By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar has said that the Kyiv region has been retaken from Russian troops.
“Irpin, Bucha, Hostomel, and the entire Kyiv region have been liberated from the invader,” Malyar wrote on Facebook on April 2, naming suburbs of the capital hard hit since Russia’s war against Ukraine began in late February.
The news came after Ukraine said earlier in the day that Russian forces were making a “rapid retreat” from areas around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, near Ukraine’s border with southeast Belarus.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that much of the Russian military equipment being moved into Belarus was damaged, and that Russian military personnel were taking stolen items, including civilian vehicles, into Belarus in order to ship them to Russia.
Retreating Russian forces have also been accused by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of creating a complete “disaster” outside the capital and of planting mines across the country as they move toward Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
In his nightly video address to the nation, Zelenskiy said on April 1 that Russian forces were leaving mines, trip wires, and other obstacles in their wake. “They are mining homes, mining equipment, even the bodies of people who were killed,” he said.
In Bucha, a correspondent for AFP reported seeing the bodies of at least 20 people on a single street, including one with bound hands.
The French news agency quoted Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk as saying that all of the victims had been “shot dead in the back of the head,” and that 280 more bodies had been buried in a mass grave.
Many of the bodies, he said, “had white bandages on them “to show that they were unarmed.”
Presidential aide Andriy Yermak said on April 2 that Ukrainian photographer and documentary maker Maks Levin had been found dead near Kyiv following his disappearance more than two weeks ago.
“He went missing in the conflict area on March 13 in the Kyiv region. His body was found near the village of Huta Mezhyhirska on April 1,” he said in a post on Telegram.
Reporters Without Borders said in an April 2 tweet that Levin was unarmed and wearing a press jacket, and that he was the sixth journalist to be killed in the course of the war that began February 24.
Zelenskiy warned during his address of difficult battles ahead as Russia redeploys troops. “We are preparing for an even more active defense,” he said, adding that he expected violent Russian attacks in the east of his country.
“The Russian forces are accumulating in the Donbas, in the Kharkiv direction,” he said. “They are preparing for powerful new blows.”
On April 2, the International Red Cross made its second attempt in two days to evacuate civilians from the southeastern city of Mariupol, a strategic port on the Sea of Azov that has been devastated by some of the heaviest urban fighting of the war.
The humanitarian organization, which had to abandon an attempt to send a convoy to escort civilians out of the city the previous day, said late in the evening of April 2 that the effort was ongoing, but the situation on the ground was volatile.
Russia’s Defense Ministry blamed the Red Cross for any failure to evacuate civilians from Mariupol on April 2, saying its team had left too late to reach Mariupol in time, according to Russia’s state-run RIA news agency.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced on Telegram, however, that 765 civilians had managed to flee the city in their own vehicles. A further 500 civilians fled the nearby city of Berdyansk, and evacuations were expected to continue on April 3, Vereshchuk said.
Roughly 3,000 people reportedly managed to escape Mariupol on April 1, and 3,000 had been evacuated from other cities, according to Ukrainian officials.
In his April 1 address, Zelenskiy did not mention the latest round of talks with Russian negotiators that took place earlier that day by video. However, a Ukrainian negotiator was quoted as saying on April 2 that Russia had indicated that negotiations had advanced enough for direct consultations between the countries’ presidents.
Interfax Ukraine quoted David Arakhamia as telling Ukrainian television that Russia had accepted Ukraine’s overall position with the exception of its stance on Crimea.
The Ukrainian peninsula was annexed by Russia after its 2014 invasion of Ukraine, and Moscow has insisted that it be recognized as Russian territory. Ukraine has said it will not accept the loss of any of its sovereign territory.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Russia’s RIA news agency on April 2 as saying that it was important for talks to continue, but that Kyiv had rejected Moscow’s desire to hold more talks in Belarus.