The Defense Department is adding its voice to Western doubts over Russian claims that its forces are pulling back north of Kyiv, saying that is not what U.S. observers are seeing on the ground more than a month into Moscow’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
Pentagon officials have seen “a small percentage” of Russian troops around Ukraine’s capital begin to reposition, with some heading toward Belarus. The Russian ally has been a major staging area for the operation ordered by President Vladimir Putin.
“We have seen none of them reposition to their home garrison — and that’s not a small point,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday. “If the Russians are serious about de-escalating — because that’s their claim here — then they should send them home.”
Russia could use any repositioning of forces as an opportunity to refit and replenish the units and use them for other operations in Ukraine — most likely securing in the disputed Donbas region, officials said. Russian military officials have said as much in recent days.
Only about 20% of the Russian units around Kyiv are pulling back with the remaining forces taking up mostly defensive positions, the Defense Department said.
“We, several days ago, stopped seeing any advancement on their part,” Mr. Kirby said. “But the airstrikes have not stopped, Kyiv is still very much under threat.”