Peace talks produce signs of progress, but no end to war is in sight
By Anton Troianovski, Megan Specia and Ivan Nechepurenko
U.S. and British leaders reacted warily on Tuesday to a Russian pledge to scale back the military pressure on Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and on the northern city of Chernihiv after peace talks between Ukrainian and Russia yielded the first signs of progress toward halting the five-week-long war.
As negotiators gathered at a 19th-century Ottoman palace on the banks of the Bosporus in Istanbul, a deputy Russian defense minister said Russia would sharply “reduce military activity” around Kyiv and Chernihiv. Russia also said it was ready to set a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine once a draft peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia was ready.
President Joe Biden reacted cautiously. “We’ll see,” he said. “I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain took a similar stance, as did the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken.
“There is what Russia says and there’s what Russia does,” Blinken said on a diplomatic trip to Morocco. “We’re focused on the latter.”
Some analysts said the Russian promises were less a concession than a tactical ploy, allowing Moscow time to retreat and regroup. Russia’s advance in the north was already stalled, and some diplomats and analysts said that what the talks in Turkey showed was a Russia more realistic about the course of its war — but in no hurry to end it.
Still, hints of what a postwar Ukraine might look like have emerged from the talks.
Ukrainian officials outlined for the first time potential concessions over territory that Ukraine is all but certain to have lost to Russia.
Here are some other major developments:
— Even as the talks took place, Russian military strikes and Ukrainian counteroffensives continued across the country Tuesday.
— In an overnight speech, Zelenskyy said that while Irpin, a Kyiv suburb, had been “liberated” and Russian forces had been “pushed away from Kyiv,” the battle for the city was far from over. “It is too early to talk about security in this part of our region,” he said.
— At least nine people were killed and 28 injured in a strike on a regional government building in the southern city of Mykolaiv, officials said.
— As part of the crackdown on wealthy allies of Putin, Britain detained a superyacht in London that it said belonged to a Russian businessman.
— The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday for talks with government officials over the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities, which have been targets for Russian forces.
— Oil prices dropped and stock prices jumped as cease-fire talks between Russia and Ukraine showed signs of progress.