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Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen atop of an armoured vehicle in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 30.ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/Reuters

Russian forces in Ukraine are not withdrawing but regrouping, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, commenting on Moscow’s announcements about a scaling down of military operations around Kyiv.

Stoltenberg also said the alliance has yet to be convinced that Russia was negotiating in good faith in peace talks in Istanbul because Moscow’s military objective since launching its invasion of Ukraine has not changed.

“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,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

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Moscow says it is now focusing on “liberating” the Donbas region – two southeastern provinces partly controlled by separatists Russia has backed since 2014.

“At the same time, Russia maintains pressure on Kyiv and other cities. So we can expect additional offensive actions, bringing even more suffering.”

Russia says it launched a “special military operation” to disarm and “de-nazify” its neighbour, and that the mission is going to plan.

Stoltenberg said: “We have no real change in the real Russian objective … they continue to pursue a military outcome.”

He also said NATO allies would continue to provide weapons to Ukraine for as a long as necessary.

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