Newsnight: Russia ‘repositioning’ rather than ‘withdrawing’ troops, says US intelligence

Russia: Putin opponent reveals impact of Western sanctions

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On Tuesday, Russia has announced it will “drastically reduce” military combat operations in two key areas of Ukraine “to boost mutual trust” in peace talks. The decision to scale back operations around the capital of Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv is the first sign of tangible progress.

However, speaking on BBC Newsnight, Victoria Nuland, US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, commented that Russia moving troops away from Kyiv doesn’t help negotiations.

She said: “We have seen the Russians make claims of peace over and over again and do something differently.

“So, at the moment we are seeing some of their forces move out of the area around Kyiv and out of Chernihiv.

“We see this more as a repositioning rather than a withdrawal.

“We fully expect them to use these forces again elsewhere in Ukraine, but we will obviously be watching very very closely.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, said he saw no reason to believe the words of some Russian representatives.

In a video, Mr Zelensky said: “We can say that the signals… are positive, but those signals do not drown out the explosions or Russian shells.”

When asked whether Russia is going to pull back the army, Ms Nuland said: “Of course they are not [pulling back].

“They are also all over southern and eastern Ukraine as well and they are continuing to pound Mariupol, they are continuing to pound Kershaw and all of those towns in extremely inhumane ways.”

A spokesperson for Boris Johnson told The Guardian that the UK had seen signs of “some reduction” in Russian bombardment around Kyiv, but added: “We will judge Putin and his regime by his actions, not by his words … We don’t want to see anything less than a complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory.”

The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in its latest update that “it is almost certain that the Russian offensive has failed in its objective to encircle Kyiv”.

The UK defence attaché Mick Smeath in a statement: “Russian statements regarding a reduction in activity around Kyiv, and reporting indicating the withdrawal of some Russian units from these areas, may indicate Russia’s acceptance that it has now lost the initiative in the region.”

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He added: “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.”

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