Fiona Hill, who served as the 45th President’s senior adviser on Europe and Russia from 2017 to 2019, made the claim during an appearance on ITV’s Peston programme last night. Speaking to Robert Peston remotely from Maryland, Ms Hill was asked about reports Russian President Vladimir Putin could potentially be scaling back his ambitions in Ukraine.
She said: “What we’re going to have to be extraordinarily careful about is if there is some interim negotiation that seems to be pointing towards a settlement, to being very careful to bear in mind that this is most likely interim – a pause, a strategic pause.
“This is exactly what happened in Chechnya, the war that you know I alluded to, that he basically was presiding over when he came into the office as president.
“There had been a peace treaty with the Chechens that was supposed to resolve things inside the Russian Federation.
“And within 18 months you know less than two years later, the war had broken out again, very much instigated by Moscow and the Kremlin, basically because their goals hadn’t changed, to completely subjugate Chechnya.
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“So the goals won’t have changed, just his assessment of what he can get at this particular juncture might have changed.”
Ms Hill’s comments come after Moscow’s Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said Russia would “radically, by several times, reduce the military activity” around Kyiv and Chernihiv.
However, it is not only Ms Hill who has been sceptical about the Kremlin’s offer to scale back troops.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “Ukrainians are not naive people.
The MoD said: “Russian units suffering heavy losses have been forced to return to Belarus and Russia to reorganise and resupply.
“Such activity is placing further pressure on Russia’s already strained logistics and demonstrates the difficulties Russia is having reorganising its units in forward areas within Ukraine.
“Russia will likely continue to compensate for its reduced ground manoeuvre capability through mass artillery and missile strikes.
“Russia’s stated focus on an offensive in Donetsk and Luhansk is likely a tacit admission that it is struggling to sustain more than one significant axis of advance.”