Russia is cutting down on its military activity near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, an official said after the latest round of negotiations between the warring countries.
“The Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation, for purposes of trust-building and creating conditions for holding talks further, and achieving the final goal of agreeing and signing a peace treaty, made a decision to radically decrease the military activities in the directions of Kyiv and Chernihiv,” Alexander Fomin, Russia’s deputy minister of defense, told reporters in Turkey after the two sides met.
Chernigov, in northern Ukraine, sits about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Kyiv.
Russian officials will provide more details about the reduction after the delegation returns to Moscow, Fomin said.
Around the same time, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces may be trying to regroup before launching a fresh assault on Kyiv.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 but has failed to capture Kyiv, though it has gained control of a number of other cities.
Russia and Ukraine have held multiple rounds of talks but have thus far not come to an agreement to stop the fighting, which has displaced millions and left thousands dead.
Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s top negotiator, meanwhile, said that the latest discussions were constructive and that Russian President Vladimir Putin may meet with Zelenskyy, but only if the meeting were to coincide with the signing of a deal by the respective ministers of foreign affairs.
Ukraine’s written proposal for a treaty, which says the country will be a neutral nation that will not try to get nuclear weapons, will be conveyed to Putin, said Medinsky, who added that his group protested against the alleged treatment of Russian prisoners of war, with videos appearing to show Ukraine’s military abusing them.
David Arakhamia, the top Ukrainian negotiator, said Russia must completely withdraw from Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials also said Ukraine is seeking security guarantees from outside nations like the United States and Israel but that the guarantees would not apply to certain portions of Ukraine, including parts of the east where local officials have declared independence.
“The implementation of this agreement about security guarantees will follow a certain procedure. Firstly, a referendum for all Ukrainian citizens to give their position on this agreement and how it should be implemented. After that, there will be a ratification by the parliaments of the guarantor countries and the Ukrainian parliament. This is crucial. Therefore, we must have the support of the society before we can consolidate this agreement,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, told reporters after the talks.
Podolyak wrote on Twitter that the guarantees would be similar to Article 5 of NATO, which essentially triggers a military response if any NATO member is attacked. Ukraine wants outside countries to commit to protecting it “from any aggression,” he said.