Kyiv — Russia’s relentless bombing campaign infuels skepticism about Moscow’s claim that it will “drastically reduce” its military operations in two areas of the country to “boost mutual trust” and encourage peace talks. Despite ongoing negotiations, the war goes on.
On Wednesday, the United Nations said it had forced more than 4 million people to flee Ukraine, turning their lives upside down and turning them into refugees. At least 6 million other Ukrainians have been forced to leave their homes to seek safety elsewhere in the country.
As CBS News correspondent Debora Patta reports from the capital Kyiv – one of the areas where Russia has announced it will scale back its attack – US military officials see President Vladimir Putin’s latest move as a repositioning of forces rather than a retreat, and while in Kyiv and elsewhere, the threat remained high on Wednesday.
Board discussions like Tuesday’s peace talks in Turkey mean little on the battlefield. According to Patta, Ukrainians remain vigilant and soldiers continue to patrol checkpoints around Kyiv on high alert while searching for Russian saboteurs.
After shelling could still be heard north of the capital on Wednesday morning, it was clear that danger still lurked on the ground and in the sky.
“The enemy is still here,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told his country on Wednesday evening after Russia’s announcement. “Missile and air strikes haven’t stopped…that’s the reality.”
Few places have felt this more than the southeastern port city of Mariupol, which has nearly collapsed. Even if peace is given a chance, all that remains of Mariupol is rubble and ruins.
Children from the besieged city and many others in southern and eastern Ukraine want their childhoods back.
“I’m so tired,” said a little girl. “And my toys don’t have batteries.”
Older Ukrainians just want to forget.
“What else can I do,” Genaidy asked as he gathered what he could from his damaged apartment to flee Mariupol. “There’s nothing left for me here.”
He is leaving after almost 40 years as a shoemaker in the city.
Russian-backed separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine — where the now-raging war has simmered quietly since Putin’s last invasion in 2014 — are in no mood for peace. Video surfaced showing rebels forcing Ukrainians to strip, claiming it was them.
In nearby Mykolaiv on Tuesday, a Russian missile smashed through a government building, leaving a gaping hole and fresh trauma in its wake. A woman watched helplessly as her colleague died in her arms – one of 12 people killed in the strike, according to Ukraine’s State Ambulance Service.
Even if the Russian military fulfills its promise to withdraw from Kyiv, there will not be much fighting left in the cities around the capital, where fierce fighting is raging.
While Ukraine claims to have retaken nearby towns like Irpin, those areas were decimated, and many people did not get out alive.
The UK said on Wednesday that its latest intelligence showed some Russian troops were withdrawing from the outskirts of Kyiv to Belarus and Russia “to reorganize and resupply” after suffering heavy casualties. Ukraine’s government said it expects Russia to keep some troops near the capital to keep up the pressure and prevent Ukrainian forces from moving to the eastern front, where the war is still raging.
Zelenskyy, along with the US and its other Western partners, has made it clear that they will believe Russia’s claim to facilitate the attack on Kyiv and the northeastern city of Chernihiv when they see it, and not before. Thirty-five days after an invasion that Putin claimed for months he had no intention of launching, the skepticism was not surprising.
On Wednesday morning, the governor of Chernihiv said his region had been shelled “all night” by Russian artillery: “Civilian infrastructure was destroyed again, libraries, shopping malls and other facilities were destroyed, and many houses were destroyed.”