British intelligence claimed on Wednesday several Russian battalions that suffered heavy losses ended up going home or fleeing to Belarus.
Meanwhile, western officials questioned Moscow’s vow to reduce military activities surrounding Kyiv and Chernihiv.
No One Saw This Coming
“Russian troops that suffered substantial losses have been compelled to withdraw to Belarus and Russia to regroup and restock,” the Ministry of Defense of the United Kingdom said in a March 30 update.
According to British intelligence, the limited troop retreat demonstrates Russian forces are having problems reforming their units in portions of Ukraine. It is expected to put more strain on already stressed Russian military logistical lines.
“Russia will most likely adjust for its weakened ground mobility capabilities with mass shelling and missile attacks,” the source stated, adding any increase in bombardment would increase the likelihood of innocent causalities.
Mariupol before it was destroyed by the Russian army 🇺🇦💛💙 pic.twitter.com/RHBkc5axs3
— Mikhail Khodorkovsky (English) (@mbk_center) March 27, 2022
Thousands of people have been killed or wounded in Ukraine’s war, which has forced nearly four million people to flee their homes.
In a Twitter post on Tuesday, Christo Grozev, the chief Russia investigator for Bellingcat, said there were “obvious indicators” that Russian forces from Kyiv were returning to Russian territory.
After face-to-face talks in Istanbul, Turkey, Russia said on Tuesday it will “dramatically reduce” its military presence near Kyiv and Chernihiv.
As per Russia’s deputy army chief, the stated objective was to “establish confidence and create circumstances for further discussions, with the ultimate goal of agreeing and writing a peace deal.”
The scale and reason for the pullout have been questioned by western and Ukrainian authorities and analysts.
At a conference on Tuesday, Pentagon secretary John Kirby said US intelligence detected modest amounts of Russian ground soldiers moving further away from the Kyiv region.
However, this appeared to be a shifting of forces, rather than a true withdrawal.
The Ukrainian military cautioned on Tuesday that the seeming retreat of Russian forces between Kyiv and Chernihiv is most likely just a movement of troops intended to “mislead” Ukrainian forces.
Despite Moscow’s commitment to pull up combat actions in Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv area, the governor of the region stated on Wednesday he observed no signs of a slowdown in Russian assaults.
Russia is transferring troops from north to eastern Ukraine to try surrounding the Ukrainian military there, according to Ukrainian president adviser Oleksiy Arestovych.
However, Russia is also leaving some near Kyiv to hold down a section of the Ukrainian military.
It’s Not Over Yet
Despite Moscow’s assurances, analysts at the Center for the Study of War (ISW) in Washington warned on Tuesday that Russian soldiers have “not yet stopped their assaults on Kyiv.”
— Daily Express (@Daily_Express) March 30, 2022
The ISW team also questioned Russia’s justification for curtailing combat actions near Kyiv, as well as Chernihiv.
Ukrainian diplomats offered a number of recommendations at Tuesday’s peace talks, including that Kyiv commits not to join coalitions or host foreign forces’ bases.
Ukraine, on the other hand, would be guaranteed protection in a manner akin to NATO’s “Article 5” mutual defense provision.