Russian pledge to scale back in Ukraine draws skepticism

File Photo A woman walks outside a maternity hospital that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. Photo Courtesy: AP

KYIV, Ukraine (AP): Russia’s pledge to scale back some military operations in Ukraine drew skepticism even as the two nations planned to return Wednesday to talks that could produce a framework for ending the war that has imposed an increasingly punishing toll.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said there was no reason to believe Russia’s announcement that it would reduce military activity near Kyiv, the capital, as well as in the northern city of Chernihiv, given what’s still happening on the ground.

“We can call those signals that we hear at the negotiations positive,” he said in his nightly video address to the Ukrainian people. “But those signals don’t silence the explosions of Russian shells.”

It was a bitter reality check in a rare moment of optimism five weeks into what has devolved into a bloody war of attrition, with thousands dead and almost 4 million Ukrainians fleeing the country.