A fresh round of peace talks in Turkey produced positive signs on Tuesday – as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dragged into its 34th day.
Moscow said it would “drastically reduce” its military operations in two key areas of Ukraine “to boost mutual trust” in the talks, which are being held in Istanbul.
But while the decision to scale back operations around the capital, Kyiv, and the northern city of Chernihiv was the first sign of tangible progress, many questions remain unanswered.
It’s unclear how extensive any reduction in military activity might be. The US has expressed scepticism too – noting how Russia has already refocused its military campaign on Ukraine’s east.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky was more forthright, saying positive signals from the talks did “not drown out the explosions or Russian shells”.
The talks also featured an appearance from Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich – hours after reports emerged suggesting he had suffered suspected poisoning symptoms at peace talks earlier this month.
Deadly strike blows hole in governor’s office
Away from the talks, Ukraine says full-scale Russian attacks have continued.
In the southern port city of Mykolaiv, officials said at least twelve people were killed and more than 20 injured in a Russian strike that tore a hole in a government building.
The attack destroyed the office of the regional governor, Vitaliy Kim, who was not there at the time. “I’d overslept… I got lucky,” he said.
Authorities are still scouring the rubble for survivors.
For several weeks, Ukrainian forces in the city have repelled Russia’s advance west along the Black Sea coast.
Does video show Russian prisoners being shot?
Ukrainian authorities are investigating video footage which has been said to show Ukrainian soldiers shooting Russian prisoners in the legs.
The grainy video has been circulating on social media after first appearing in the early hours of Sunday. Since then, it’s been widely reposted by pro-Russian accounts on various platforms.
Ukrainian armed forces Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi said Russia was “filming and distributing staged videos” in order to discredit Ukraine’s treatment of Russian prisoners.
However, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to President Zelensky, said there would be an immediate investigation and added: “I would like to remind all our military, civilians and defence forces that abusing prisoners of war is a war crime.”
The BBC has been analysing the video but has not yet been able to independently verify it.
Odesa defies Russia and embraces signs of life
In the south, Ukrainian forces have had some success in pushing back Russian forces – raising doubts over whether Moscow will still try to seize control of the whole coastline.
The BBC’s Andrew Harding has been in the strategic port city of Odesa, where the immediate fear of Russian bombardment has eased. But people there are unsure whether it is just a temporary lull in the fighting.
The historic and cosmopolitan resort city is gently trying to reconnect with its famously relaxed holiday spirit, as if embracing it were a form of defiance against the Kremlin.
The recent reopening of clubs, beach restaurants, and nail salons across Odesa also reflects growing local confidence in the course of the war against Russia, at least here on the Black Sea coast.
“The city is coming alive, I feel. I think the fear is going away a bit,” said Alexander Hodosevich, a drummer for an instrumental psychedelic band, sitting with a group of friends after finishing an hour-long set at the More Music club.
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