Ukraine has regained control of Kyiv region, deputy defence minister says – Financial Times

Ukraine has retaken the whole of the Kyiv region including several towns near its capital city, according to the country’s deputy defence minister.

Hanna Maliar said late on Saturday that the country’s armed forces had regained control of the entire provincial area from Russian forces. “Irpin, Bucha, Hostomel and the whole Kyiv region were liberated from the invader,” she said in a Facebook post — referring to suburban towns north of the capital city.

Ukraine’s national police force published a video filmed in Bucha and Hostomel, which is located near a key airport Russian forces sought to control. The video showed Ukrainian police teams in armoured vehicles patrolling bombed-out neighbourhoods including devastated buildings and cars.

Russia has pulled back its troops from around Kyiv in recent days after failing to breach Ukrainian defences.

Ukrainian officials said Russia was refocusing its offensive on the Donbas region — where it supported a separatist uprising in two breakaway “republics” in 2014 — the second city Kharkiv, and other areas in the country’s east.

In a video address on Saturday night, President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian forces of mining territory behind them as they withdrew.

“In the north of our country, the invaders are leaving,” he said.

“It is slow but noticeable. In some places they are being kicked out with fighting. Elsewhere they’re abandoning the positions themselves. They are mining all this territory. Houses are mined, equipment is mined, even the bodies of dead people.”

Russia confirmed this week that it was reducing military activity near Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv to focus its efforts on taking control of the Donbas.

Ukrainian and Russian claims about military actions cannot be independently verified.

Ukraine’s announcement of its military progress came as Moldova denied claims by Ukraine’s military that Russian troops

were massing in the breakaway Transnistria enclave in Moldova and mobilising for a possible attack that could open another front in the war.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said it believed that troops based in the Russian-occupied, self-declared republic, which borders south-western Ukraine and is near the third-largest city of Odesa, were preparing to carry out “provocations” along the border.

But both Moldova and the separatist authorities in Transnistria denied this, with Chisinau saying it was “closely monitoring the security situation in the region”.

“At this moment, there is no information to confirm the mobilisation of troops in the Transnistrian region,” Moldova’s ministry of foreign affair said.

Transnistria’s foreign ministry said “information disseminated by the General Staff of Ukraine is absolutely untrue”.

“All military units on the territory of [Transnistria] are in places of permanent deployment and carry out their activities in a standard operating mode,” it said, adding that troops had “deliberately minimised even planned activities” to avoid escalating tensions.

The threat of Russian troops based in Transnistria entering the Ukrainian conflict has been a concern for Moldovan authorities, who are also struggling to cope with the largest influx of Ukrainian refugees per capita.

In a regular update on its operations published early on Saturday, Ukraine’s military said it had “noted the redeployment of Russian troops and divisions of the so-called Transnistrian-Moldovan republic to demonstrate readiness for an attack and, possibly, military actions against Ukraine”.

Ukraine has adopted a tougher rhetorical stance towards Russia after inconclusive peace talks in Turkey where Moscow has been pressing Kyiv for territorial concessions and a commitment to neutrality.

Zelensky said in a Fox News interview that Ukraine would not give up any of its territory to Russia because its people would “not accept any outcome” other than victory.

“We do not trade our territory,” the Ukrainian president said. “The question of territorial integrity and sovereignty is out of discussion.”

Zelensky also raised the prospect of Ukraine joining Nato, which would go against Moscow’s central condition for a peace agreement.

“It’s hard for us to talk about Nato because Nato doesn’t want to admit us,” Zelensky said. “I think it’s a mistake because if we join Nato, we make Nato much stronger,” he said, adding that Ukraine was “not a weak state”.

The statements contradict what Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s negotiator, said following the talks. Medinsky claimed that Ukraine had agreed to Russia’s principal demands of not joining Nato and on refusing to host military bases.

Zelensky, who has repeatedly criticised Nato for doing too little to help Ukraine, said he had invited the US to be part of a future peace agreement in his recent conversation with President Joe Biden. Washington, he said, “is considering the proposition”. 

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