President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that as Russian soldiers withdraw from Ukraine’s capital region, they are causing a “catastrophic” scenario for people by laying explosives around homes, abandoned equipment, and “even the bodies of those slain.”
Russia is withdrawing its forces from the area around Kyiv and increasing its troop strength in eastern Ukraine, according to Ukraine and its Western allies. Officials indicated that Ukrainian fighters recaptured many sites around the capital after driving Russians out or going in after them.
The evident shift did not imply that the country would be spared from the conflict, which had lasted more than five weeks, or that the more than 4 million refugees who had fled Ukraine would be able to return home anytime soon. Zelensky predicted that departed towns would be hit by missiles and rockets from afar, and that the war in the east would be fierce.
“Even in the territory that we are reclaiming after the conflict, it is still impossible to restore to normal life as it was.” “We need to wait until our country is demined, until we can tell you that there will be no fresh shelling,” Trump said in his nightly video message, though his assertions about Russian mines could not be independently corroborated.
Moscow’s attention was drawn to eastern Ukraine, which included the beleaguered southern city of Mariupol. The port city on the Sea of Azoz lies in the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbas region, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian army for the past eight years. After failing to secure Kyiv and other key cities, military analysts believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to take the region.
The International Committee of the Red Cross intended to attempt an evacuation of Mariupol residents on Saturday. The Red Cross claimed it was unable to carry out the operation on Friday because to a lack of indications that the route was secure. Russians, according to city officials, have restricted access to the city.
According to the humanitarian organization, a team of three cars and nine Red Cross personnel would arrive in Mariupol on Saturday to assist in the safe evacuation of residents. It stated that its squad would escort a civilian convoy from Mariupol to another city.
“Our presence will place a humanitarian stamp on this planned movement of people,” it said in a statement, “providing the convoy additional protection and reminding all sides of the operation’s civilian, humanitarian nature.”
The Mariupol municipal council announced on Saturday that ten empty buses were on their way to Berdyansk, a city 84 kilometers (52.2 miles) west of Mariupol, to pick up those who had made their way there on their own. On Friday, almost 2,000 people left Mariupol, some on buses and others in their own vehicles, according to city officials.
In Berdyansk, evacuees boarded around 25 buses and landed in Zaporizhzhia before midnight, a city still under Ukrainian control that has served as the destination for past cease-fires established — and then broken — to get civilians out of Mariupol and aid into the city.
Tamila Mazurenko, who said she fled Mariupol on Monday and arrived in Berdyansk that night, was one of them. Mazurenko said she waited for a bus until Friday and slept in a field one night.
“I only have one question: Why?” says the narrator. ‘It’s been a nightmare for my city,’ she said. “We merely pretended to be ordinary people.” And our normal lives were obliterated. And we were left with nothing. I don’t have a job, and I can’t seem to locate my son.”
Mariupol, which was encircled by Russian forces a month ago, has seen some of the heaviest attacks in the war, including on a maternity hospital and a theater that was sheltering civilians. Around 100,000 people are thought to remain in the city, down from a prewar population of 430,000, and they are suffering from severe water, food, fuel, and medication shortages.
The city’s annexation would provide Moscow with an uninterrupted land connection to Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014. However, during Russia’s invasion, its resistance took on symbolic significance, according to Volodymyr Fesenko, the head of the Ukrainian think-tank Penta.
“Mariupol has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, and Putin will be unable to sit down at the bargaining table unless it is conquered,” Fesenko added.
In an interview with Russian lawyer and activist Mark Feygin, Oleksiy Arestovych, a Zelensky adviser, indicated that Russia and Ukraine had struck an agreement to allow 45 buses to proceed to Mariupol to evacuate civilians “in the next days.”
Overnight, almost 500 refugees from eastern Ukraine arrived in the Russian city of Kazan, including 99 children and 12 persons with disabilities. “That’s improbable, there’s no city anymore,” Mariupol resident Artur Kirillov said when asked if he saw a chance to return home.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis slammed Russia for starting a “savage” war in Ukraine on Saturday, and indicated he was considering a visit to Kyiv. Under the pretext of “anachronist claims of nationalistic interests,” Francis, who was visiting Malta, said “some potentate” had unleashed the prospect of nuclear war on the world in a “infantile and destructive aggression.”
Although the pope did not address Putin by name on Saturday, his subject was apparent.
In the aftermath of the Russian redeployment, there were traces of severe combat all around the outskirts of Kyiv. Armoured vehicles from both armies were abandoned in streets and fields, and military equipment was strewn over the ground close to an abandoned Russian tank.
Mayor Ihor Sapozhko claimed in a televised address Friday night that Ukrainian forces had recovered the city of Brovary, 20 kilometers east of the capital. Shops were reopening and inhabitants were returning, but he said that they “remain ready to protect” their city.
“The Russian occupiers have now vacated almost the whole Brovary district,” Sapozhko stated. “(Ukrainian) armed troops will work tonight to clear settlements of (remaining) residents, military hardware, and potentially mines.”
The prosecutor general’s office said Friday that a notable Ukrainian photojournalist who went missing last month in a fighting zone near the capital was found dead in the Huta Mezhyhirska village north of Kyiv. Levin, 40, worked for a number of Ukrainian and international newspapers as a photojournalist and videographer.
His death was attributed to two gunshots allegedly fired by the Russian military, according to the prosecutor general’s office, which said an investigation was underway.
In other news, regional leader Maksim Marchenko reported at least three Russian ballistic missiles were fired late Friday at the Odesa region on the Black Sea. The Iskander missiles did not strike the crucial infrastructure in Odesa, Ukraine’s major port and navy headquarters, according to the Ukrainian military.
Four persons were injured in a series of explosions reported by Ukraine’s state nuclear agency on Saturday in Enerhodar, a city in southeastern Ukraine that has been under Russian control since early March, along with the neighboring Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
The death toll from a Russian rocket strike on a government building in Mykolaiv, a port city east of Odesa, has grown to 33, with another 34 people injured, according to Ukrainian officials. As the search and rescue mission continues, the verified death toll continues to increase.
The US Defense Department announced Friday night that it is delivering an additional $300 million in armaments to Ukrainian forces, including laser-guided rocket systems, unmanned aircraft, armored vehicles, night vision gear, and ammunition, as the fight continues. Medical supplies, field equipment, and spare components are also supplied.
On Saturday, there was no information on the latest round of video negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, which took place on Friday. Earlier this week, Ukraine indicated it would be willing to drop its desire to join NATO and declare itself neutral — Moscow’s main demand — in exchange for security guarantees from a number of other countries.
On Friday, the Kremlin accused Ukraine of attacking a Russian gasoline station with a helicopter.
Ukraine has denied responsibility for the incendiary blast on the outskirts of Belgorod, roughly 25 kilometers (16 miles) from the Ukrainian border. If Moscow’s assertion is true, it will be the first time Ukrainian planes have breached Russian airspace throughout the war.
“For some reason, they say we did it,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s national security council, said on Ukrainian television. “In fact, this does not match with reality.” Later, in an interview with Fox News, Zelensky refused to disclose whether the strike was carried out by Ukraine.