Russia has declared that military combat operations in two important areas of Ukraine will be “dramatically reduced” in order to “increase mutual trust” in peace talks.
The decision to reduce operations near Kyiv, the capital, and Chernihiv, in the north, is the first hint of actual progress from the discussions.
However, the extent of any slowdown in military operations is unknown, and Ukraine remains skeptical.
The vow should be treated with caution, according to the United States and the United Kingdom.
Russia’s deputy defense minister, Alexander Fomin, stated on Tuesday that the country would “significantly limit military activities” in the region of Kyiv and Chernihiv.
He went on to say that progress had been made on Ukraine’s “neutrality and non-nuclear status,” which are two of Moscow’s main concerns.
Russia’s promise to reduce its forces, on the other hand, was regarded with skepticism. President Volodymyr Zelensky remarked in a nocturnal video message, “Ukrainians are not naive people.”
“We can say the signals are positive,” he continued, “but they don’t block out the explosions or Russian shells.”
“We’ve just seen a limited number begin to flee Kyiv,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, adding that people should be “prepared to watch for a big attack against other places.”
“We’ve just seen a small number begin to move away from Kyiv,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, adding that everyone should be “ready to watch for a big offensive on other areas of Ukraine.”
Russia will most likely “attempt to redirect combat strength from the north to their offensive in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east,” according to the UK Defence Ministry.
Russia’s campaign has already shifted its focus to Ukraine’s eastern regions. It has suffered a series of setbacks to the north of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and is also attempting to seize a land corridor that runs along the south coast to the Russian border.
Ukraine offered becoming a neutral state in exchange for security guarantees during Tuesday’s peace discussions. One of the main goals of Russia’s invasion was to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO, and Russian officials said the talks had progressed to a practical stage.
Oleksandr Chaly, a Ukrainian negotiator, told reporters that the country’s offer of neutrality – meaning it would not form military alliances with others – was an opportunity to “restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and security by diplomatic and political methods.”
Russian forces have ringed Chernihiv, where officials estimate that up to 400 people have died and 130,000 people are without heat, electricity, or water.
Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s lead negotiator, said the negotiations were “serious” and that Ukraine’s neutrality recommendations would be presented to President Vladimir Putin. However, he made it plain that a treaty would need to be developed, accepted by negotiators, and then ratified by foreign ministers before a presidential summit could take place.
“This is not a ceasefire,” Mr Medinsky told Russian state news outlet Tass, “but it is our aim to gradually de-escalate the fighting on these fronts.”
In Istanbul, Ukraine’s negotiators presented the Russians with specific suggestions on neutrality and other key topics in the conflict.
According to Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia, this framework would allow a ceasefire to be reached without the settlement of Crimea and the eastern areas.
In addition, the plans would allow Ukraine to join the European Union but preventing it from joining Nato’s defensive military alliance.