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Russia announced on Tuesday it would drastically reduce military operations near the Ukrainian capital and a northern town, as outlines of a possible deal to end the bitter war emerged in the latest round of talks.

A woman holds a child next to a destroyed bridge during the evacuation of the town of Irpin, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, outside kyiv, Ukraine March 28, 2022 | Reuters

Ukraine’s delegation to the conference, held in Istanbul, established a framework in which the country would declare itself neutral and its security would be guaranteed by a range of other nations. Public reaction from Moscow has been positive and talks are set to resume on Wednesday, five weeks after what turned into a bloody war of attrition, with thousands dead and nearly 4 million Ukrainians fleeing the country.

Amid the talks, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Moscow had decided to “basically…reduce military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv” to “increase mutual trust and create the conditions new negotiations.

The announcement was met with skepticism by the United States and others. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia could not be trusted. Although the signals from the talks are “positive”, they “cannot silence the explosions of Russian shells”, he said in a video address.

Zelenskyy said it was Ukrainian troops who forced Russia’s hand, adding that ‘we should not let our guard down’ as the invading army ‘still has great potential to continue attacks on our country’ .

Christi C. Elwood