Russia to cut back operations outside Kyiv - but will this change anything?

ITV News Correspondent John Ray assesses how significant this set of talks has been

The Russians didn’t make much of a concession today.

Their unilateral decision to scale back the assault on Kyiv and Chernihiv is more a case of reality biting. Both are battles in which they were, at best, bogged down and in places being pushed back. And it leaves them freer to concentrate on their targets in the south and the east.

But that doesn’t mean we should dismiss today’s peace talks in Istanbul. It was the first meeting where there was tangible progress.

Vitaly Kim, governor of Mykolaiv (middle) with ITV News Correspondent John Ray (second right) and cameraman Sean Swann (right)

Ukraine has made its basis for a deal much clearer - neutrality backed by NATO-style security guarantees. And freedom to join the EU at some time in the future.

The Russian delegation headed back to the Kremlin to present all this to President Putin. His aim will be to secure a deal that he can portray as a victory. Even autocrats with control of their media need a story to sell to their people.

But even if we are on the countdown to an end to hostilities, Russia still thinks there are gains to be made on the battlefield; territory to keep or to use as leverage.

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Ukraine too is convinced it can push the Russians back. Especially if the west provides more of the heavy armaments they demand.

So – even if peace is around the corner – the next few weeks might well witness even more intense fighting. Difficult diplomacy, more bloodshed ahead.