapped in the rubble of Mariupol and other bombing and devastated cities continue to suffer.
As negotiators gather, emergency officials say at least 12 people have been killed after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces drilled a hole in a nine – storey government administration building during a strike in the southern port city of Mykolayiv. The search for more bodies continued into the rubble.
“It was horrible. People were waiting for them to go to work,” regional governor Vitaly Kim said before hitting the building. I’m lucky. “
The Ukrainian military says it has withdrawn some Russian troops from Kiev and Chernihiv. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN that the United States did not see any significant withdrawal from the capital, but “what we have seen over the past two days is that they have stopped trying to advance in Kay.”
Rob Lee, a military expert at the US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, tweeted about the Russian announcement: “Russia’s progress around Kiev has stalled for weeks and seems to acknowledge the recent successes of Ukrainian forces. . Russia does not have the power to encircle the city.
This is the first time in two weeks that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have met face-to-face in Istanbul. Earlier talks were held in Belarus either live or via video.
Among other things, the Kremlin has demanded that Ukraine drop its hopes of joining NATO.
Ukraine’s delegation provided a comprehensive framework for a peace agreement under which the country would remain neutral, but its security would be guaranteed by a group of third countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Turkey, China and Poland, such as NATO. The principle of “attack on one is attack on all”.
Ukraine has said it is ready to hold talks for 15 years on the future of the Crimean peninsula, which was captured by Russia in 2014.
Vladimir Medinsky, head of the Russian delegation, said on Russian television that the Ukrainian proposals were “a clear, positive step, a step towards meeting us halfway.”
He warned that the parties were still far from reaching an agreement, but said: “We now know how to move further towards compromise. We are not just referring to time in negotiations.
“Negotiations on the drafting of an agreement on Ukraine’s neutrality and non – nuclear status and the provision of security guarantees for Ukraine are returning to practical matters,” Fomin suggested, making similar progress.
Among other developments:
– The Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Ireland and northern Macedonia expelled numerous Russian ambassadors in what appeared to be a concerted effort to counter Russian espionage.
– The head of the UN Nuclear Monitoring Organization arrives in Ukraine Should try to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities. Russian forces take control of the Chernobyl plant, the site of the worst nuclear accident in the world in 1986, and the active Zaporizhia plant, where buildings were damaged in the fighting.
– Russia has destroyed more than 60 religious buildings across the country in a month-long war, with the Ukrainian military saying most of the damage was concentrated near and east of Kiev.
– Roman Abramovich was in the Istanbul negotiating room, A longtime Putin ally sanctioned by Britain and the European Union. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the owner of the Chelsea football team is acting as an unofficial mediator recognized by both countries. But the mystery about his role has been deepened by reports that he may have drunk poison during previous rounds of talks.
Over the past several days, Ukrainian forces have launched counterattacks and reclaimed land in the suburbs of Kiev and elsewhere.
Ukrainian soldiers gathered in a trench for photos with Colonel General Oleksandr Zirzky, who said Ukraine had recaptured much of the main suburb northwest of Irfin, where he had seen fierce fighting.
“We are defending our homeland because we have the highest level of morale,” said Sirsky, the top military commander in charge of Kiev’s defense. “Because we want to win.”
Ukrainian forces also withdrew the Trostianets south of Sumi in the northeast after a week-long occupation that left Russian bodies, burnt and twisted tanks and burnt buildings on the ground.
Putin’s ground forces were repulsed not only by stronger Ukrainian opposition than expected, but also by Western officials’ Russian tactical misconduct, poor morale, food shortages, fuel and cold weather equipment and other problems.
Reiterating what the military had said last week, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday said that “releasing Donbass” was now Moscow’s main goal.
While it presents a possible face-off exit strategy for Putin, it has also raised Ukrainian fears aimed at dividing the Kremlin and forcing a section of its territory to surrender.
Karmanov reported from LV in Ukraine. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.
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