Nato’s secretary-general has warned Ukrainians they should expect “additional [Russian] offensive actions” that will bring “even more suffering” as the Kremlin moves simply to deploy its troops elsewhere in the country rather than stage a promised partial withdrawal.
Speaking in Brussels as the military alliance published its 2021 annual report, Jens Stoltenberg said Moscow did not appear to be scaling back its military operations in Ukraine.
He said Russia had “repeatedly lied” about its intentions and used the sentiment conveyed by US, UK and other western leaders that the Kremlin should be judged only “on its actions, not on its words”.
Following peace talks on Tuesday, Russia promised that it would de-escalate operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations”.
But Mr Stoltenberg said: “According to our intelligence, Russian units are not withdrawing but repositioning. Russia is trying to regroup, resupply and reinforce its offensive in the Donbas region.
“At the same time, Russia maintains pressure on Kyiv and other cities.
“So we can expect additional offensive actions, bringing even more suffering.”
The secretary-general added that it was now a “more dangerous world” and said the “security environment has dramatically worsened”.
He said: “We made every effort to engage Russia in dialogue. But Moscow consistently turned us down. And ultimately decided to cut diplomatic ties.
“The Ukrainian forces are now bigger, better-equipped, better-trained, and better-led than ever before.
“And they are putting their training and their equipment to use on the front lines, with courage that has inspired the world.
“We have heard the recent statements that Russia will scale down military operations around Kyiv and in northern Ukraine.
“But Russia has repeatedly lied about its intentions. So we can only judge Russia on her actions, not on her words.
Earlier, Washington said Russia had begun to reposition less than 20 per cent of its troops stationed around Kyiv.
Pentagon intelligence suggested most had traveled north including some into Belarus where they could be resupplied and sent back into Ukraine.
The US also claimed that Vladimir Putin was being misinformed by advisers who are too scared to tell him about the reality of his military’s poor performance in Ukraine.
Russia responded by saying that the White House and the Pentagon had no idea what was happening in the Kremlin, and warned that the alleged misunderstanding could lead to “tragic decisions that could have very bad consequences”.
Dmitry Peskov, the Russian leader’s spokesman, said: “Neither the State Department nor the Pentagon possess the real information about what is happening in the Kremlin.
“They simply 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 the way we work.
“It is not just regrettable, it elicits concern, because this complete lack of understanding leads to erroneous decisions, tragic decisions that could have very bad consequences.”