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Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Russia pulls back forces from Kyiv amid progress in peace talks

Russia offers to ease attacks on Kyiv ahead of potential peace accord: Moscow yesterday said it would pull forces back from the outskirts of Kyiv as talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators resumed in Turkey. Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said that military activity around the capital would be reduced “radically” and said that the move was designed to “increase mutual trust” as the two sides discuss conditions for a ceasefire and Russian withdrawal from the country.

The US isn’t convinced: “We’re not convinced that the threat to the capital city has been radically diminished,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters yesterday. "We all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine."

Both sides said that progress was made yesterday: Fomin said that the sides were having “practical” discussions over Ukraine’s neutrality and non-nuclear status, as well as Ukraine’s demand for security guarantees. Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said that guarantor states such as the US, UK, Turkey, France and Germany could be assigned to protect Ukraine from future aggression, and suggested that the future status of Crimea would be negotiated at a later date.

Momentum on an accord seems to be building: Ahead of the first day of talks, reports in the press claimed that Russia had relaxed some of its key demands while Ukraine was willing to put on the table its future neutrality and membership of Nato.

De-escalating military operations ≠ ceasefire, Russia says. "This is not a ceasefire but this is our aspiration, gradually to reach a de-escalation of the conflict at least on these fronts," Vladimir Medinsky, head of the Russian team, said in an interview with the TASS news agency, according to Reuters. Talks “still have a long way to go," he said.

This is the biggest story in the global press this morning: Reuters | AP | Bloomberg | FT | Washington Post | NYT | WSJ.

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