Ukrainian Forces Advance as Russian Troops Withdraw From Kyiv

Ukrainian forces have taken back large areas north-west and east of the capital Kyiv from where Russian forces are withdrawing, according to assessments from the U.S. and the U.K.

In its daily update, the British Defense Ministry said on Saturday that Russian troops had withdrawn from Hostomel airport near the capital, which has been the scene of heavy fighting since the start of the war on February 24.

"Ukrainian forces continue to advance against withdrawing Russian forces in the vicinity of Kyiv," British defense officials said. "Along the north western axis, Ukrainian forces' attempts to advance from Irpin towards Bucha and Hostomel are ongoing."

The assessment said that after the liberation of Trostyanets near Sumy earlier this week, "Ukrainian forces have secured a key route in eastern Kharkhiv in the east of the country."

However, it is the east of Ukraine where Russia's efforts are now concentrated on, according to a separate assessment by the U.S. think tank the Institute of War.

It said that Moscow has revised its plan after failing to seize Kyiv and other cities. The Kremlin's claim its focus was always eastern Ukraine was false and was a ploy to hide its campaign failures, it added.

Russia's "two subordinate main efforts" include capturing the port city of Mariupol and capturing the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Moscow would then seek "to negotiate a Kremlin-favorable ceasefire and claim that Russia has achieved its war aims," the assessment said.

"Russian forces will likely take Mariupol in the coming days but continue to suffer heavy casualties."

Mariupol is the scene of a renewed attempt by the Red Cross to evacuate civilians who are trapped in the besieged southern port city. On Friday, the agency abandoned plans to send 54 buses and cars to the city after failing to get security guarantees that the convoy could pass safely.

The city has faced weeks of Russian shelling, with at least 5,000 residents killed, according to local authorities, and around 160,000 who remain face shortages of food, water and electricity.

Ukraine's deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced on Saturday that a humanitarian corridor for Mariupol was one of seven planned for besieged parts of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky said in a video address on Saturday "we have managed to rescue 6,266 people, including 3,071 people from Mariupol."

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelensky, raised a note of optimism over negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow officials, saying that "our delegation has reached an agreement in Istanbul to provide evacuations."

"I think that today or maybe tomorrow we will hear good news, regarding the evacuation of the inhabitants of Mariupol," he told Ukrainian television, according to the BBC.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian defense ministry for comment.

Irpin near Kyiv
A man walks next to burned trucks in a street of Irpin, near Kyiv, on April 1, 2022. Russia is concentrating its campaign in the east of Ukraine according to British and U.S. assessments. RONALDO SCHEMIDT/Getty Images