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‘Not naive,’ Zelenskyy, West sceptical of Russia’s offer to scale down military around Kyiv

New Delhi: Ukraine is cynical about Russia’s pledge Tuesday that it would drastically reduce military activity around the country’s north.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that “Ukrainians are not naive people”. “Ukrainians have already learned during these 34 days of invasion, and over the past eight years of the war in Donbass, that the only thing they can trust is a concrete result,” he added.

He said the “positive” signals do not “drown out the explosions or Russian shells”. There would be no let-up in defence efforts, the president vowed.

Ukraine’s defence establishment believed Russia’s offer was most likely a troop rotation to “mislead” Ukraine’s military.

At the in-person talks between the two countries’ delegates in an Istanbul palace Tuesday, the Russian side offered the move to scale down in order to “increase mutual trust”.

Talks head and 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.”

The Russian side did not mention areas which have seen heavy fighting — Mariupol in the southeast, Kharkiv and Sumy in the east and Kherson and Mykolaiv in the south. Russia had blown a hole Tuesday in a Mykolaiv government building that killed at least 12 people.

After the peace-talk announcement, there were immediate reports that Russia was beginning to withdraw some forces, including Russian Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) from the surrounding areas of Kyiv.

However, Zelenskyy’s scepticism was also shared by experts, some of whom believe Russia is retreating from only those areas which they have not been able to conquer.

Reuters quoted from British intel: “It is highly likely that Russia will seek to divert combat power from the north to their offensive in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east.”

The West announced it would keep “raising the costs” on Russia soon after US President Joe Biden got off an hour-long call with European allies.

Biden was asked by reporters if Russia was merely buying time. He answered: “We’ll see if they follow through on what they’re suggesting.”

The Pentagon was not ready to call Russia’s announcement “a retreat or even a withdrawal”. It has warned that Russia may be planning a “major offensive” in other parts of Ukraine.

Britain said it would judge Putin and his regime by “his actions and not words”.

Also read: India successfully test fire medium range, surface-to-air missile off Odisha’s Balasore

Source: The Print

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