The Russian military has begun to move some of its troops in Ukraine away from the areas around Kyiv to positions elsewhere in Ukraine, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Tuesday, part of a strategic shift in its monthlong invasion of Ukraine.
“Up until recently, we had still assessed that their plan was to occupy and annex Ukraine using approaches along three lines of attack,” Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon. “Now we think they’re going to prioritize the east” of Ukraine.
Russian troops convoys “have been stalled in the north” around the capital, he said, while initial Russian progress in the south had also “stalled out.”
U.S. officials said several days ago that Russian troops had stopped gaining new ground around Kyiv, and instead were digging defensive positions.
Now it appears that at least some of those troops, a “small number,” according to Kirby, are actually leaving.
“Russia has failed in its objective of capturing Kyiv,” he said. “It has failed in its objective of subjugating Ukraine.”
Still, Kirby cautioned that the troop movements do not amount to a retreat, as some observers had speculated. “We believe that this is a repositioning, not a real withdrawal,” said Kirby. “And that we all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine.”
Kirby spoke several hours after a member of the Russian negotiating team in Istanbul announced that the Ministry of Defense had decided “to radically, at times, reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernikyiv direction.”
The Kremlin official claimed the reduced military activity was meant to “increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations.”
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