NATO Secretary General has warned Ukrainians to expect “additional measures”. [Russian] offensive actions” that will bring “more suffering” if the Kremlin moves its troops elsewhere in the country instead of staging a promised partial withdrawal.
Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels that Moscow does not appear to be reducing its military operations in Ukraine.
He said Russia had “repeatedly lied” about its intentions and reiterated the view conveyed by US, British and other Western leaders that the Kremlin should be judged only “by its actions, not its words”.
After Tuesday’s peace talks, Russia vowed to de-escalate operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv to “boost mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.”
But Mr. Stoltenberg said: “According to our intelligence services, Russian units are not withdrawing but repositioning. Russia is trying to regroup, resupply and reinforce its offensive in the Donbass region.
“At the same time, Russia keeps up the pressure on Kyiv and other cities.
“So we can expect additional offensive actions that will bring even more suffering.”
The Secretary-General added that it is now a “more dangerous world” and said the “security environment has deteriorated dramatically”.
He said: “We have made every effort to engage Russia in a dialogue. But Moscow consistently rejected us. And finally decided to break off diplomatic relations.
“Ukrainian armed forces are now larger, better equipped, better trained and better led than ever before. And they’re putting their training and gear to the front lines with a courage that has inspired the world.
“We have heard recent statements that Russia will reduce military operations around Kyiv and in northern Ukraine. But Russia has repeatedly lied about its intentions. So we can only judge Russia by its actions, not by its words.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine sees “a buildup of Russian forces for fresh strikes” in the eastern Donbass region, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014, adding that his forces are “preparing for it.” .
In addition, the British Ministry of Defense reported “significant Russian shelling and missile attacks” near the northern city of Chernihiv.
Earlier, Washington said Russia had begun to reposition less than 20 percent of its troops stationed around Kyiv.
Pentagon intelligence suggested most had traveled north, including some to Belarus, where they could be cared for and sent back to Ukraine.
The US also claimed Vladimir Putin was misinformed by advisers too afraid to tell him the reality of his military’s poor performance in Ukraine.
Russia responded that the White House and the Pentagon had no idea what was going on in the Kremlin, warning that the alleged misunderstanding could lead to “tragic decisions that could have very dire consequences.”
Dmitry Peskov, the Russian leader’s spokesman, said: “Neither the State Department nor the Pentagon have the real information about what is going on in the Kremlin.
“They just don’t understand what’s going on in the Kremlin, they don’t understand President Putin, they don’t understand the mechanism of decision-making, they don’t understand how we work.
“It’s not only unfortunate, it’s worrying, because this complete lack of understanding leads to bad decisions, tragic decisions that can have very dire consequences.”
In other developments, Mr Putin gave the green light to call up 134,500 new conscripts from Friday — a routine event but one that will heighten concerns about the prospects for peace. Senior government officials have previously insisted conscripts will not fight in Ukraine.
The war of words between the US and Russia came as fierce fighting raged on the outskirts of Kyiv and other areas of the country.
Near Mariupol, meanwhile, a convoy of buses was making its way into the besieged city to evacuate civilians who have been stuck there for weeks, many without food and water. Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk said 45 buses would be sent.
In other areas, however, Russian soldiers were in retreat. Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear company Energoatom said many of the troops seizing the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had withdrawn. The agency said Russian troops had also withdrawn from the nearby town of Slavutych, where Chernobyl workers live.
On Friday, a new round of talks to end the fighting is to take place via video link.
But with no sign of an end to the war, the UK tightened its sanctions regime on Thursday, targeting more than a dozen Russian media outlets and organizations accused of spreading propaganda and disinformation about the war.
They include Rossiya TV presenter Sergey Brilev, who previously lived in the UK, Aleksandr Zharov, CEO of Gazprom Media, and Alexey Nikolov, executive director of Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT.
Elsewhere, the Latvian parliament on Thursday voted to ban the public display of the letter Z, saying it was a symbol used to glorify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.