Blinken visited Morocco on Tuesday to discuss recent shifts in the diplomatic dynamic in the Middle East and North Africa that could upend some of the region’s long-standing disputes.
The Secretary of State further warned that there is a difference between ‘what Russia says, and there is what Russia does’.
“We’re focused on the latter,” he added at a joint press conference with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.
He cautioned that Russia’s claim of withdrawing in Ukrainian capital Kyiv and a northern city Chernihiv could be “a means by which Russia once again is trying to deflect and deceive people into thinking it’s not doing what it is doing.”
Russia’s military announced Tuesday it will “fundamentally” scale back operations near the two cities as talks brought the outlines of a possible deal to end the grinding war into view.
Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said the move was meant to increase trust in the talks after several rounds of negotiations failed to halt what has devolved into a bloody campaign of attrition.
While Ukraine’s military said it has noted withdrawals of some forces around Kyiv and Chernihiv, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN “we haven’t seen anything to corroborate” reports of Russia withdrawing significant forces from around Kyiv.
“If they somehow believe that an effort to subjugate only, in quotation marks, the eastern part of Ukraine and the southern part of Ukraine can succeed, then once again they are profoundly fooling themselves,” said Blinken.
The US official urged Moscow to end its aggression and pull its forces back.