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Biden skeptical of Russia’s pledge to ‘drastically reduce’ assault

On March 29, President Biden said it remains to be seen whether Russia follows through with any actions to scale down its military operations in Ukraine. (Video: Reuters)

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President Biden and top U.S. officials said Tuesday that they were skeptical of Russia’s vow to curtail its military assault on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and the northern city of Chernihiv, ending the day with a note of caution after hours of peace talks between the two sides appeared to make some headway and Moscow said it would “drastically reduce” its attacks in the two key regions.

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“I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are,” Biden said of Russia’s pledge. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby echoed this stance, saying that “nobody should be fooling” themselves by believing the Kremlin’s claim. Kirby confirmed an assessment by a top U.S. general that a small number of Russian troops had moved away from Kyiv but said officials believe it is “a repositioning, not a real withdrawal.” A major offensive in other parts of Ukraine is still possible, he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Tuesday that news from the negotiations was “positive” but that Kyiv has “no reason to trust" Moscow’s assurances. “These signals do not silence the explosion of Russian shells,” he said.

During the peace talks, which took place in Istanbul, Ukrainian representatives outlined a proposal that included an agreement by their country to drop its bid to join NATO and a 15-year timeline for negotiations with Russia over the status of Crimea. Still, as diplomats met in Turkey, the fighting continued in Ukraine.

Here’s what to know

  • Vladimir Medinsky, an adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, appeared to suggest that Putin and Zelensky could meet in person if a peace agreement were signed.
  • Evacuations from the devastated southern city of Mariupol resumed Tuesday, one day after they were halted across the country due to security concerns. More than 1,600 escaped Mariupol and a nearby region, officials said.
  • The governor of Mykolaiv said a missile struck a local government building. Ukraine’s emergency services said that seven people died and 22 were injured in the attack, and that a search-and-rescue operation is ongoing.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of troops in an address to the nation on Sept. 21, framing the move as an attempt to defend Russian sovereignty against a West that seeks to use Ukraine as a tool to “divide and destroy Russia.” Follow our live updates here.

The fight: A successful Ukrainian counteroffensive has forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in recent days, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Annexation referendums: Staged referendums, which would be illegal under international law, are set to take place from Sept. 23 to 27 in the breakaway Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, according to Russian news agencies. Another staged referendum will be held by the Moscow-appointed administration in Kherson starting Friday.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can help support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.