Biden says Russia's Putin may have put some advisers 'under house arrest'

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting via video link, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on March 31, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Joe Biden said on Thursday (March 31) that Russian leader Vladimir Putin may be "isolated" and could have placed some of his advisers under "house arrest."

In his first public remarks on Western assessments about Kremlin tensions over the war in Ukraine, Biden also said he was "sceptical" about Moscow's claim to be scaling back its onslaught in parts of the country.

"He seems to be self-isolated and there's some indication that he has fired or put under house arrest some of his advisers," Biden told reporters when asked about British and US intelligence statements that Putin is not getting proper information from staff about difficulties in Ukraine.

Biden tempered his remarks, saying "there's a lot of speculation" and he did not want to "put too much stock in that."

He also said he was not certain what the Russian army was doing in Ukraine after Moscow announced a pullback - seen as offering a potential opening to broader de-escalation - from the capital Kyiv and another city.

Biden said that it was possible that any pullback from the cities - if happening - was only ordered to allow increased attacks on another area of Ukraine, the eastern Donbas region.

"Thus far, there's no clear evidence that he's pulling all those forces out of Kyiv. There's also evidence that he's beefing up his troops down in the Donbas," Biden said.

"I'm a little sceptical. It's an open question whether he's actually pulling back."

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