New Delhi: US President Joe Biden had a quick chat with his European allies after Russia announced Tuesday that it would radically scale down military operations around Ukraine capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were on the call which lasted an hour.
Britain was pushing for a “complete withdrawal” of Russian forces from Ukraine, a Johnson aide said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was suspicious of Russia’s move to curb hostilities around Kyiv. He said it could be an attempt to deceive people.
However, two senior US officials told CNN that Russia was beginning to withdraw some forces, including Russian Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) from the surrounding areas around Kyiv.
Russian forces were also pulling back from some places in the north and focusing on gains made in the south and the east, according to these officials.
After talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations in a palace in Istanbul Tuesday, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said: “In order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing and signing (an) agreement, a decision was made to radically, by a large margin, reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions.”
Some experts have been sceptical of Russia’s announcement, noting that Russia was retreating from only those areas which they could not conquer.
At the talks, Ukraine offered not to join alliances or host foreign troop bases in the country but wanted security guarantees similar to Article 5 of the NATO alliance, which provides collective defence.
It said Israel and NATO members Canada, Poland and Turkey could give such guarantees. Russia, the US, Britain, Germany and Italy could also be involved.
The two sides have also agreed on a 15-year discussion period on the status of Russia-annexed Crimea. The interests of the self-proclaimed independent Donbas region, which is pro-Russia, should be taken up by the countries’ top leaders, Ukraine negotiators said Tuesday.
Ukraine insisted that any deal sought by Russia must be put to its citizens for a referendum.
Meanwhile, the United Nations said Tuesday that more than 3.9 million people have already fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian offensive.
The international Organisation for Migration said 3,901,713 refugees registered as of Monday.
Source: The Print