Russia said earlier this week that it would "fundamentally" cut back military operations near Ukraine's capital—but so far, it appears that they are sticking to the pledge about as well as they stuck to their claim that they weren't planning to invade Ukraine. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Wednesday the US has seen "the repositioning of a small percentage of the troops and the battalion tactical groups that Russia had arrayed against Kyiv" but there is no sign that Russia plans to de-escalate the conflict, ABC reports.
Kirby said less than 20% of troops in the Kyiv area are being "repositioned," apparently to prepare for deployment elsewhere in Ukraine, while others are establishing new positions and the city is still being bombarded. The mayor of Chernihiv, another city Russia had promised to scale back attacks on, said Wednesday that Russia had kept up its bombardment, targeting civilian infrastructure instead of military buildings. In other developments:
- Zelensky doesn't believe Russian promises. In his nightly address Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that although talks are continuing, he doesn't believe Russia's promise to de-escalate the fighting, the Guardian reports. He said the war is at a "turning point" and thanked President Biden for an additional $500 million in aid announced Wednesday.
- Fresh attempt to evacuate Mariupol. The BBC reports that dozens of buses have been sent to Mariupol in a new effort to evacuate civilians trapped in the shattered city. Russia has declared a one-day ceasefire in the city but it's not clear whether it will hold. Previous attempts to evacuate civilians and deliver humanitarian aid have been thwarted by relentless Russian bombardment.
- Spy chief says Russian troops are refusing to carry out orders. Jeremy Fleming, director of Britain's GCHQ intelligence agency, said Thursday that morale is so low among Russian troops some are sabotaging their own equipment and refusing to carry out orders, the New York Times reports. "We know Putin’s campaign is beset by problems—low morale, logistical failures, and high Russian casualty numbers," Fleming said. He said some Russian aircraft had been accidentally shot down by their own side.
- Kremlin denies Putin has been misinformed. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pushed back Thursday against US intelligence reports that the Russian leader is being misinformed about the true state of the invasion, the AP reports. "They simply don’t understand what’s going on in the Kremlin, they don’t understand President Putin, they don’t understand the mechanism of decision-making, they don’t understand the way we work," said Peskov.
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