Ukraine and Western officials on Tuesday expressed skepticism about Russia’s announcement to “drastically scale down” military operations around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.
Earlier in the day, Moscow made the announcement to dial back operations in an effort to increase trust between Ukrainian and Russian officials amid the negotiations in Turkey.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said people of his country are “not naive”, according to Business Insider. “Ukrainians have already learned during these 34 days of invasion and over the past eight years of the war in Donbas that only a concrete result can be trusted,” he added.
The president said Russia’s promise to curtail military operations was because of Ukrainian defence forces stiff resistance to their attacks.
“Of course, we see no reason to trust the words of certain representatives of a state that continues to fight for our destruction,” said Zelenskyy.
Highlighting that the challenges have not become easier, Zelenskyy brought attention to the besieged city of Mariupol, where there is a dire shortage of essentials like food and water.
Zelenskyy urges Western countries to not lift international sanctions against Russia until the war is over.
Meanwhile, United States President Joe Biden also reacted with skepticism to Russia’s promise.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are. We’ll see if they follow through what they’re suggesting.”
He added that he met with heads of states of NATO alliance countries such as France, Germany and Great Britain, and they are in consensus to see what action Russia takes next.
“In the meantime, we will continue to keep strong sanctions,” Biden said. “We will continue to provide the Ukrainian military with the capacity to defend themselves, and we will continue to keep a close eye on what’s going on.”
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Russia’s decision to reduce military activity is a “repositioning and not a real withdrawal”, reported CNN.
“We all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine,” Kirby added. “Nobody should be fooling ourselves by the Kremlin’s now recent claim that it will suddenly just reduce military attacks near Kyiv, or any reports that it’s going to withdraw all its forces”.
Russia invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. The Kremlin described its actions a “special operation” to demilitarise and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and Western allies have said that this a baseless pretext for a war of choice.
As per the United Nations’ human rights office, the conflict has killed at least 1,179 people, including 104 children. It also said that the real number of deaths could be considerably higher, and noted that there was delay in reporting casualties in areas with intense hostilities.
During Tuesday’s peace talks, Ukraine proposed a status under which it would not join alliances or host bases of foreign troops in exchange for security guarantees, according to Reuters.
Ukrainian negotiators also proposed to include a 15-year consultation period on the status of Crimea, which Russia had annexed in 2014. They, however, said the proposals would come into force only in the event of a complete ceasefire from Russia.
Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said he would put forward Ukraine’s proposals to Russian President Vladimir Putin.