President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he would reserve judgment on Russia’s announcement that it plans to dramatically reduce its military assault around Ukraine’s capital, and that he would wait to “see if they follow through” on the pledge to de-escalate.
“We’ll see. I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are,” Biden told reporters at the White House, speaking at a joint news conference with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Following peace negotiations in Istanbul earlier Tuesday between Russian and Ukrainian delegations, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Moscow had decided “to fundamentally cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv” in Ukraine’s north.
More than a month after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion, Russian forces remain stalled in the northern part of the country as well as in the south, where they had made earlier gains, according to U.S. officials.
Russian forces now appear to be prioritizing eastern Ukraine, particularly the breakaway Donbas region, in an effort to prevent Ukrainian forces there from reinforcing the western part of the country, U.S. officials assess.
Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy, first deputy chief of Russia’s General Staff, said last Friday that “the main tasks of the first stage” of Russia’s invasion “have been completed,” and that Russian forces now would focus their efforts in the Donbas.
Biden’s remarks on the latest Russian announcement came after he participated in a Ukraine-focused call earlier Tuesday with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Biden said there was an apparent “consensus” following the conversation that the Western nations should “just see what [the Russians] have to offer.”
“We’ll find out what they do,” Biden said. “But in the meantime, we’re going to continue to keep strong the sanctions, we’re going to continue to provide the Ukrainian military with the capacity to defend themselves, and we’re going to continue to keep a close eye on what’s going on.”
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