Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has warned the country “should not lose vigilance” following an announcement from Russia that it would dramatically scale back its military activities near Kyiv.
The Russian comments, which followed a round of peace talks with Ukrainian officials in Istanbul on Tuesday, sent global shares higher on optimism among investors that the negotiations might be gaining traction.
“You saw the news today that the Russian military command allegedly decided to ‘reduce hostilities in the directions of Kyiv and Chernihiv’,” Zelensky said in a late night address on Tuesday.
“We should not lose vigilance. The situation has not become easier. The scale of the challenges has not diminished. The Russian army still has significant potential to continue attacks against our state.”
The apparent Russian pullback, announced by deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin, was the first faint sign of progress towards ending the month-long war.
But Ukraine and its western allies remained deeply sceptical of President Vladimir Putin’s intentions while Russia was gearing up for a larger assault on the eastern Donbas border region and continued strikes in the south.
“Yes, we can call positive the signals we hear from the negotiating platform. But these signals do not silence the explosion of Russian shells,” said Zelensky, who later referred to a strike in the southern city of Mykolayiv that killed at least eight people on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, authorities in the Donbas said residential areas in Lysychansk, a city in the region, were shelled by “heavy artillery”.
Though Russia framed the withdrawal in Kyiv and Chernihiv as a trust-building exercise, it appeared to provide a justification for retreats Russian forces had already made in the face of Ukrainian counter-attacks.
The UK defence ministry on Wednesday said units had been forced to return to Russia and Belarus to reorganise and resupply after suffering heavy losses….