Ukraine claims control over capital Kyiv region as Russia shifts to east

Nearby villages bear damage and casualties from weeks of continuous fighting

The wreckages of burnt cars near a destroyed house in the village of Kozarovychi, Kyiv region, on Saturday. Reuters
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Ukraine said on Saturday it had retaken all areas around Kyiv, claiming complete control of the capital region for the first time since Russia launched its invasion.

As Russia's forces regrouped for battles in the east, areas north of Kyiv were littered with destroyed Russian tanks. Ukrainian presidential adviser Okeksiy Arestovych said the country's troops have retaken more than 30 towns and villages since Russia pulled back from the area this week.

Russia has depicted its drawdown of forces near Kyiv as a goodwill gesture in peace talks, which last convened on Friday. Ukraine and its allies say Russia was forced to shift its focus to east Ukraine after suffering heavy losses near Kyiv.

Since sending troops on February 24 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 Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar wrote on Facebook that the "whole Kyiv region is liberated from the invader." There was no immediate Russian comment on the claim, which Reuters could not immediately verify.

Villages surrounding the capital bear scars of five weeks of heavy fighting in which thousands have been killed.

In the village of Nova Basan, among those retaken by Ukrainian forces, the body of a man lay next to the carcass of a car. A woman wept as men brought a coffin to remove the body.

The village showed signs of heavy fighting, with collapsed buildings and the wreckage of tanks and armoured vehicles strewn around. Another dead body, apparently that of a Russian soldier, lay near a destroyed armoured personnel carrier.

Both sides described talks held this week in Istanbul and by video link as "difficult".

But a Ukrainian negotiator said that Russia indicated peace treaty drafts were advanced enough to allow direct talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

"They [the Russians] ... confirmed our thesis that the draft documents have been worked on enough to allow direct consultations between the leaders of the two countries," negotiator David Arakhamia told Ukrainian TV, Interfax Ukraine reported.

There was no immediate comment by Russia, which has made no mention of any such talks.

Updated: April 03, 2022, 3:43 AM