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The Russian military announced a decision on Tuesday to “radically” reduce troop presence in and around the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv and a northern city, Chernihiv, as peace talks progress with Ukraine’s government.
“Given that the talks on the preparation of an agreement on the neutrality and non-nuclear status of Ukraine have moved into a practical field … a decision has been made to radically, by several times, reduce the military activity in the areas of Kyiv and Chernihiv,” Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said, according to the New York Post.
Fox News also added that Russia’s government claimed the move was made specifically to “increase” trust between the two nations:
Russia’s deputy defense minister told reporters on Tuesday that Moscow has decided to “fundamentally cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv” in order to “increase mutual trust for future negotiations to agree and sign a peace deal with Ukraine.” The Ukrainian government also recognized the withdrawal of certain units of armed forces of the Russian Federation from the territories of Kyiv and Chernihiv blasts, warning that “At the same time, there is a high risk of the Russian occupiers attacking military and civilian infrastructure.”
The Pentagon warned on Tuesday afternoon that no one should be fooled into thinking this is a Russian “withdrawal.” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a press briefing that while there has been “some movement” by Russian forces, “we believe this is a repositioning, not a real withdrawal.”
On Tuesday, Russian and Ukrainian officials met for the first time face-to-face in three weeks in Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss the path toward peace.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan applauded the decision and welcomed the continued peace talks between the two countries.
“We believe that there will be no losers in a just peace. Prolonging the conflict is not in anyone’s interest,” Erdogan said, as he greeted the two delegations seated on opposite sides of a long table.
According to the Kyiv Independent, the head of the Ukrainian delegation was David Arakhamia, a member of Parliament chairing President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party while the head of the Russian delegation was Vladimir Medinsky, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Head of the Ukrainian delegation David Arakhamia (R), an MP chairing President Volodymyr Zelensky's party in the parliament, meets in Istanbul with the head of the Russian delegation Vladimir Medinsky, aide to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
📷: President's Office pic.twitter.com/CDQoOQCZdr
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 29, 2022
Fox News also added that Ukrainian presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, told the media on Tuesday that “intensive consultations are underway right now on some important issues, the most important of which is agreement on international security guarantees for Ukraine, because with this agreement we will be able to end the war as Ukraine needs.”
Likewise, “Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said ‘We are not trading people, land or sovereignty,'” Fox reported.
“The minimum program will be humanitarian questions, and the maximum program is reaching an agreement on a ceasefire,” Kuleba added.
Reuters provided more details on what the Ukrainian proposals were:
Ukrainian negotiators said that under their proposals, Kyiv would agree not to join alliances or host bases of foreign troops, but would have its security guaranteed in terms similar to “Article 5”, the collective defence clause of NATO.
They identified Israel and NATO members Canada, Poland and Turkey as countries that could help provide such guarantees. Russia, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy could also provide guarantees.
The proposals would include a 15-year consultation period on the status of Russian-annexed Crimea, and could come into force only in the event of a complete ceasefire, the negotiators said.
The fate of the southeastern Donbas region, which Russia demands Ukraine cede to separatists, would be set aside to be discussed by the Ukrainian and Russian leaders, they added. Any peace deal would require a referendum in Ukraine.
Accordingly, Ukrainian negotiator Oleksander Chaly said, “If we manage to consolidate these key provisions … then Ukraine will be in a position to actually fix its current status as a non-bloc and non-nuclear state in the form of permanent neutrality”
“We will not host foreign military bases on our territory, as well as deploy military contingents on our territory, and we will not enter into military-political alliances,” he added.