Russian forces’ movement from Kyiv a ‘repositioning, not a real withdrawal’: Pentagon

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Tuesday (local time) that Russian forces had moved away from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, “in the last days”, saying he believed it was a “repositioning”, not “real return”.

“Have there been some movement by some Russian units away from Kyiv in the past few days? Yes. We think so. Small numbers,” Kirby said during a briefing. “But we believe that this is not a real withdrawal, and that we should all be prepared for a major offensive against other regions of Ukraine,” he said.

Hours after the announcement was made by a member of the Russian negotiating team, Kirby said the Defense Ministry had “at various times decided to reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernikov direction.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said it was withdrawing forces in the talks as “a good faith” measure. However, Kirby said the move coincided with the Russian army’s lack of success in its moves on the two northern cities.

“Russia has failed in its objective of occupying Kyiv. It has failed in its objective of subjugating Ukraine. But they can still inflict large-scale brutality on the country,” he said.

The Pentagon’s press secretary’s remarks came a day after a senior US defense official told reporters that Russian troops were “really making no effort to advance on the city,” and a few days earlier, the same official said that The Russians were now “preferring the Donbass” area.

The Pentagon’s latest assessment is in line with the White House, where communications director Kate Bedingfield described activities around Kyiv as a “repatriation”, not an outright “withdrawal”.

“Everyone should expect that we will continue to see attacks across Ukraine,” Bedingfield said.

“Obviously, the President delivered an important message on his visit to Europe last week that we are in for a long slog, that our allies and partners need to stay, that our resolve needs to stay strong, and We need to continue to execute a strategy of imposing significant costs on the Russian economy, and again, to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefields and on the negotiating table,” Bedingfield said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia could not be trusted. He said it was Ukrainian troops that forced Russia’s hand, adding that “we must not lower our guard” because the invading forces still had “a great potential to continue attacks against our country.” Ukraine will continue talks, he said, but officials do not trust the word of the country which is “fighting to destroy us.”

US President Joe Biden, asked whether the Russian announcement was a sign of progress in talks or an attempt by Moscow to buy time to continue its attack, said: “We will see. I don’t read anything in it until I Let’s see. What are their actions.”

On 24 February, Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine after the separate republics of Donetsk and Luhansk appealed for help defending themselves against Ukrainian provocation. In response to Russia’s operation, Western countries have launched a massive sanctions campaign against Moscow.

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