Russia 'Actively Withdrawing' From Ukraine's Sumy Region, Official Says

Russian forces appear to be retreating from the Sumy region in northeastern Ukraine, according to the head of the regional military administration.

In an update on the Telegram messaging service late Sunday, Dmytro Zhyvytskyi said there appears to be evidence that Russian troops have begun to actively withdraw from the region, located near Ukraine's northeast border.

"Russian troops have been actively withdrawing from our region since yesterday," said Zhyvytskyi, head of the Sumy Regional State Administration.

Zhyvytskyi said Ukrainian officials had seen last week a "large accumulation" of Russian troops in the area spanning from the cities of Bilopillya to Konotop in the Sumy region.

Russian forces "terrorized the area, terrorized communities, fired on civilians, fired indiscriminately at forests, houses," Zhyvytskyi said.

The official said Ukrainian armed forces and defense forces had also drove Russian troops out through the entire Chernihiv region.

He said some Russian forces still remain in the Sumy region, and that Ukrainian troops are working to clear the area of "invaders," Ukrainian multimedia platform Ukrinform reported.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.

News of an apparent withdrawal of troops from the province comes shortly after Russia said it would significantly scale back military operations near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said on March 29 that Russia decided to "fundamentally [...] cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv" to "increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations" between Russia and Ukraine.

The following day, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters during a press briefing that Moscow appears to be "repositioning a small percentage of the troops and the battalion tactical groups that Russia had arrayed against Kyiv."

Some 20 percent of Russian forces had begun to reposition from Kyiv, although he noted that none of them appeared to be returning "to their home garrison."

"Some of those troops we assess are repositioning into Belarus. We don't have an exact number for you, but that's our early assessments," said Kirby.

Kirby said Russia should "send them [troops] home" if Russian President Vladimir Putin "is serious about de-escalating."

"But they're not doing that, at least not yet. So that's not what we're seeing," the Pentagon press secretary said.

On February 25, a day after Putin launched a full-scale invasion against Ukraine, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said Ukrainian children were injured after Russian forces launched an attack on a kindergarten and a orphanage in Okhtyrka, a small city in the Sumy region.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) as of April 3 confirmed 3,455 civilian casualties in the country, with 1,417 killed and 2,038 injured, including 121 children killed and 171 wounded.

Kyiv on Sunday has accused the Russian military of having massacred civilians in the town of Bucha, outside Kyiv, from which Moscow withdrew on March 30.

Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Russian Investigative Committee, on Monday ordered a probe into what he called a Ukrainian "provocation" that seeks to "discredit Russian servicemen."

Ukraine-Russia conflict
Ukrainian tanks move on a road before an attack in Lugansk region on February 26, 2022. Russian forces appear to be retreating from the Sumy region in northeastern Ukraine, according to the head of the regional military administration. ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images