Russia’s Potential Withdrawal from kyiv Fractures Pro-War Voices at Home

Russia’s announcement that it would “significantly” reduce its military presence near the Ukrainian capital has raised fears among pro-war factions in the country that Russia may back down from its goals.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin made the announcement on Tuesday following Russian-Ukrainian peace talks in Istanbul, saying the decision was made with the aim of “strengthening mutual trust” and creating the terms of a peace agreement.

Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, said Moscow would reduce its operations north of kyiv and in the northern town of Chernihiv, 100 kilometers from the Russian border.

The statements – the first signs of a possible de-escalation by Russia after more than a month of fighting – have been met with frustration by pro-war Russians, who say the Kremlin’s stated goals of “denazifying” and ” demilitarize” Ukraine are far from being achieved.

“I myself was in a state of panic yesterday,” Alexander Prokhanov, a nationalist writer who supported Russia’s war in Ukraine, told the Moscow Times.

“Today I feel better. The night was accompanied by intensive shelling of Ukrainian targets all over the country, from Lviv to Donetsk,” said Prokhanov, who said he viewed the war as an effort to heal the wounds left open by the Soviet collapse.

Much of the criticism was aimed directly at Medinsky.

“Throughout the military operation and the ongoing negotiation process, Medinsky made a few statements that baffled many, even leading to hysteria in some cases,” Prokhanov continued.

“I think we need to stock up on tape, to tape Medinsky’s mouth.”

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov also critical Medinsky for being too lenient with Ukraine in the negotiations.

“We won’t make concessions, Medinsky made a mistake, what he did was wrong,” Kadyrov said.

Even some of the Kremlin’s most loyal propagandists, including state TV presenter Vladimir Solovyov, were unenthusiastic after the announcement.

“No one is going to let go. It should be remembered that every time Putin announced the withdrawal of troops from Syria, our concentration there only increased,” Soloviev said.

Still, according to Alexei Mukhin of the Center for Political Information, a pro-Kremlin think tank, the decision to scale back military operations near kyiv is a necessary step to end the “difficult” situation.

“It is certainly a positive signal. Russia is giving Ukraine a chance to resolve this difficult situation. For the good of Ukraine more than anything, it is extending an olive branch.

Amid anger from pro-war factions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called for calm and downplayed expectations that the latest round of talks would yield tangible results.

“We don’t have Stalingrad on our calendar, nor should we. Most importantly, there should be no room for emotions,” Peskov noted Wednesday.

“We cannot say anything very promising or breakthrough. There is still a very, very long way to go,” he added.

Russia’s military campaign has stuttered and failed since its inception, with failures to gain early air superiority over its unarmed neighbor – as well as a failure to capture kyiv, which is widely believed to be among the initial objectives of the Kremlin.

Reports last week indicated that Russia was losing ground in its advance towards the Ukrainian capital. Overstretched supply lines left Russian forces vulnerable to counterattacks, allowing Ukraine to retake the key town of Irpin and leading Western critics to call Russia’s commitment to “retreat” reduce military activity”.

“The war did not go as planned from the start,” military analyst Pavel Luzhin told the Moscow Times.

“However, the Kremlin remains ready to fight, and despite heavy losses, it is not completely exhausted,” Luzhin said.

For Mukhin, the negotiators’ promise to defuse on the northern front is part of a carefully structured Kremlin plan.

“Clearly, this is part of the plan. Medinsky is unlikely to improvise. Each special operation requires adjustments, know-how, but in general, our common objectives are achieved.

Western officials on Tuesday urged caution over Russia’s claims, with US President Joe Biden saying he would wait to see the Kremlin back those claims up with action.

Many observers fear Tuesday’s pledge could be a smokescreen for Russian troops to regroup, with the worst of the war potentially yet to come.

“I don’t see the Russian army leaving its positions near kyiv. Some units have left, yes, but it’s more of a rotation and replacement of those who can no longer fight,” Luzhin said. “I think it could be the preparation for a second offensive, not only in Donbass, but also in other regions.”

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