Apr 3, 2022: Ukraine’s defence ministry says its forces have seized control of the Kyiv region from Russian troops as officials warned that the departing soldiers were creating a “catastrophic” situation for civilians by leaving behind mines.
The announcement on Saturday marks the first time Ukraine has claimed control of the capital region since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.
“The whole Kyiv region is liberated from the invader,” Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Malyar, wrote on Facebook.
Meanwhile, there was no immediate Russian comment on the claim.
Ukraine’s troops have retaken more than 30 towns and villages around Kyiv, according to officials. The recaptured towns bore the scars of five weeks of fighting, with destroyed armoured vehicles, military gear and dozens of bodies lying scattered over streets.
In Bucha, a town northwest of the capital, Ukrainian soldiers used cables to pull the bodies of civilians off the streets out of fear that Russian forces may have left them booby-trapped. Bucha Mayor Anatoly Fedoric said authorities had buried 280 people in a mass grave, adding that the dead included women as well as a 14-year-old boy.
Russia denies targeting civilians and rejects war crimes allegations.
Since sending troops into Ukraine in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarise its neighbour, Russia has failed to capture a single major city and has instead laid siege to urban areas, uprooting a quarter of Ukraine’s population.
Ukraine’s armed forces reported diminished Russian air and missile attacks on Saturday but said Russian troops retreating from near Kyiv were deploying mines.
The port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov is located in the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas region, where Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian troops for eight years.
Military analysts think Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to capture the region after his forces failed to secure Kyiv and other major cities.
Mariupol’s capture would give Moscow an unbroken land bridge from Russia to Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014. But its resistance also has taken on symbolic significance during Russia’s invasion, said Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Ukrainian think-tank Penta.
Ukrainian and Russian negotiators met for face-to-face talks 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, either in Istanbul or somewhere else”.
Ukraine’s negotiator David Arakhamia said on Saturday that enough progress had been made to allow direct talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Zelenskyy.
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