Amid the first round of peace talks with Ukraine in more than two weeks, Russia’s deputy defense minister announced the country would “fundamentally… cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv.” The concession, offered “to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations,” could be an indication that the talks are yielding progress.
“Negotiations on the preparation of the agreement on the neutrality and non-nuclear status of Ukraine, as well as on the provision of security guarantees to Ukraine, are turning to practical matters,” Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Tuesday. Previous talks have stalled out with not much progress to report.
“In this meeting that was held today, we see some distance has been covered,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after the talks, which took place in Istanbul. “Consensus and common understanding was reached on some issues. The most meaningful progress since the beginning of negotiations was made today.”
While officials involved hailed the talks between Russia and Ukraine, including the Kyiv concession, Secretary of State Antony Blinken wasn’t as convinced. During a trip to Morocco Tuesday, he suggested a pullback from Kyiv and Chernihiv could be an attempt to “deceive people and deflect attention.”
“There is what Russia says and there is what Russia does, and we’re focused on the latter,” Blinken said. “If they somehow believe that an effort to subjugate only the eastern part of Ukraine or the southern part of Ukraine … can succeed, then once again they are profoundly fooling themselves.”
Ukraine’s military said it has noted withdrawals of some forces around Kyiv and Chernihiv. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN “we haven’t seen anything to corroborate” reports of Russia withdrawing significant forces from around Kyiv.
“What we have seen over the last couple of days is they have stopped trying to advance on Kyiv,” Kirby said.