Russia to cut back on operations near Kyiv?

In a sign of progress, Russia’s military said that it would cut back operations near Ukraine’s capital and the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv.

Russian and Ukrainian delegations met face-to-face for the first time, after weeks, in Turkey, to discuss a possible cease-fire.

As talks got underway, Russian forces continued their attacks — hitting an oil depot in western Ukraine and demolishing a government building in the south, according to The Associated Press.

At least 7 people have been killed after a Russian strike hit the regional government building in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine has said. 

Russia is beginning to withdraw some forces from the area around the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv in what the US assesses as a major ‘strategy shift’ by Moscow, two senior US officials tell CNN.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Tuesday, ‘Moscow has decided to fundamentally cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernigiv”’in order to ‘increase mutual trust for future negotiations to agree and sign a peace deal with Ukraine.’

Fomin announced the decision on-camera from Istanbul, where peace talks between Ukrainian and  Russian delegations were underway. His comments were broadcast on Russia-24.

He said the the general staff of the Russian armed forces would report on the decision in more detail upon the return of Russia’s delegation to Moscow. 

While widely regarded as a welcome move after a protracted conflict, these talks could just be a smoke screen for Russia’s military to regroup, some analysts believe.

Experts and watchers are warning against jumping to too many conclusions yet, but have observed the most important battle in this war, the successful defense mounted by Ukrainian forces in the Hostomel, Bucha, and Irpin areas to the north of capital Kyiv. Many believe that the fierce defense mounted up north by the Ukrainians may ultimately be regarded as the decisive battle of the war, that can turn the tide in Ukraine’s favour.

David Braun, Ukraine’s lead negotiator, said during the talks that the nation’s boundaries are those established in 1991 and there would be no compromises on the disputed Crimea or Donbas regions.

‘Not up for debate,’ Mr. Braun remarked. Braun also observed that Moscow ‘has the right’ to make speeches about Crimea being Russian nonetheless.

President Biden stood by his comment that Vladimir Putin should not remain President of Russia, but he said it was an expression of his own horror over the invasion of Ukraine and not a change in U.S. foreign policy.

Ukrainian refugees continue to enter Poland’s border town of Medyka. The EU has received more than 3.8 million refugees from Ukraine, half of which are children, according to an EU Commission report.

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