KYIV, Ukraine – Russian forces that stormed kyiv in the early days of the war in towering columns of tanks withdrew from the capital on Saturday, retreating under fire into dozens of outlying towns and villages and leaving behind burnt-out tanks and dead soldiers, according to Ukrainian officials, satellite images, military analysts and reports from the cities themselves.
Russian attacks elsewhere in Ukraine have not abated, and the Pentagon has warned that Russian formations near kyiv may reposition to refit or resupply for further assaults. But on Saturday, suburban towns just outside kyiv that had reverberated for weeks with a cacophony of gunfire and artillery booms fell silent.
“The initial Russian operation was a failure, and one of its central objectives, the capture of kyiv, proved inaccessible to Russian forces,” said Michael Kofman, director of Russian studies at CNA, an institute research in Arlington, Virginia. a telephone interview.
Ukraine’s army said on Friday it had captured Bucha, another key outskirt town north of kyiv on the west bank of the Dnipro River, as Russian forces retreated.
And on the east bank of the river, Ukrainian forces were advancing through villages tens of kilometers from the capital, according to an intelligence officer with the SBU, Ukraine’s internal intelligence service, who declined to be identified for reasons of security.
During settlement talks with Ukraine this week, Russia said it would reduce military activity near kyiv and a northern provincial town, Chernihiv, essentially acknowledging that its forces had been bogged down there.
But in the following days, it was still unclear whether the Russian forces were indeed retreating or whether the back and forth fighting in the suburbs simply continued, as had been the case for most of the war. a month. Street fighting continued in Irpin as late as Wednesday, Ukrainian soldiers said.
On Friday, the town of Irpin northwest of kyiv, which had been the epicenter of fighting in the battle for the capital’s suburbs, was secure enough for Ukrainian police to organize a press tour, leading journalists to see and photograph the carcasses of destroyed Russian tanks.
The city, once a middle-class suburb, was shrouded in mist and the streets were quiet save for the barking of stray dogs and the crunch of broken glass underfoot.
A short drive from kyiv in any direction on an arc from northeast to northwest of the city presents such scenes: armored vehicles, incinerated or torn apart by their own exploding stockpiles of ammunition and parts strewn and charred pieces of armor.
At one location, next to a housing estate in Irpin called Sweet Home, a fierce explosion had ripped open an armored personnel carrier, but had somehow left a metal storage compartment intact. Inside was a pile of cashews.
The explosion also left behind a tank boot and helmet. The body had already been recovered.
The debris is an indication of what Ukrainian soldiers say are bad tactics by the Russian military, which before the war was seen as modern, sophisticated and well-organized. His flaws became increasingly evident in the Battle of kyiv as he proceeded with convoys of armored vehicles in a myriad of punitive ambushes for weeks, ultimately reducing his combat effectiveness.
“They had terrible logistics and reconnaissance,” said Serhiy Smolchuk, a Ukrainian volunteer soldier, standing next to another burned-out armored personnel carrier. “They came to these streets like blind cats.”