Russia pledges to reduce military acts near Kyiv as peace talks progress

March 29, 2022 - 18:2

General Alexander Fomin, Russia's deputy defense minister, told reporters on Tuesday that Russia would reduce its military activity around Kyiv and Chernihiv in light of the "meaningful" negotiations with Ukraine, DW reported.

"In order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing and signing (an) agreement, a decision was made to radically, by a large margin, reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions," Fomin told reporters.

According to the AP news agency, Ukraine's military said it had noted withdrawals around Kyiv and Chernihiv.

Russia-Ukraine talks conclude in Istanbul

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators concluded face-to-face peace talks in Istanbul on Tuesday, with the Ukrainian side saying that there have been enough developments to have a meeting between the presidents of the two countries.

Russia said the talks were "constructive," raising hopes that there could be progress toward ending the war.

However, Russian top negotiator Medinsky said a meeting between Putin and Zelenskyy is possible only if a deal has been approved by the foreign ministries of both countries.

Following the talks, Ukrainian negotiators told reporters that Kyiv would agree to a neutral status if a security guarantee system is put in place. They said, under the new system, Israel, Poland, Canada and Turkey could be among Ukraine’s security guarantors.

The neutral status would include not hosting any foreign military bases on Ukrainian territory.

There needs to be full peace across Ukraine for any final agreement with Russia to come into force, the Ukrainian side stressed, adding that a referendum would be needed in Ukraine on the terms of any final deal.

They also proposed holding consultations with Russia on the status of Crimea.

The talks on Tuesday lasted around four hours with occasional breaks. It is unclear if the discussions will continue for a second day.

Meanwhile, a Russian rocket strike on Tuesday destroyed a regional government building in the southern city of Mykolaiv, local authorities said. President Zelenskyy said the missile strike killed at least seven people and wounded 22.   

"We're clearing the rubble. Half the building was destroyed. My office was hit," local governor Vitaliy Kim said in a video statement.

Mykolaiv, a key port, has been under heavy assault for weeks, along with other southern port cities like Kherson and Mariupol.

Peace talks focusing on security guarantees, ceasefire, says Zelenskyy adviser

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Zelenskyy, has said that the ongoing talks in Turkey between Ukraine and Russia are focusing on security guarantees for Ukraine and a ceasefire.

"Only with this agreement can we end the war in a way that Ukraine needs," he said. Podolyak added the two sides were also discussing alleged breaches of the rules of war.

Russia says the military's main task is now to 'liberate' Donbas

Russia's defense minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that Ukraine's military capacity had been seriously degraded, the Interfax news agency reported. "The combat potential of the Ukrainian armed forces has been significantly reduced, which makes it possible to focus the main attention and main efforts on achieving the main goal — the liberation of Donbas."

Shoigu's assertion came despite Ukraine's unexpectedly strong resistance since the war began last month, which has seen Russia fail to take any major cities, and stall in advancing along multiple fronts.

However, Shoigu reiterated statements made last week by officials that the Russian military had completed the main objective of the first phase of its invasion.

The minister also stressed the change in Russia's war aims, underlining that the main task of the Russian military is now to "liberate" Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, part of which has been under the control of Russian proxies since 2015.

Furthermore, he warned the West that Moscow will respond appropriately if NATO supplies fighter aircraft and air defense systems to Ukraine.

Russia resumes LNG exports through the Sea of Azov

Russia on Tuesday resumed exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) through the Sea of Azov, with a Comoros-flagged gas tanker expected to be loaded at the port of Temryuk, the port operator said.  

The tanker, bound for the Bulgarian port of Burgas, would mark the first time since the start of Russia’s Ukraine invasion that LNG is exported through the waterway.

Russian authorities had banned ship movements in the region following the outbreak of the war.

IAEA chief in Ukraine to talk about nuclear safety

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited Ukraine to hold talks with senior officials on how to ensure the safety of the nation's nuclear facilities.

"The military conflict is putting Ukraine's nuclear power plants and other facilities with radioactive material in unprecedented danger," Rafael Grossi said in a statement.

He added that "there have already been several close calls. We can't afford to lose any more time."

Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at four active power plants, and also is home to the decommissioned Chernobyl plant, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. Russian forces have taken control of Chernobyl and of the largest active power plant at Zaporizhzhia.

The United States is also deploying six Navy EA-18G Growler aircraft to the Spangdahlem airbase in Germany to bolster NATO's defense posture, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.

This is "to bolster readiness and NATO's collective defense posture and further increase air integration capabilities with our Allied and partner nations," he said during a conference call.

Kirby stressed that the aircraft were not intended to be used against the Russian military in Ukraine, but were intended to strengthen NATO's eastern flank and serve as a deterrent against Russia.

Kirby added that some 240 Navy personnel, consisting of pilots and maintenance crew, will also be stationed to maintain the aircraft.  

The aircraft, developed by the U.S. firm Boeing, are used in electronic warfare to counter adversaries by offering tactical jamming capabilities besides offering land and naval defense.

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