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.
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.
US intelligence has seen “a small number” of Russian troops leaving the Kyiv area, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday, but the US 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 to CNN.