Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said on Tuesday that U.S. defense officials "are not taking anything they say at face value” after Russia's claim that it is withdrawing troops, to some extent, from their offensive on Ukraine's capital city.
Russia's military said it will "fundamentally" cut back operations near Ukraine's capital of Kyiv and a northern city, as talks brought a possible deal to end a grinding war into view.
Kirby said, speaking of Russia attacking Kyiv, "They have been attacking Ukraine now for several weeks on multiple lines of access," and emphasized the sustained Russian troop offensive on the capital city as a reason why U.S. defense officials do not fully believe Russia will do a full troop withdrawal yet.
Kirby said U.S. allies in Europe should not be "fooling" themselves by accepting the Kremlin's recent claims about lessening their attacks, the New York Times reported.
“Has there been some movement by some Russian units away from Kyiv in the last day or so?...Yeah, we think so, small numbers," Kirby said.
After Russia said today it would be pulling back troops from Kyiv, @PentagonPresSec says “We are not taking anything they say at face value.” The Pentagon believes this is a repositioning and not a real withdrawal. Kirby says to prepare for an offensive elsewhere in Ukraine.— Sasha Ingber (@SashaIngber) March 29, 2022
Russia's deputy defense minister said on Tuesday that the move was meant to increase trust in the talks after several rounds of failed negotiations to halt the conflict. That apparent goodwill gesture comes as Russia's troops have become bogged down and struggled to make major advances on the ground recently in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance.
Ukraine's military said it had noted withdrawals around Kyiv and Chernihiv, though the Pentagon said it could not corroborate Russia's claim.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia can't be trusted, but said the in-person talks have been "positive," but said the Russian army can't silence explosions of Russian shells,” Zelenskyy said, “We shouldn’t ease our guard.”
He said Russia's army still “has a great potential to continue attacks against our country.”