Kirby was speaking just hours after the Russian Deputy Defense Minister announced, Alexandre Forminthat Russia will reduce its military operations towards Kyiv and the northern city of Chernigov, after achieving progress in MPeace Incidents in Istanbul.
“What I can tell you is that the vast majority of the troops massed against Kyiv that we saw are still in place,” Kirby commented, adding that we’ve only seen a small number begin to move away from Kyiv.
“Russia has failed in its goal of capturing Kyiv,” Kirby said, but “this does not mean that the threat surrounding Kiev is over.”
“We are not ready to call this a retreat or even a withdrawal,” he said, explaining, “We think that what is likely on their minds is repositioning to strengthen another site.”
“There has been an increase in offensive activity” by Russian forces in the breakaway region of Donetsk, he added.
Besides the Pentagon, the Russian announcement was also met with skepticism by the White House.
“We must have a clear view of what is really happening on the ground, and no one should be deceived by Russian statements,” Kate Paddingfield, the White House’s director of communications, told reporters.
Asked if there was a timetable being set for lifting sanctions in exchange for progress, Paddingfield said, “I don’t know if the Russian activity currently is worth the carrot. Our focus has been very much on the stick.”
A trick or a token of confidence?
According to the New York Times, some analysts believe that Moscow’s position may be a tactical ploy, not a concession, especially in light of the halt in the Russian advance in northern Ukraine.
Diplomats and analysts said that Russia seems more realistic in its view of the course of the war, but it is not in a hurry to end military operations.
And the American newspaper wrote that Ukrainian officials hinted for the first time about the possibility of ceding lands to Russia, in reference to the future of both the Donbass region, and even Kyiv’s position on Russias sovereignty over the Crimea peninsula, which was annexed in 2014.