RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE

Relief for Kyiv? Russia vows to scale back near the capital

Mar 29, 2022, 8:17 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:37 pm
A woman walks through the residential area which was destroyed as a result of a rocket strike two w...
A woman walks through the residential area which was destroyed as a result of a rocket strike two weeks ago on March 28, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Ukraine's military says it has made territorial gains in the wider Kyiv region, after Russia's advance on the capital had largely stalled in recent weeks. But intermittent shelling and missile strikes persist. (Photo by Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)
(Photo by Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia announced Tuesday it will significantly scale back military operations near Ukraine’s capital and a northern city, as the outlines of a possible deal to end the grinding war came into view at the latest round of talks.

Ukraine’s delegation at the conference, held in Istanbul, laid out a framework under which the country would declare itself neutral and its security would be guaranteed by an array of other nations.

Moscow’s public reaction was positive, and the negotiations are expected to resume Wednesday, five weeks into what has devolved into a bloody war of attrition, with thousands dead and almost 4 million Ukrainians fleeing the country.

Amid the talks, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Moscow has decided to “fundamentally … cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv” to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.”

He did not immediately spell out what that would mean in practical terms.

The announcement was met with skepticism from the U.S. and others.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia cannot be trusted. Although the signals from the talks are “positive,” they ”can’t silence explosions of Russian shells,” he said in a video address.

Zelenskyy said it was Ukrainian troops who forced Russia’s hand, adding that “we shouldn’t let down our guard” because the invading army still “has a great potential to continue attacks against our country.”

Ukraine will continue negotiations, he said, but officials do not trust the word of the country that continues “fighting to destroy us.”

While Moscow portrayed it as a goodwill gesture, its ground troops have become bogged down and taken heavy losses in their bid to seize Kyiv and other cities. Last week and again on Tuesday, the Kremlin seemed to lower its war aims, saying its “main goal” now is gaining control of the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden, asked whether the Russian announcement was a sign of progress in the talks or an attempt by Moscow to buy time to continue its assault, said: “We’ll see. I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested Russian indications of a pullback could be an attempt by Moscow to “deceive people and deflect attention.”

It wouldn’t be the first time. In the tense buildup to the invasion, the Russian military announced that some units were loading equipment onto rail cars and preparing to return to their home bases after completing exercises. At the time, Putin was signaling interest in diplomacy. But 10 days later, Russia launched its invasion.

Western officials say Moscow is now reinforcing troops in the Donbas in a bid to encircle Ukraine’s forces. And Russia’s deadly siege in the south continues, with civilians trapped in the ruins of Mariupol and other bombarded cities. The latest satellite imagery from commercial provider Maxar Technologies showed hundreds of people waiting outside a grocery store amid reports of food and water shortages.

“There is what Russia says and there is what Russia does, and we’re focused on the latter,” Blinken said in Morocco. “And what Russia is doing is the continued brutalization of Ukraine.”

Even as negotiators gathered, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces blasted a gaping hole in a nine-story government administration building in a strike on the southern port city of Mykolaiv, killing at least 12 people, emergency authorities said. The search for more bodies in the rubble continued.

“It’s terrible. They waited for people to go to work” before striking the building, said regional governor Vitaliy Kim. “I overslept. I’m lucky.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. has detected small numbers of Russian ground forces moving away from the Kyiv area, but it appeared to be a repositioning of forces, “not a real withdrawal.”

He said it was too soon to say how extensive the Russian movements may be or where the troops will be repositioned.

“It does not mean the threat to Kyiv is over,” Kirby said. “They can still inflict massive brutality on the country, including on Kyiv.” He said Russian airstrikes against Kyiv continued.

Rob Lee, a military expert at the U.S.-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, tweeted of the Russian announcement: “This sounds like more of an acknowledgment of the situation around Kyiv where Russia’s advance has been stalled for weeks and Ukrainian forces have had recent successes. Russia doesn’t have the forces to encircle the city.”

The meeting in Istanbul was the first time negotiators from Russia and Ukraine talked face-to-face in two weeks. Earlier talks were held in person in Belarus or by video.

Among other things, the Kremlin has demanded all along that Ukraine drop any hope of joining NATO.

Ukraine’s delegation offered a detailed framework for a peace deal under which a neutral Ukraine’s security would be guaranteed by a group of third countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, Turkey, China and Poland, in an arrangement similar to NATO’s “an attack on one is an attack on all” principle.

Ukraine said it would also be willing to hold talks over a 15-year period on the future of the Crimean Peninsula, seized by Russia in 2014.

Vladimir Medinsky, head of the Russian delegation, said on Russian TV that the Ukrainian proposals are a “step to meet us halfway, a clearly positive fact.”

He cautioned that the parties are still far from reaching an agreement, but said: “We know now how to move further toward compromise. We aren’t just marking time in talks.”

In other developments:

— In what appeared to be a coordinated action to tackle Russian espionage, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Ireland and North Macedonia expelled scores of Russian diplomats.

— The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency arrived in Ukraine to try to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities. Russian forces have taken control of the decommissioned Chernobyl plant, site in 1986 of the world’s worst nuclear accident, and of the active Zaporizhzhia plant, where a building was damaged in fighting.

— Russia has destroyed more than 60 religious buildings across the country in just over a month of war, with most of the damage concentrated near Kyiv and in the east, Ukraine’s military said.

— In the room at the Istanbul talks was Roman Abramovich, a longtime Putin ally who has been sanctioned by Britain and the European Union. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Chelsea soccer team owner has been serving as an unofficial mediator approved by both countries. But the mystery surrounding his role has been deepened by news reports that he may have been poisoned during an earlier round of talks.

Over the past several days, Ukrainian forces have mounted counterattacks and reclaimed ground on the outskirts of Kyiv and other areas.

Ukrainian soldiers gathered in a trench for photos with Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, who said that Ukraine had retaken control of a vast majority of Irpin, a key suburb northwest of the capital that has seen heavy fighting.

“We defend our motherland because we have very high morale,” said Syrskyi, the commander in charge of the defense of Kyiv. “And because we want to win.”

Ukrainian forces also took back Trostyanets, south of Sumy in the northeast, after weeks of occupation that left a landscape of Russian bodies, burned and twisted tanks and charred buildings.

Putin’s ground forces have been thwarted not just by stronger-than-expected Ukrainian resistance, but by what Western officials say are Russian tactical missteps, poor morale, shortages of food, fuel and cold weather gear, and other problems.

Repeating what the military said last week, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that “liberating Donbas” is now Moscow’s chief objective.

While that presents a possible face-saving exit strategy for Putin, it has also raised Ukrainian fears the Kremlin aims to split the country and force it to surrender a swath of its territory.

___

Karmanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Russia invades Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a reception to celebrate the Jewish New Year with ...
MATTHEW LEE, FATIMA HUSSEIN and AAMER MADHANI, Associated Press

Biden vows Russia won’t ‘get away with’ Ukraine annexation

The United States and its allies are hitting back at Russia’s annexation of four more Ukrainian regions, slapping sanctions on more than 1,000 Russian individuals and companies.
2 days ago
President Joe Biden gestures as he speaks during the 77th session of the United Nations General Ass...
Fatima Hussein, Associated Press

US hits Russia with sanctions for annexing Ukrainian regions

The U.S. has sanctioned more than 1,000 people and firms connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including its Central Bank governor and families of Security Council members.
2 days ago
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen here signing the annexation documents in Moscow on Sept. 3...
Jon Gambrell and Hanna Arhirova, Associated Press

Putin declares Ukrainian regions part of Russia, defies West

Russian President Vladimir Putin has opened a Kremlin ceremony to start the process of absorbing parts of Ukraine in defiance of international law.
2 days ago
Ukrainian troops ride upon a repaired Russian tank in a wooded area outside the city on September 2...
LOLITA C. BALDOR and MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press

US announces $1.1 billion more in military aid for Ukraine

The U.S. will provide an additional $1.1 billion in aid to Ukraine, with funding for about 18 more advanced rocket systems and other weapons to counter drones that Russia has been using against Ukrainian troops.
3 days ago
A large disturbance in the sea can be observed off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm Tuesd...
JAN M. OLSEN, Associated Press

NATO believes Baltic Sea gas leaks were sabotage

NATO says it will retaliate for any attacks on the critical infrastructure of its 30 member countries as it suggested that damage to two gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea is the result of sabotage.
3 days ago
Apple has removed VKontakte, a top Russian social media platform, from its app store, according to ...
Brian Fung, CNN

Apple removes Russian social media giant VK from app store

Apple has removed VKontakte, a top Russian social media platform, from its app store, according to the app's developer.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
Relief for Kyiv? Russia vows to scale back near the capital