Ukrainian troops have retaken full control of Kyiv region: Deputy defense minister

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Ukraine said on Saturday its forces had seized back all areas around Kyiv, claiming complete control of the capital region for the first time since Russia launched the invasion.

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As Russian troops regrouped for battles in east Ukraine, towns surrounding Kyiv bore scars of five weeks of fighting. Dead bodies laid scattered over streets, and President Volodomyr Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of leaving behind mines.

Ukraine’s troops have retaken more than 30 towns and villages around Kyiv since Russia pulled back from the area this week, Ukrainian officials said.

“The whole Kyiv region is liberated from the invader,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister, Hanna Malyar, wrote on Facebook. There was no Russian comment on the claim, which Reuters could not immediately verify.

At one recaptured town reached by Reuters, residents tearfully recalled brushes with death.

“The first time, I went out of the room and a bullet broke the glass, the window, and got stuck in the dresser,” said Mariya Zhelezova, 74, in the country town of Bucha. “The second time, shattered glass almost got into my leg.”

Bucha’s mayor, Anatoliy Fedoruk, said more than 300 residents had been killed.

“We don’t want them to come back,” Zhelezova said. “I had a dream today - that they left, and didn’t come back.”

Ukraine’s armed forces reported diminished Russian air and missile strikes on Saturday but said retreating Russian forces were deploying mines.

Zelenskiy warned in a video address: “They are mining all this territory. Houses are mined, equipment is mined, even the bodies of dead people.” He did not cite evidence.

Ukraine’s emergencies service said over 1,500 explosives had been found in one day during a search of the village of Dmytrivka, west of Kyiv. It warned people to be vigilant.

Russia’s defense ministry did not reply to a request for comment on the mining allegations. Reuters could not independently verify them.

Putin-Zelenskyy talks?

Since sending troops on February 24 in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarize its neighbor, Russia has failed to capture a single major city and has instead laid siege to urban areas, uprooting a quarter of Ukraine’s population.

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

Both sides described talks held this week in Istanbul and by video link as “difficult”. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday the “main thing is that the talks continue, either in Istanbul or somewhere else”.

A new round of talks has not yet been announced. But Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said on Saturday that enough progress had been made to allow direct talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Zelenskyy.

“The Russian side confirmed our thesis that the draft documents have been sufficiently developed to allow direct consultations between the two countries’ leaders,” Arakhamia said. Russia has not commented on the possibility.

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