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Russia promises to 'drastically reduce' military operations around Kyiv following peace talks in Turkey

Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin told reporters that the ongoing discussions regarding the "neutrality and non-nuclear status of Ukraine" had contributed to the decision

March 29, 2022 12:50pm

Updated: March 29, 2022 12:53pm

Russia announced on Tuesday that it would “drastically reduce” its military operations around Kyiv and northern Ukraine after representatives from Russia and Ukraine met for another round of peace talks in Istanbul, Turkey.

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly expected a lightning-fast victory after launching his “special military operation” on Feb. 24, heavy Ukrainian resistance has stalled most Russian advances and decimated supply lines, often forcing Russian troops to capitulate or retreat. In recent days, intelligence reports have even suggested that Ukrainians have begun to counterattack and reclaim lost territory.

The Kremlin, for its part, has claimed that it has achieved its military objectives and is now prepared to begin scaling back aggressions, CNN reported.

"In order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing and signing (an) agreement, a decision was made to radically, by a large margin, reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions," Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin told reporters on Tuesday.

Russia has also in recent days shifted down its demands and Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin told reporters that the ongoing discussions regarding the "neutrality and non-nuclear status of Ukraine" had contributed to the decision.

Although Ukrainian officials confirmed that Russian troops were indeed pulling back from Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, they warned that Russia could be using the alleged withdraw as a distraction in order to resupply and reinforce its forces.

Putin’s armies, it claimed, are struggling to reinforce and rotate in new soldiers due to the "refusal of personnel to participate in the so-called special operation" and are "not able to staff even one battalion-tactical group." 

"The Russian enemy did not meet the goal of its offensive operation," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in an official Facebook update Tuesday, adding that several Russian units were reportedly withdrawing from besieged cities. 

Similarly, Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Agency chief, said Russia’s invasion had failed and it was now impossible for the Russian army to overthrow the Ukrainian government – meaning Putin would likely focus on operations in the country’s southern and eastern regions.

"There is reason to believe that he is considering a 'Korean' scenario for Ukraine," said Budanov. "That is, [Russian forces] will try to impose a dividing line between the unoccupied and occupied regions of our country. In fact, it is an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine."

U.S. officials also believe the Kremlin is implementing a major strategy shift and pulling back troops, but warned that Russia could cover its retreat with air and artillery bombardments and could reverse course if battle conditions permit it.

Although the outcome of the talks is still unclear, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said enough progress was made to allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in person.

“We have documents prepared now which allow the presidents to meet on a bilateral basis," Podolyak said, adding that “talks with continue online 24/7” and that Ukraine needs “clear legal wording” before any conditions are considered.

Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky – the head of Russia’s delegation -- called the negotiations "constructive," RIA reported.

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