Biden Says US Still Looking For Clear Answers To Putin’s Next Steps

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“So far there is no clear evidence that he is withdrawing all his troops from Kiev,” Biden told reporters at the White House.

Biden said: “There is also evidence that he is bolstering his troops in the Donbas area” — a region of Ukraine where Putin has recognized two separatist areas as independent states. “Depending on your view of Putin. I’m a bit skeptical,” he added.

Russia’s defense ministry said on Tuesday it had decided to “drasically reduce hostilities in the Kiev and Chernigov directions,” Russian deputy defense minister Alexander Fomin said, according to state media RIA.

Earlier Thursday, however, a US defense official told reporters that Russian forces have continued to target Ukraine in four areas, including the capital.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Thursday that a “small number” of Russian troops are “beginning to reposition” and, while “it is not exactly clear” where the troops are going, the US “sees no indication that they are going.” “. be sent home.”

The best assessment the US has is that Russian troops will likely move to Belarus to be modified and resupplied to be used “elsewhere in Ukraine,” Kirby added.

The US has seen some Russian troops depart from the Chernobyl factory in Ukraine, Kirby added. Those troops are “leaving north to get back to Belarus,” Kirby said.

Amid the repositioning, the White House insists there are no plans for Biden and Putin to speak. Any conversation between the two men, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said Thursday would require a serious de-escalation by the Russians in Ukraine, raising the bar for renewed engagement.

US intelligence says Putin was misled by his military advisers

The US government released information on Wednesday that suggests Putin has been led astray by military advisers about how poorly the Russian military has performed in Ukraine and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions. Bedingfield said at the time that the US intelligence community also has information indicating that the Russian leader has become aware of the misinformation, leading to a rift between him and his top defense officials.

US government officials have expressed confidence in intelligence, with Bedingfield saying Putin is being misled “because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth”.

Responding to US intelligence claims, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov suggested that the US does not understand what is going on in Moscow, according to Russia’s state news agency TASS.

“To our regret, and even our concern, neither the State Department nor the Pentagon have authentic information about what is happening in the Kremlin. They just don’t understand what’s happening in the Kremlin. They don’t understand Russian President Vladimir Putin. don’t understand the mechanism of decision-making and they don’t understand the style of our work,” Peskov said on Thursday.

Biden later on Thursday said there is evidence of Putin isolating himself and punishing some of his advisers, but added the US doesn’t have much hard evidence to say that for sure.

When CNN’s MJ Lee asked the president how badly Putin is misinformed by his advisers, Biden replied: “That’s an open question. There’s a lot of speculation, but he seems — I’m not saying this for sure — he seems to be isolate and there is evidence that he … has fired or placed under house arrest a number of his advisers.”

“But I don’t want to put too much weight on that at the moment because we don’t have that much hard evidence,” he added.

Biden’s comments came after he announced a two-pronged plan to help Americans at the pump that began when Russian oil was sidelined and would boost US energy independence. As part of the plan, he announced the unprecedented release of oil from US reserves and steps to boost domestic production of essential minerals needed for the production of batteries for electric vehicles and long-term energy storage.

The release of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would amount to 180 million barrels of oil, according to Biden, about 1 million barrels per day.

This story was updated Thursday with additional coverage.

Ellie Kaufman and Zahra Ullah of CNN contributed to this report.

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