Russia-Ukraine War (March 30): Russia Bombards Areas Where It Pledged to Scale Back: Ukrainian Officials

By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
March 30, 2022 Updated: March 31, 2022

The latest on the RussiaUkraine crisis, March 30. Click here for updates from March 29.

Russia Bombards Areas Where It Pledged to Scale Back: Ukrainian Officials

Russian forces bombarded areas around Kyiv and another city just hours after pledging to scale back operations in those zones to promote trust between the two sides, Ukrainian authorities said Wednesday.

The shelling— intensified Russian attacks on other parts of the country—tempered optimism about any progress in the talks aimed at ending the punishing war.

The Russian military announced Tuesday that it would de-escalate near the capital and the northern city of Chernihiv in order to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.” But the announcement was met with deep suspicion from Zelenskyy and the West.

Soon after, Ukrainian officials reported that Russian shelling hit homes, stores, libraries, and other civilian sites in and around Chernihiv and on the outskirts of Kyiv. Russian troops also stepped up their attacks on the Donbas region in the east and around the city of Izyum, which lies on a key route to the Donbas, after redeploying units from other areas, the Ukrainian side said.

Olexander Lomako, secretary of the Chernihiv city council, said the Russian announcement turned out to be “a complete lie.”

“At night they didn’t decrease, but vice versa increased the intensity of military action,” Lomako said.

___

Germany Says to Still Pay for Russian Gas in Euros/Dollars After Scholz-Putin Call

Germany will continue to pay for Russian gas in euros or dollars, a government spokesman said, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin had told the German Chancellor that nothing would change for European partners despite his plan for rouble payments.

Russia has said that because of Western financial sanctions over Ukraine, it plans to require payment for its energy exports—especially the gas that Germany depends on—in roubles rather than the usual euros or dollars.

In a phone call between the leaders, Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that nothing would change for European partners and payments would be made in euros and transferred to Gazprom bank, which would convert the money into roubles, said the German spokesperson.

“Scholz did not agree to this procedure in the conversation, but asked for written information to better understand the procedure,” said the spokesperson.

He added that a Group of Seven agreement, stating that energy supplies from Russia would be paid for only in euros or U.S. dollars, remained.

Germany has triggered an emergency plan to manage gas supplies that could see Europe’s biggest economy ration power if the standoff over Russia’s demand to pay for fuel with roubles disrupts supplies.

___

Pentagon Sees Russia Starting to Reposition Under 20 Percent of Forces Around Kyiv

Russia has started to reposition under 20 percent of the forces arrayed around Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, but cautioned Russia was expected to refit and resupply them for redeployment, and not bring the forces home.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said some of the Russian forces may have already moved into Belarus, as opposed to their home garrisons.

Kirby also told a news briefing Russian contractor Wagner Group had deployed about 1,000 contractors into Ukraine’s Donbass region, which Moscow has declared a priority.

___

White House Adds $500 Million in Ukraine Aid

The White House has pledged an additional $500 million in direct aid for Ukraine as the Russian invasion grinds on.

U.S. President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a 55-minute call Wednesday that the additional aid was on its way. The leaders also reviewed security aid already delivered to Ukraine and the effects that weaponry has had on the war, according to the White House.

Zelesnkyy has pressed the Biden administration and other Western allies to provide Ukraine with military jets. The United States and other NATO countries have thus far been unwilling to accommodate that request out of concern it could lead to Russia broadening the war beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Prior to Wednesday’s announcement of $500 million in aid, the Biden administration had sent Ukraine about $2 billion in humanitarian and security assistance since the start of the war last month.

That’s all part of the $13.6 billion that Congress approved earlier this month for Ukraine as part of a broader spending bill.

___

Russian Military Comments on Actions Near Ukraine’s Capital

Russian troops near the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Chernigov are regrouping as the goal of the first stage of its military operation has been completed, Russian defense ministry announced on Wednesday. During a regular press briefing, the ministry spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov said “planned regrouping of troops is taking place in Kyiv and Chernigov directions.”

_____

Ukraine Says Russian Forces Fighting on Many Fronts

Ukrainian officials claimed shelling around the capital Kyiv and the northern region of Chernihiv on Wednesday.

Russian forces were also shelling nearly all cities along the front line separating Ukrainian government-controlled territory from areas held by Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donetsk region, the regional governor claimed, and heavy fighting was reported in the southern port city of Mariupol.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Russia was transferring forces from northern Ukraine to eastern areas to try to encircle Ukrainian troops there.

He claimed Russia would keep some troops near Kyiv to try to prevent Ukrainian forces reinforcing the eastern front.

“Although the Russians are withdrawing some troops from (around) Kyiv, they will still leave certain forces here (near Kyiv) to keep our troops here,” Arestovych said in televised comments.

Kyiv’s deputy mayor, Mykola Povoroznyk, told national television the capital itself had not been shelled overnight.

“The night passed relatively calmly, to the sounds of sirens and the sound of gunfire from battles around the city, but there was no shelling in the city itself” he said.

____

Russian Military Says New Series of Strikes on Ukrainian Arsenals, Fuel Depots

The Russian military has reported a new series of strikes on Ukrainian arsenals and fuel depots.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday that the military used air-launched long-range cruise missiles to target fuel depots in Starokostiantyniv and Khmelnytskyi in central Ukraine.

Konashenkov claimed in a statement that the Russian forces also hit the Ukrainian special forces headquarters in Bereznehuvate in the southern Mykolaiv region.

Konashenkov also said that the Russian military used mobile land-based Iskander missile launchers to hit two ammunition depots in the eastern Donetsk region. The Russian military said that it has shifted focus to Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbass, where Moscow-backed rebels have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014.

_____

Moscow Accuses West of Trying to Turn Ukraine Into ‘Second Afghanistan’

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov has accused the West of attempting to turn this country into “a second Afghanistan” amid Moscow’s ongoing military offensive in Ukraine.

Speaking at the meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in China on Wednesday, Lavrov claimed “those who tried to make Afghanistan the center of world politics are now trying to replace Afghanistan with Ukraine.”

_____

Ukraine Says Peace Deal Vote Requires Pullback

An adviser to Ukraine’s president says that a vote sealing a prospective agreement with Russia could only be held after Russian troops pull back.

Mykhailo Podolyak said Wednesday that the Russian forces must withdraw to their positions before the Feb. 24 invasion to pave the way for any peace deal to be put on a nationwide referendum.

In an online briefing, he voiced hope for a meeting soon between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin but wouldn’t say when exactly it could happen.

Podolyak took part in Tuesday’s talks with Russian negotiators in Istanbul. He said a deal on multilateral security guarantees for Ukraine will be a key part of the package to be discussed.

_____

Russia: Kyiv Ready to Fulfill Moscow’s Key Demand

The head of Russia’s delegation in talks with Ukraine this week says that Kyiv’s readiness to consider a neutral status would meet a key Russian demand.

Vladimir Medinsky said that, during Tuesday’s talks in Istanbul, Ukraine submitted a set of proposals including its readiness to adopt a non-bloc, nuclear-free status and drop its bid to join NATO.

He said Ukraine also signaled its readiness not to host foreign military bases and to hold joint drills with foreign militaries only in consultation with countries serving as guarantors of a peace deal, which would include Russia.

Medinsky said in televised comments that the proposals signaled Ukraine’s readiness to reach agreement “for the first time in years,” adding that “if it fulfills the obligations, the threat of creating a NATO bridgehead on the Ukrainian territory will be removed.”

_____

Kremlin Says No Breakthrough in Ukraine Talks

The Kremlin says there was no breakthrough in the latest round of talks with Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday it was a “positive factor” that Ukraine submitted its written proposals, but added that “we can’t say there has been something promising or any breakthroughs.”

He emphasized in a call with reporters that there is still a lot of work ahead following Tuesday’s talks in Istanbul.

On Tuesday, Ukraine set out a detailed framework for a peace deal under which the country would remain neutral but its security would be guaranteed by a group of third countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Turkey, China, and Poland.

Peskov said Russia’s chief delegate in the talks, Vladimir Medinsky, has reported their results to President Vladimir Putin.

_____

Zelenskyy Addresses Norway’s Parliament

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told the Norwegian Parliament that Russia wants “to destroy the foundation of Europe.”

Zelenskyy, speaking through an interpreter during a live video appearance before the 169-member Stortinget, claimed Wednesday that “the future of Europe is being decided now.”

Speaking generally of Russia’s military activities in Ukraine, Zelenskyy said that “for the Russians, there are no prohibited targets.”

Zelenskyy’s speech was the latest of a string of addresses to lawmakers in several countries, including the United States, Britain, Sweden, Germany, Canada, Israel, Japan, and the European Union.

____

Hungary Accuses Ukraine of Election Meddling

Hungary’s foreign minister has accused Ukraine’s leadership of attempting to interfere in the upcoming Hungarian election. His Ukrainian counterpart has denied the charge in an episode that put further strain on relations.

In a video on social media, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto claimed that there was “ongoing coordination between the Hungarian left and representatives of the Ukrainian government,” and that Ukraine was attempting to influence Hungary’s April 3 election in favor of a coalition of opposition parties.

Szijjarto did not provide any evidence supporting the claim.

The statements came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made several recent comments that were harshly critical of the Hungarian government’s approach to the war.

On Wednesday, Szijjarto claimed that Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, had contacted Ukraine’s ambassador in Budapest to discuss how Ukraine could influence Hungary’s election, in which Prime Minister Viktor Orban is seeking a fourth consecutive term.

Kuleba told Ukrainian newspaper Evropeiska Pravda that “we have never interfered in Hungary’s internal affairs and especially not ahead of an election.”

____

We Are ‘Not Naive,’ Zelenskyy Says, Dismissing Russian Military Pullback

Ukraine and its Western allies on Wednesday dismissed a Russian military pullback from near Kyiv as a ploy to refit troops after heavy losses, even as Russian forces bombard cities elsewhere and press on with the obliteration of besieged Mariupol.

Russia said on Tuesday it would curtail operations near Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv “to increase mutual trust” for peace talks.

But in an overnight address, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “Ukrainians are not naive people.”

“Ukrainians have already learned during these 34 days of invasion, and over the past eight years of the war in Donbass, that the only thing they can trust is a concrete result,” he said.

Ukrainian presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych said Moscow was shifting some forces from northern Ukraine to the east, where it was trying to encircle the main Ukrainian force there. Some Russians would stay behind near Kyiv to tie Ukrainian forces down, he said.

The past week has seen Ukrainian forces make gains, recapturing towns and villages on the outskirts of Kyiv, breaking the siege of the eastern city of Sumy, and pushing back Russian forces in the southwest.

The Pentagon said Russia had started moving very small numbers of troops away from positions around Kyiv, describing the move as more of a repositioning than a withdrawal.

“We all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine,” spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing. “It does not mean that the threat to Kyiv is over.”

____

Ukraine: Russian Troops More Active in East

The Ukrainian military says that Russian troops have intensified their activities in the country’s east.

The Ukrainian general staff said Wednesday that the Russians have scaled up their activities around Izyum, south of Kharkiv, after redeploying some units from other areas. It also said that the Russian forces have intensified shelling and attacks in the eastern Donetsk region, focusing on trying to win control of Mariupol, Popasna, and Rubizhne.

The Russian military has said it has shifted its focus to Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, the Donbass, where Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces since 2014.

_____

Kremlin Reveals Details on Switching to Ruble Payments for Gas

The Kremlin says that it will take some time to switch payments for Russian gas to rubles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the government to make the necessary arrangements by Friday to ensure that European customers pay for Russian gas in rubles rather than Western currencies. The West has rejected the demand.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that the switch is going to be a “drawn-out process.” He didn’t give a specific timeframe.

Peskov noted that there is always a gap between supplies and payments in the gas trade. He said the government will soon release the details of the new proposed payment scheme.

____

Norway Donates 2,000 Anti-tank Weapons to Ukraine

Norway says it has donated a further 2,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine to help the country defend itself against the Russian invasion, adding to protective equipment and about 2,000 anti-tank weapons that were sent previously.

Norwegian Defense Minister Odd Roger Enoksen said that if Ukraine succeeds in repelling Russia’s attack, “it will both ensure Ukrainian sovereignty and help maintain the norm of peaceful conflict resolution and respect for borders in Europe.”

_____

IAEA Head Visits Nuclear Power Plant in Southern Ukraine

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is visiting a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on a trip meant to help bolster the security of the country’s nuclear facilities.

Rafael Mariano Grossi arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he said on Twitter that he was at the South Ukraine power plant to meet Ukrainian government officials and staff, and start IAEA technical assistance.

Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at four plants—one of which, at Zaporizhzhia, is under the Russian military’s control. It also is home to the decommissioned Chernobyl plant, the site of the 1986 meltdown, which the Russian military seized early in the war.

As of Tuesday, eight reactors were operating, including two in South Ukraine, while the rest were shut down for regular maintenance.

_____

Ukrainian, Russian Delegations Decided to Return Home for Consultation, Says Turkey

Turkey says Ukrainian and Russian delegations have decided to return home for consultations after making progress in negotiations.

The talks on Tuesday hosted by Turkey sketched out what could end up being a framework for ending the war. The talks had been expected to resume on Wednesday, but Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the two sides were bringing the proposals back to their capitals.

At the conference in Istanbul, Ukraine’s delegation laid a framework under which the country would declare itself neutral and its security would be guaranteed by an array of other nations.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Moscow would in the meantime cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.”

Russian delegation head Vladimir Medinsky said negotiators would take Ukraine’s proposals to Russian President Vladimir Putin and then Moscow would provide a response, but he did not say when.

Cavusoglu said he expected a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers at an unspecified time. He said another meeting between the presidents of the two countries is also on the agenda.

Russian state news agency Tass reported that Moscow’s delegates arrived back in Russia late Tuesday.

____

‘Find Roubles’ if You Want Russian Oil, Grain, or Metals, Top Lawmaker Says

Russia’s top lawmaker warned the European Union on Wednesday that if it wanted Russian natural gas then it would have to pay in roubles, and cautioned that oil, grain, metals, fertilizer, coal, and timber exports could also soon be priced the same way.

After the West imposed crippling sanctions on Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that natural gas exported to Europe or the United States should be paid for in his country’s currency.

Europe, which imports about 40 percent of its gas from Russia and pays mostly in euros, says Russia’s state-controlled gas giant Gazprom is not entitled to redraw contracts. The G7 group of nations rejected Moscow’s demands this week.

“European politicians need to stop the talk, stop trying to find some justification about why they cannot pay in roubles,” Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, said in a post on Telegram. “If you want gas, find roubles.”

“Moreover, it would be right—where it is beneficial for our country—to widen the list of export products priced in roubles to include: fertilizer, grain, food oil, oil, coal, metals, timber, etc.”

Germany declared on Wednesday an “early warning” that it could be heading for a gas supply emergency and said the measure was designed to prepare for a possible disruption or stoppage of natural gas flows from Russia.

Russian officials have repeatedly said the West’s attempt to isolate one of the world’s biggest producers of natural resources is an irrational act of self-harm that will lead to soaring prices for consumers and tip the economies of Europe and the United States into recession.

Russia says the West’s sanctions—and in particular the freezing of about $300 billion in Russian central bank reserves—amount to a declaration of economic war.

Putin says the freezing of central bank reserves was a default on the West’s obligations to Russia that would torpedo confidence in the U.S. dollar and the euro.

_____

Crimea Status Not Up for Discussion at Ukraine Talks: Moscow

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Wednesday that the status of Crimea is settled for Russia, so Moscow will not discuss the issue with Kyiv or any other party.

Ukraine’s proposal for a peace treaty with Russia included a pledge to resolve the territorial dispute over Crimea within 15 years without the use of force.

____

UK Taking Sceptical View Towards Russian Pledges, Deputy PM Says

Britain will take a very sceptical view toward Russia and its pledge to scale down military operations around Kyiv, with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab saying London will judge Moscow on its actions, not words.

Russia has promised in negotiations to scale down some military operations to “increase mutual trust”, but Western countries expect that to lead to an intensification of its offensive in other parts of the country.

Britain mirrored Ukraine in reacting with scepticism.

“Ultimately, they need to be tested by their actions and they need to withdraw from Ukraine, not just reposition,” Raab told Times Radio.

_____

Germany Declares ‘Early Warning’ of Possible Russian Gas Supply Crisis

Germany triggered an emergency plan to manage gas supplies in Europe’s largest economy on Wednesday, an unprecedented move that could see the government ration power if there is a disruption or halt in gas supplies from Russia.

The announcement is the clearest sign yet that the European Union is preparing for Moscow to cut supplies to the region after President Vladimir Putin demanded that Europe and the United States pay for gas exports in roubles.

That demand, which has been rejected by G7 nations, is in retaliation for the West imposing crippling sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow has not said when the currency change will take effect but it is expected to unveil its plans for rouble payments on Thursday. Russia’s top lawmaker warned on Wednesday that oil, grain, metals, fertilizer, coal, and timber exports could also soon be priced the same way.

With a potential crunch looming, Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck activated the ‘early warning phase’ of an existing gas emergency plan meaning that a crisis team from the economics ministry, the regulator, and the private sector will monitor imports and storage.

____

Italy Ready to Become One of Guarantors of Ukraine’s Security

Italy is renewing its offer to be a guarantor should any peace deal be reached between Russia and Ukraine that involves a neutrality clause.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Wednesday that Italy “will put at disposal all our efforts, competence and experience” so that it can made a “fundamental contribution” to an agreement.

He told reporters in Berlin, where he was attending a meeting on energy, that Italy was willing to be a guarantor for any neutrality mechanism that might be part of a strategy to end the war.

_____

Macron Told Putin Paying Gas Bills in Roubles Not Possible: Elysee Official

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that it was not possible for Western gas clients to pay their bills in roubles, a French presidential official told journalists on Tuesday.

“France is against paying in roubles,” the official said.

In his phone call with Putin, Macron also reiterated his preparedness to carry out a humanitarian rescue mission in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the official said, but added that the conditions for such a step were not yet in place.

Russia promised on Tuesday to scale down military operations around Kyiv and northern Ukraine as a confidence-building step, in the most tangible sign yet of progress towards negotiating an end to the war.

____

4 Million Refugees Have Now Fled Ukraine, UN Agency Says

The U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday more than 4 million refugees have now fled Ukraine since Russia launched its war in the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

The new figure was posted on an UNHCR website. More than 2.3 million have arrived in Poland, but many have traveled onward to other countries or back into Ukraine.

Aid workers say the numbers have eased in recent days as many people await developments in the war. An estimated 6.5 million people have also been displaced from their homes within the country.

More than 608,000 have entered Romania, over 387,000 have gone to Moldova, and about 364,000 have entered Hungary since the war began on Feb. 24, based on counts provided by governments.

“Refugees from Ukraine are now 4 million, five weeks after the start of the Russian attack,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Twitter as he crossed the border into Ukraine.

Grandi said he would be in the western city of Lviv and discuss ways to increase its support “to people affected and displaced by this senseless war.”

____

Scholz, Biden, and Allies Agree to Keep Pushing for Russian Ceasefire: German Government

The leaders of Germany, the United States, France, Britain, and Italy agreed in a phone call on Tuesday afternoon to keep pushing Russia for a ceasefire and for the withdrawal of its troops from Ukraine, a German government spokesman said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi also agreed to keep up the high sanctions pressure on Russia, spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said in a statement.

And they urged Russian President Vladimir Putin “to finally allow the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian help for people in Ukraine and to erect effective humanitarian corridors … especially in the city of Mariupol,” Hebestreit added.

Finally, the leaders discussed measures to secure energy security and counter high energy prices.

____

Shelling in Almost All Frontline Cities in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, Local Governor Claims

Russian forces are shelling nearly all cities along the frontline separating Ukrainian government-controlled territory from areas held by Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donetsk region, the regional Donetsk governor claimed on Wednesday.

Pavlo Kyrylenko said on national television the situation could worsen as Russian forces concentrated their efforts to attack the Donetsk region.

______

US Liaising With Ukrainian Forces in Poland, Pentagon Says

The Pentagon on Tuesday clarified that U.S. troops in Poland were “liaising” with Ukrainian forces as they hand over weapons to them, but were not training “in the classic sense” following remarks from President Joe Biden on the matter.

On Monday, Biden told reporters that while in Poland last week, he had been talking to U.S. troops who were helping “train” Ukrainian forces in Poland.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that U.S. troops in Poland were “liaising” with Ukrainian forces when weapons are handed over to the forces fighting back against Russia’s invasion.

“It’s not training in the classic sense that many people think of training. I would just say it’s liaising,” Kirby said.

He did not provide details on what exactly the interactions entail or how long they usually lasted. It was not immediately clear whether the distinction between liaising and training had greater significance, as the United States tries to limit any direct military involvement in the war.

___

With Ukraine Farmers on Frontlines, UN Food Chief Warns of ‘Devastation’

The U.N. food chief warned on Tuesday that the war in Ukraine was threatening to devastate the World Food Programme’s efforts to feed some 125 million people globally because Ukraine had gone “from the breadbasket of the world to breadlines.”

“It’s not just decimating dynamically Ukraine and the region, but it will have global context impact beyond anything we’ve seen since World War Two,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley told the 15-member United Nations Security Council.

Beasley said 50 percent of the grain bought by the WFP, the food-assistance branch of the United Nations, comes from Ukraine, “so you can only assume the devastation that this is going to have on our operations alone.”

“The farmers are on the frontlines,” he said.

Beasley added that the crisis was compounded by a lack of fertilizer products coming from Belarus and Russia.

“If you don’t put fertilizer on the crops, your yield will be at least 50 percent diminished. So we’re looking at what could be a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe in the months ahead,” he told the council.

___

Zelenskyy Says Russia Talks Could Be Called Positive, Won’t Slacken Defenses

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday said the signals from peace talks with Russia could be called positive but added that they did not drown out the explosions from Russian shells.

In a late-night address, Zelenskyy also expressed caution about Russia’s promise to sharply curtail military action in some areas and said Ukraine would not be easing off its defensive efforts.

“We can say the signals we are receiving from the talks are positive but they do not drown out the explosions of Russian shells,” he said, adding that Ukraine could only trust a concrete result from the talks.

Earlier in the day, Russia promised to scale down military operations around Ukraine’s capital and north.

Zelenskyy said that despite this vow, “the situation has not become easier … the Russian army still has significant potential to continue attacks against our state.” He added: “Therefore we are not reducing our defensive efforts.”

Zelenskyy reiterated that for any peace deal to work, Russian troops would have to leave and there could be no compromise on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

___

Pentagon Detects ‘Small Numbers’ of Russian Forces Move Away From Kyiv

The Pentagon says it has detected “small numbers” of Russian ground forces moving away from the Kyiv area.

Spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that the movement appears to be a repositioning of forces, “not a real withdrawal.” He said it was too soon to say how extensive the Russian movements may be or where the troops will be repositioned.

“It does not mean the threat to Kyiv is over,” he said. “They can still inflict massive brutality on the country, including on Kyiv.”

He said Russian airstrikes against Kyiv are continuing.

Asked whether the Pentagon assesses that the Russian military campaign in Ukraine has failed, Kirby said the Russian forces have failed in their initial objective of conquering Kyiv but remain a threat to the country, including the eastern Donbass region where Russian forces now appear to be focusing more fully.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.