Day 35 of the Invasion of Ukraine: The West does not Believe Russia is Withdrawing
Russia's promise to reduce its military activity in the north of Ukraine was met with skepticism, while Vladimir Zelensky said there were positive signs of the talks in Istanbul.
Western and Ukrainian officials have reacted cautiously to Russia's claim that it will significantly reduce its military activities in northern Ukraine following “significant” progress in the Istanbul peace talks. More than a month after the invasion, which is largely a dead-end in the eyes of the West, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Moscow would “radically reduce its military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv.”
Vladimir Zelensky said the talks were “positive but they did not drown out the explosions of Russian shells”, adding that Ukraine had no intention of reducing its military efforts. Joe Biden said: “Ukraine is currently in a position to deal with the situation in Ukraine.” U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he saw nothing to show that talks were progressing “constructively” and suggested that Russia's withdrawal promises could be Moscow's attempt to “mislead and divert attention.” “What Russia is saying and what Russia is doing are different things, and we are focusing on the latter,” he said.
Moscow's chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, said Russia's promise to “drastically reduce” military operations does not mean a ceasefire. In an interview with the Russian state news agency TASS, Medinsky said there was still a “long way” to reaching a mutual agreement with Ukraine.
Following Russia's statement, two senior US officials said the United States was watching Russia withdraw some of its forces from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, which they said was a “big” change in Russia's strategy. Another US official said that any movement of Russian forces around Kyiv was “a regrouping rather than a withdrawal.”
The United Kingdom has also seen signs of a “certain reduction” in the intensity of Russian bombings around Kyiv. But the United Kingdom will appreciate the timid steps towards a possible peace agreement in action rather than in words. “We do not want to see anything less than the complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory,” said a spokesman for Prime Minister Johnson. Ukraine has called for an “international security guarantee mechanism”, similar to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, which obliges members of the alliance to defend each other. Senior adviser to Ukrainian President Mykhailo Podoliak said the guarantee would include countries such as the United States, Britain, Turkey, France and Germany, which “are legally active in defending [Ukraine] from any aggression.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow's “main goal” in Ukraine now was to “liberate” the Donbas region. As a sign that Moscow may be moving to more limited targets after facing fierce Ukrainian resistance in the first month of the war, Shoigu said “the main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been accomplished.”
On Tuesday, a Russian air strike hit a government building in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv, destroying much of the building and leaving people trapped under the rubble. At least 12 people were killed and 22 were injured, the Ukrainian Emergency Situations Agency said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called on Russia and Ukraine to reach a clear agreement on the safe evacuation of civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol and elsewhere on the front lines, as vital humanitarian supplies are running out. “Time is running out" for the people of Mariupol, the ICRC warned, adding that there were still no “concrete agreements” for the safe passage and evacuation of civilians in the southern Ukrainian city.
According to Downing Street, Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron, Boris Johnson, Olaf Scholz and Mario Draghi agreed in a telephone conversation not to “weaken the West's determination until the horror of Ukraine is over.”
They said they agreed to “continue to increase sanctions and the price paid by Russia,” the White House said.
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