Ukraine said on Saturday it had retaken all areas around Kyiv and claimed full control of the capital region for the first time since the start of the Russian invasion.
As Russia’s forces regrouped for battles in the east, areas north of Kyiv were littered with wrecked Russian tanks. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Okeksiy Arestovych said his forces have recaptured more than 30 towns and villages since Russia withdrew from the area this week.
Russia has presented its withdrawal of forces near Kyiv as a goodwill gesture in peace talks last convened on Friday. Ukraine and its allies say Russia was forced to shift its focus to eastern Ukraine after suffering heavy casualties near Kyiv.
Since Russia sent troops in a so-called “special operation” to demilitarize its neighbor on February 24, it has failed to capture a single major city, instead laying siege to urban areas and uprooting a quarter of Ukraine’s population.
Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine Hanna Malyar wrote on Facebook that “the entire Kyiv region was cleared of the invaders.” There was no immediate Russian comment on the claim, which Reuters was unable to immediately verify.
Villages around the capital bear the scars of five weeks of heavy fighting that killed thousands.
A man’s body lay next to a car corpse in the village of Nova Basan, which was retaken by Ukrainian forces. A woman wept as men brought a coffin to remove the body.
The village showed signs of heavy fighting with collapsed buildings and debris from tanks and armored vehicles strewn everywhere. Another body, apparently that of a Russian soldier, lay near a destroyed infantry fighting vehicle.
Talks, held this week in Istanbul and via video link, were described by both sides as “difficult”.
However, a Ukrainian negotiator said that Russia had indicated that draft peace deals were advanced enough to allow direct talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“They (the Russians) … have confirmed our thesis that sufficient work has been done on the draft documents to allow for direct consultations between the leaders of the two countries,” chief negotiator David Arakhamia told Ukrainian TV, according to Interfax Ukraine.
There was no immediate comment from Russia, which did not mention such talks.
Among those killed near Kyiv was Maksim Levin, a Ukrainian photographer and videographer who worked for a local news website and was a longtime Reuters contributor.
His body was found on April 1 in a village north of Kyiv, news website LB.ua, where he works, said on Saturday.
In the east, a Red Cross convoy tried again to evacuate civilians from the besieged port of Mariupol after calling off an attempt on Friday over security concerns. But it was not expected to reach port until at least Sunday.
Tens of thousands of civilians remained trapped in Mariupol, Russia’s main target in southeastern Ukraine’s Donbass region, with little access to food and water.
Some civilians who fled Mariupol and reached Zaporizhzhia said Russian soldiers repeatedly stopped them to check for the presence of Ukrainian fighters as they fled.
“They stripped the men naked and looked for tattoos,” said Dmytro Kartavov, a 32-year-old construction worker, adding that the troops paid particular attention to the men’s knees.
“I work, I fix, of course my knees – these are work knees. They say – (they) climbed ditches, dug and things like that.”
International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman Ewan Watson said his convoy had left the town of Zaporizhia, some 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Mariupol, and would spend the night en route.
Pope Francis came closest to criticizing Putin over the invasion. He did not name the Russian president, but said a “potentate” fueled conflicts for nationalist interests.
“Once again, a potentate sadly mired in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests provokes and fuels conflict, while ordinary people feel the need to build a future that is either shared or not at all,” he said during a visit to Malta.
Ukrainian officials reported rocket attacks in different parts of the country.
In the south-central Dnipro region, a Russian missile struck a railway line, severely damaging tracks and suspending train services, Ukrainian officials said. Earlier, Russian missiles hit the central Ukrainian cities of Poltava and Kremenchuk, said Dmitry Lunin, head of the Poltava region.
The Russian Defense Ministry said its missiles shut down military airfields in Poltava and Dnipro. It was later said his forces hit 28 Ukrainian military installations across the country, including two depots with missiles and artillery and ammunition.
The Ukrainian military also reported Russian airstrikes on the cities of Severodonetsk and Rubishne in the Luhansk region.
SALE OF ALCOHOL IN Kyiv
In Kyiv, people started buying alcohol again after Mayor Vitali Klitschko eased a month-long ban.
Olena, a psychologist who bought beer in a supermarket, said it doesn’t mean people have forgotten the war.
“We’re just supporting our country. Nobody will be better off if we’re depressed and doing nothing,” she said.
“I’m happy because for the past two weeks I’ve been walking around thinking, ‘I want a beer,'” she said, smiling.
Ukraine claims control of Kyiv region as Russia looks east – SABC News
Source link Ukraine claims control of Kyiv region as Russia looks east – SABC News