Russia agreed to reduce combat near Kyiv and a second major city on Tuesday, citing “promising” indicators in peace negotiations, but Western allies expressed reservations about Moscow’s intentions.
Details emerging from the Istanbul negotiations sparked expectations after more than a month of violence that has killed hundreds and uprooted millions.
David Arakhamia, a negotiator for Kyiv, said there were “adequate” conditions for President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to meet in an effort to resolve Europe’s deadliest crisis in decades.
On the Russian side, top negotiator Vladimir Medinsky described the negotiations as “significant,” while the country’s deputy defense minister, Alexander Fomin, hailed progress on Ukraine’s “neutrality and non-nuclear status,” two key Russian concerns.
According to Fomin, Russia has chosen to “radically restrict military activities” surrounding Kyiv and the northern city of Chernigiv.
Following the day’s negotiations, Zelensky expressed cautious optimism, though he added that the “good” signals “do not drown out the explosions or Russian artillery,” and promised in a video address late Tuesday to maintain defense measures.
However, the US put doubt on Moscow’s claims and promised alongside other Western nations to continue “increasing the price” on Russia.
And, by Tuesday evening, Ukraine’s general staff had confirmed that Russian soldiers were leaving from the Kyiv and Chernigiv districts, but had also stated that it was most likely a troop rotation meant to “mislead” Ukraine’s military.
While Ukraine’s military fight back in the north, they are trying to keep control of the damaged southern port city of Mariupol.
Russian soldiers have ringed the city and are bombarding it incessantly and indiscriminately, trapping an estimated 160,000 people with no food, water, or medicine.
According to one top Ukrainian official, at least 5,000 people have perished there so far, and the total death toll might be as high as 10,000.
France, Greece, and Turkey had hoped to begin a large evacuation of civilians from Mariupol within days, but after meeting with Putin on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron stated the requirements for the operation had not yet been reached.
Zelensky encouraged partners to retain the sanctions pressure on Moscow “until this conflict is done,” calling the Mariupol siege a “crime against humanity” taking place “in front of the eyes of the entire globe in real time.”
In the most recent wave of diplomatic expulsions, Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands announced on Tuesday that a total of 42 diplomats will be asked to leave.
In retaliation, Moscow expelled ten diplomats from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
It also maintained that it will only take payment in rubles for gas exports to the European Union, after G7 ministers termed the current arrangement “unacceptable.”
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