Russia's promise to wind down assaults on Kyiv could be 'deception', US warns

29 March 2022, 17:38 | Updated: 29 March 2022, 20:50

Russia said it would reduce its bombardment of Kyiv after more peace talks on Tuesday - but Anthony Blinken treated the announcement with scepticism
Russia said it would reduce its bombardment of Kyiv after more peace talks on Tuesday - but Anthony Blinken treated the announcement with scepticism. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The US has warned a Russian promise to "cut back" military operations in Ukraine could be an attempt to "deceive people and deflect attention".

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had not seen any indicators that talks were progressing in a "constructive way".

"There is what Russia says and there is what Russia does, and we’re focused on the latter," he said.

"And what Russia is doing is the continued brutalisation of Ukraine."

He added: "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."

A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said the move was being treated with scepticism, and said Putin would be judged "by his actions, not by his words".

The spokesperson said there was a "reduction" in Russian action around Kyiv, but said the UK did not want to see "anything less than a complete withdrawal" of Russian troops.

"Fighting continues," they said.

"There's heavy bombardment in Mariupol and other areas.

"So we don't want to see anything less than a complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory."

'Not a single word coming out of the mouth of Putin can be trusted.'

The Kremlin said on Tuesday it would "drastically reduce" hostilities in Kyiv and Chernihiv after "meaningful" peace talks.

"Due to the fact that negotiations over an agreement on Ukraine's neutrality and non-nuclear status and security guarantees (for Ukraine) are moving into a practical stage... the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation has taken the decision to drastically reduce combat operations in the Kyiv and Chernihiv areas in order to boost mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations," said deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin.

Russia's chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky also said he wanted to set up a face-to-face meeting between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

A spokesperson for Kyiv's delegation said they would adopt neutral status in exchange for security guarantees - meaning they would not join Nato.

They also proposed a 15-year consultation period on the status of Crimea that would come into force only in the event of a total ceasefire.

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Russian forces have been stalled around Kyiv for weeks and have recently been pushed back from Irpin.

As taking the capital within days was thought to be one of Russia's main aims, the change in tack is thought to be an acknowledgement by the Kremlin that the invasion is not going to plan.

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Russia's invasion was met with stronger resistance than expected from Ukraine.

Counter-attacks have forced Russia to retreat in some places, according to the latest intelligence update from the UK Ministry of Defence.

The update also said Russia were attempting to "reorganise and reset" their forces.

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The latest round of peace talks took place at Dolmabahce in Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday morning.

Roman Abramovich attended the meeting as an unofficial mediator - but he and other delegates were told not to eat, drink or touch anything after the Chelsea owner and two others were thought to have been poisoned after an earlier round of peace talks.

Roman Abramovich (left) was at the peace talks on Tuesday
Roman Abramovich (left) was at the peace talks on Tuesday. Picture: Getty

Mr Abramovich and two other negotiators suffered symptoms of poisoning after a meeting in Kyiv earlier this month, it was revealed yesterday.

The trio suffered red eyes, constant and painful tearing, and peeling skin on their hands and face.

Mr Abramovich reportedly temporarily lost his sight after the incident.

The symptoms were "consistent with poisoning with chemical weapons", according to Bellingcat.

Hardliners in Moscow who want to sabotage peace talks are suspected of carrying out the attack.