Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed scepticism about peace talks with Russia, saying signals it will pull back troops from some areas “do not drown out the ruptures of Russian shells”.
It comes as Russia started withdrawing some forces from around Kyiv, according to CNN.
In a new video – the first time he has spoken about the peace talks that ended with a hint of some possible progress ahead – he said that only a concrete result from the discussions can be trusted.
In other developments:
• Ukrainian troops ‘regaining territory’ and pushing back Russian forces
• Russia starts to withdraw some forces from around Kyiv – reports
• More than 40 Russian diplomats expelled from four countries over alleged spying
• Soldier who told Russian warship to ‘go f*** yourself’ gets bravery award
• Sky team discusses miraculous escape from Kyiv ambush for first time
But he added that he sees no reason to trust the words of certain representatives of a power that “continues to fight for our destruction”.
“The situation has not become easier,” he stressed, warning the Russian army still had “significant potential” to carry out attacks.
“We are not reducing our defensive efforts,” he added. “The enemy is still in our territory. The shelling of our cities continues. Mariupol is blocked. Missile and airstrikes do not stop. This is the reality.”
Mr Zelenksyy also announced an update to the government’s mobile app Diia, which means citizens can apply to the state to compensate for the loss of a house or apartment as part of the war.
“The state will compensate for every metre of lost real estate,” he said.
Russia offers to reduce military near Kyiv
Earlier, Russia offered to drastically reduce military activity near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and around Chernihiv.
Alexander Fomin, the Kremlin’s deputy defence minister, said Moscow has decided to “fundamentally cut back” operations to “increase mutual trust”.
The latest UK Ministry of Defence update said: “Russian statements regarding a reduction in activity around Kyiv, and reporting indicating the withdrawal of some Russian units from these areas, may indicate Russia’s acceptance that it has now lost the initiative in the region.”
Mr Zelenskyy’s sceptical response follows US President Joe Biden, who told reporters at the White House: “We’ll see if they follow through.”
And speaking to Reuters news agency, a Western official said Russia’s announcement “seems to be more of a tactical exercise” to buy time for troops to regroup – a sentiment backed by the Pentagon.
It confirmed “some movement of small numbers” of Russian forces away from Kyiv, but described it as more of a “repositioning – not a withdrawal”.
Russia outlines possible path to peace
Ukrainian and Russian officials met in Istanbul for the talks, during which, the Russian delegation outlined two steps to de-escalate war.
Cutting back troops was one of the steps, while the other offer was a meeting between the two country’s leaders if and when a peace treaty was forthcoming.
Heading the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky stressed that the scale-back did not represent a ceasefire.
In further indications that Russia is scaling down its aims in the conflict, a report this morning has suggested it it willing to make two key concessions.
Calls for Ukraine to be “denazified” – widely understood to be code for regime change – have been dropped by Russia as part of ceasefire negotiations, sources have told The Financial Times.
Sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich also appeared at the peace negotiations on Tuesday morning, following allegations he was poisoned at earlier talks – a claim the Kremlin rejected as part of an “information war”.
KEY POINTS FROM THE TALKS
The Ukrainian and Russian delegations arrived in Istanbul late on Monday evening with low expectations.
By the time they left, mid-Tuesday afternoon, talk of a breakthrough was echoing around the world.
The talks lasted only a matter of hours, but both sides seemed to make compromises that might pave the way forward to something greater.
Ukraine is reportedly ready to surrender its ambitions to join NATO. In return for sworn neutrality, they will demand security guarantees from as yet undetermined states.
The US and UK had been mooted, but given their prominence in NATO, they might prove unacceptable for Moscow – Poland, Italy, and Canada have been added to the list of possible others.
Ukraine is standing firm on its refusal to give up Crimea and Donbas. Russia is equally steadfast on that matter. Those territorial negotiations could be split off for a later date, dependent on the outcome of more immediate peace talks.
But the most unexpected announcement of the day came from the Russian delegation – the proposal to withdraw forces from around Kyiv and Chernihiv.
In reality, Russian forces had become bogged down and have made little progress for weeks; it was rumoured many of them would pull eastwards anyway, to reinforce the push there. The prospect of Russian troops capturing Kyiv has become increasingly unrealistic, so this is more of a face-saving move if anything.
Putin will spin it as a trust-building gesture, but it actually represents a total failure to achieve what he mistakenly thought he would do in a matter of days.
The Turkish hosts, keen to be peacemakers, have suggested the next step is for Putin and Zelenskyy to meet in person.
Tonight that certainly feels more likely, but after weeks of broken Russian promises, I can’t help but retain some scepticism.
‘No one in Ukraine left unscathed’
An estimated 18 million people in Ukraine will need humanitarian aid amid the devastation of Russia’s invasion, the head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has said.
The Ukrainian Red Cross has already reached 400,000 people with items like food, bedding, blankets, tents and water since the war began.
Speaking to reporters at a UN briefing in Geneva, he said that “no one in Ukraine is left unscathed by the ongoing conflict.”
Britain has also reportedly provided Ukrainian police with specialist equipment, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.
In a Telegram post, the department said British explosive technicians have handed over “special equipment for neutralising explosive devices, minesweepers, detonation control systems, diagnostic devices, first aid kits and other equipment.”