The Russians also appeared to show some leeway on Mr. Putin’s demand that European customers of his country’s natural gas now pay in rubles, or risk a cutoff. European governments, which rely heavily on Russian gas imports, had rejected this new condition, arguing that it violated purchase contracts.
After speaking with the Russian leader, the prime minister of Italy, Mario Draghi, said he did not believe that Europe was “in danger” of having its gas supply halted. He said that he understood that the Russian president would grant a “concession” to European countries, and that the conversion of payments from dollars or euros into rubles was “an internal matter of the Russian Federation.”
Russia also said Thursday that its forces were leaving the defunct Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, according to a statement from Ukraine’s state-run energy company. Chernobyl, site of the worst nuclear accident in history, had been occupied by Russian forces since the war’s early days.
Asked about unconfirmed reports that some Russian soldiers had suffered radiation sickness, the Pentagon press secretary, John F. Kirby, said the troop movement appeared to be part of a broader repositioning and not from “health hazards or some sort of emergency or a crisis at Chernobyl.”