Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says its forces have wrested control of the Kyiv region from Russian troops as officials warn that leaving soldiers is creating a “catastrophic” situation for civilians by how to leave mines.
Saturday’s declaration marks the first time Ukraine has claimed control of the capital region since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.
“The entire Kyiv region is liberated from the aggressor,” Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Malyar, wrote on Facebook.
There was no immediate Russian comment on this statement.
In total, Ukrainian troops have recaptured more than 30 towns and villages around Kyiv, according to officials. The recaptured towns bore traces of five weeks of fighting, with armored vehicles, destroyed equipment and dozens of bodies littered the streets.
In Bucha, a town northwest of the capital, Ukrainian soldiers used cables to pull the bodies of civilians out of the streets out of concern that Russian forces might have trapped them.
Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedrouk said authorities there have burial 280 people were in a mass grave, and said the victims included women and a 14-year-old boy.
“All these people were shot, killed, in the back of the head,” Fedoruk said.
On a street in Bucha, AFP reported seeing at least 20 corpses, including one with his hands tied.
An open Ukrainian passport lay on the ground beside him, while two others were tied with white cloths around their biceps.
AFP said all were wearing civilian clothes – winter coats, jackets or sweatshirts, jeans or jogging shorts, and sneakers or boots.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she was appalled by the atrocities in Bucha and voiced her support for the International Criminal Court’s investigation into potential war crimes in Ukraine.
Russia denies targeting civilians and denies war crimes charges.
Since sending troops to Ukraine in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarize the neighboring country, Russia has not captured a single major city and has instead besieged areas of the country. urban areas, taking away a quarter of Ukraine’s population.
Ukraine’s armed forces said Russian air strikes and missiles had eased on Saturday but said Russian troops retreating near Kyiv were deploying land mines .
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned in a video address: “They are mining all over this territory. Homes are mined, equipment is mined, even the bodies of people who have died.”
He did not cite evidence.
Ukraine’s emergency services agency says more than 1,500 explosives have been found in a single day during the search for the village of Dmytrivka, west of Kyiv.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment on the mining allegations.
Russia has described the troop withdrawal near Kyiv as a gesture of goodwill in the peace talks. Ukraine and its allies argue that Russia was forced to shift its focus to eastern Ukraine after suffering heavy losses near Kyiv.
However, this change does not mean that the country facing the consequences of more than five weeks of war or that the more than 4 million refugees who have left Ukraine will return any time soon.
Zelenskyy said he hoped the towns that had departed would be subjected to missile and rocket attacks from afar and that the battle in the east would become intense.
In his nightly address on Saturday, the Ukrainian leader said his army would not allow the Russians to withdraw without fighting: “They are shelling them. They are destroying all they can.”
Zelenskyy said that Russia has enough forces to put more pressure on the east and south of Ukraine.
“What is the goal of the Russian army? They want to take Donbas and southern Ukraine,” he said. “What is our goal? To protect ourselves, our freedom, our land and our people. ”
‘Symbol of Ukrainian resistance’
Moscow’s focus on eastern Ukraine also puts the southeastern city of Mariupol under siege. The port city on the Sea of Azov is in the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbas region, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian army for eight years.
Military analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to capture the region after his forces failed to secure Kyiv and other major cities.
The International Committee of the Red Cross had hoped to evacuate Mariupol residents on Saturday but has yet to reach the city. A day earlier, local authorities said the Red Cross had been blocked off by Russian forces.
Zelenskyy’s adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, said in an interview with Russian lawyer and activist Mark Feygin that Russia and Ukraine have reached an agreement to allow 45 buses to run to Mariupol to evacuate residents “within the period of time” the coming days”.
Mariupol City Council earlier said on Saturday that 10 empty buses were traveling to Berdyansk, a city 84 kilometers (52.2 miles) west of Mariupol, to pick up people who got there on their own.
About 2,000 people left Mariupol on Friday, some by bus and some by private car, city officials said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said 765 Mariupol residents on Saturday used private vehicles to reach Zaporizhzhia, a city still under Ukrainian control that is the destination for the protests. Another canopy was planned.
Some civilians who escaped from the besieged city said Russian soldiers looking for Ukrainian fighters repeatedly intercepted them as they fled.
Dmytro Kartavov, a 32-year-old builder, said: “They undress the men and look for tattoos.
The capture of Mariupol would give Moscow a seamless overland bridge from Russia to Crimea, which it captured from Ukraine in 2014. But its resistance also took on symbolic significance during the Russian invasion. , said Volodymyr Fesenko, head of Ukraine’s Penta research group.
“Mariupol has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, and without its conquest, Putin could not have sat down at the negotiating table,” Fesenko said.
Ukrainian and Russian negotiators met face-to-face this week in Turkey’s Istanbul, but described the talks as “difficult”. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday that “the main thing is that the talks continue, in Istanbul or somewhere else”.
A new round of negotiations has yet to be announced.
However, Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said on Saturday that enough progress had been made to allow direct talks between Russian Presidents Vladimir Putin and Zelenskiy.
“The Russian side confirms our position that the draft document has been sufficiently developed to allow direct consultations between the leaders of the two countries,” Arakhamia said.
Russia has not commented on this possibility.