Zelensky calls for vigilance after Russia pledges to downsize Kyiv attack

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned the country “not to be caught off guard” following an announcement from Russia that it would significantly reduce military activities near Kyiv.

The Russian comments, following a round of peace talks with Ukrainian officials in Istanbul on Tuesday, were sent global stocks higher on investors’ optimism that negotiations may be gaining traction.

“You saw the news today that the Russian Military Command is said to have decided to ‘reduce hostilities in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv’,” Zelensky said in a late-night speech on Tuesday. .

“We should not let our guard down. The situation did not get any easier. The scale of the challenges has not diminished. The Russian military still has considerable potential to continue attacks against our state.”

The clear russian pullbackThe announcement, announced by Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin, was the first faint sign of progress in ending the month-long war.

But Ukraine and its Western allies remain deeply skeptical of President Vladimir Putin’s intentions while Russia is preparing for a Bigger attack on the Donbas border area to the east and continued strikes to the south.

“Yes, we can call positive the signals that we hear from the negotiating platform. But these signals did not silence the explosion of Russian shells,” said Zelensky, who later referred to an attack in the southern city of Mykolayiv that left at least eight people dead on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, authorities in Donbas said residential areas in Lysychansk, a city in the region, were hit by “heavy artillery” shelling.

Although Russia views the withdrawal of troops in Kyiv and Chernihiv as a confidence-building exercise, it seems to provide a justification for the withdrawal that Russian forces have made in the face of protests. public of Ukraine.

The British Ministry of Defense on Wednesday said units had been forced to return to Russia and Belarus for reorganization and resupply after suffered heavy losses.

It added that Russia’s shift of focus to the Donbas was “probably a tacit admission that it is struggling to maintain more than one axis of progress” and warned that Russia is “potentially compensating for the reduction in capabilities”. its ground maneuverability through artillery and rockets. strike”.

British defense officials added that Ukrainian forces had fought back against Russian forces northwest of Kyiv, including in Irpin, and that “the Russians had been pushed back from a number of positions”.

Joe Biden echoed his Ukrainian counterpart, saying he would not “read anything” about Russia’s decision to downsize military operations near Kyiv.

“We’ll see if they do what they’re suggesting,” Biden said, speaking at the White House. The US president added that he spoke with the leaders of France, Germany, Britain and Italy on Tuesday and all agreed that they were ready to listen to Russia. “There seems to be consensus that we’ll see what they have to offer,” Biden said.

As they assess Russia’s actions, the US and its allies will continue to apply sanctions, provide lethal aid to Ukraine and monitor diplomatic discussions, he added.

“Sanctions must be strengthened,” Zelensky said. Weekly boost. And they must be effective” to achieve peace.

Chief of the General Staff Andriy Ermak on Wednesday said Ukraine needs “effective weapons, heavy weapons, artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles” but “at the same time, we are not stopping diplomatic efforts to prevent war.” painting”.

Negotiations will resume online after Ukraine formally hands over draft proposals to Russia on Tuesday.

Fomin said discussions are “entering the practical phase” on the issues Ukraine’s neutrality and denuclearization – two important requirements of Russia – in exchange for security guarantees for Ukraine.

Oleksandr Chaly, a member of the Ukrainian delegation, said Ukraine and Russia will continue to negotiate for the next two weeks and after that, “guarantor states” – countries that are expected to guarantee the security of the country. Ukraine as part of the agreement – will be able to participate. .

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