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Topline

Russia’s claim that it will “fundamentally cut back military activity” near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in pursuit of peace is probably a tactic to “mislead the military leadership of Ukraine,” officials in Ukraine said Tuesday evening—after the Pentagon framed Russia’s move as a repositioning rather than a withdrawal of troops.

Key Facts

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Facebook Tuesday that Russia is “regrouping” its forces to focus on eastern Ukraine, but movements that Russia deemed military withdrawals from Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv are actually just rotations of individual units.

The Ukrainian military said these rotations were likely executed in order to “create a misconception” about Russia’s intentions.

U.S. intelligence has seen “a small number” of Russian troops leaving the Kyiv area, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday, but the U.S is not willing to call the move a retreat or withdrawal, as Russia is likely moving troops to prioritize eastern regions such as Donetsk and Luhansk.

The move “does not mean that the threat to Kyiv is over,” Kirby cautioned.

White House spokesperson Kate Bedingfield earlier Tuesday called Russia’s purported retreat from Kyiv a “redeployment and not a withdrawal.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address Tuesday that Russia is “still pursuing our annihilation” despite its claims, and pointed to ongoing attacks in other Ukrainian cities like the besieged eastern city of Mariupol, according to CNN.

Key Background

Russia claimed Friday it was shifting its forces east to focus on seizing Donetsk and Luhansk, known collectively as the Donbas region. The Russian military has faced stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces near cities like Kyiv, but Russian officials insisted last week the goal of the invasion was always to “liberate” the Donbas region, which have been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatist forces since 2014. Russian army official Sergei Rudskoy said the country’s strategy in attacking the capital of Kyiv and other areas of Ukraine was to “significantly decrease” Ukraine’s military capacities.

Tangent

Russia is reportedly deploying more mercenaries from a private military company called the Wagner Group to the Donbas region to reinforce the country’s struggling army.

Source: Forbes

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