US believes Russia’s withdrawal near kyiv is a ‘repositioning’, not a ‘withdrawal’

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday it would sharply scale back military operations near the Ukrainian capital kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust” for a possible peace deal with Ukraine, though progress in both cities had already stagnated.

The last: US and British officials dispute the claims. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the United States had seen a “small number” of Russian forces moving away from kyiv, but that it was “too early” to tell whether the withdrawal would be significant. Russian units were reorganizing and resupplying in Russia and Belarus due to heavy losses, according to a UK report. intelligence update Wednesday.

A screenshot of the UK intelligence update on Ukraine warning that Russian forces are regrouping in Belarus.
Photo: UK Ministry of Defense/Twitter

What they are saying: “We believe that this is a repositioning, not a real withdrawal, and that we should all be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine,” Kirby said, noting in particular the increased Russian activity in the eastern region of Ukraine. Donbas.

  • “Russia failed in its goal of capturing kyiv. It failed in its goal of subjugating the Ukraine. But they can still inflict massive brutality on the country,” he added.

Why it matters: Russia’s announcement came after several hours of peace talks in Istanbul that both Russian and Ukrainian negotiators called constructive.

State of the situation: A senior US defense official. told reporters on Monday that Russia has made no progress in its attacks on kyiv and Chernihiv, and in some areas has established “defensive positions” as Ukrainian forces launch counter-offensives.

  • Senior Russian military officials said last week that Moscow’s operation was entering a “new phase” focused on “liberating” the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been waging a low-level insurgency. for eight years.
  • Some military experts warn that Russia could use a temporary ceasefire as an opportunity to resupply its troops and refocus its strategy after failing to achieve many of its military objectives during the first month of the war.

The panorama: Turkey’s foreign minister, who helped broker the talks, said Tuesday that they produced the most significant progress to date.

  • President Biden addressed the development during a news conference Tuesday afternoon, saying, “I don’t read anything until I see what their actions are. We’ll see if they follow through with what they’re suggesting.”
  • “In the meantime, we are going to continue to maintain strong sanctions,” Biden said. “We will continue to provide the Ukrainian army with its ability to defend itself. And we’re going to continue to keep a close eye on what’s going on.”
  • Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said a ceasefire deal would not be enough to lift sanctions on Russia. by BBC. That could be a key point for the Kremlin.

What to see: The Ukrainian delegation said in Istanbul that there was no progress on the ceasefire or territorial disputes in Crimea and Donbas, but that it had proposed a future security agreement that will now be reviewed by the Kremlin.

  • The two sides are likely to meet again in the next two weeks, Ukraine’s chief negotiator said.
  • Russia’s top negotiator said his side was prepared to speed up a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky if their foreign ministers could reach a peace deal.
  • Zelensky has been calling for such a meeting for weeks, but Putin has yet to agree to or publicly endorse any peace proposal.

It is worth noting: The Ukrainian side said that the proposed security guarantees in case Ukraine is attacked again are based on NATO’s mutual defense clause.

  • Countries like the US, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Turkey, and the UK would initiate immediate diplomatic consultations and, if they fail, take steps such as supplying weapons and maintaining a no-fly zone. .
  • Mykhailo Podolyak, the main Ukrainian negotiator, said Ukraine had already received “positive responses” from some of those countries.

Between lines: Countries, including the US, would be wary of explicitly committing to military intervention to defend Ukraine.

Editor’s Note: This story and headline have been updated with additional comments from US and UK officials.

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