In the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance around its capital city, the Russian military lifted its apparent attempted siege of Kyiv and withdrew all of its forces from northern Ukraine and back into Belarusian or Russian territory about two weeks ago.
Ukrainian forces followed in the wake of that withdrawal and have now reclaimed control of nearly 1,000 settlements previously occupied by the Russians, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Fox News reported.
That claim was made by the Ukrainian leader in a Wednesday night speech in which Zelensky largely discussed his nation’s desire to join the European Union following a recent meeting with European Council President Charles Michel in Kyiv and celebrated the fact that diplomatic teams from at least 18 other nations had since returned to the capital city.
Ukraine is reclaiming territory abandoned by the Russian occupation
“This is the historic moment when we can develop maximum speed in joining the European Union,” Zelensky said. “We have already proved that the Ukrainian state and public institutions are effective enough to withstand even the test of war. We are already doing as much to protect freedom on the European continent as other nations have never done.”
“The return to normal life of the liberated cities and communities of Ukraine continues,” the president said at another point with regard to the reclaimed territory. “934 settlements have already been liberated. Police resumed work in 435 settlements. Local self-government started working in 431 communities. The work of humanitarian headquarters was launched in 361 settlements.”
Zelensky went on to describe the work that was already being done to restore basic infrastructure and vital services for the Ukrainian people, but also warned of the remaining dangers in many areas of mines and tripwires and unexploded shells that Ukrainian forces were attempting to “neutralize” as safely and quickly as possible.
“Once again, I urge our citizens returning to liberated communities to be very careful,” he said. “Do not enter the territory that has not yet been inspected. Do not go into the woods yet. If you see anything resembling a mine or a tripwire mine, report it to the police and rescuers immediately. Do not delay or attempt to remove hazardous items yourself.”
Russia withdrew all forces from northern Ukraine
The Ukrainian “liberation” of its northern territory seemed inevitable following the complete withdrawal of Russian forces from the region, as was reported at the time on April 6 by ABC News.
Before the withdrawal, it was estimated that there were around 20 Russian Battalion Tactical Groups — each numbering around 800-1,000 troops — around Kyiv with another 20 BTGs around the northern city of Chernihiv, meaning there had been potentially as many as 40,000 Russian soldiers in the area.
Those Russian forces that pulled back to their prior staging areas in Belarus and Russia were believed at that time to be resting briefly and resupplying before being redeployed to eastern Ukraine for a renewed offensive on the Donbas region that is comprised of the largely Russian-backed separatist-controlled “republics” of Donestk and Luhansk.
Russia launched renewed Donbas offensive as predicted
That speculation appears to have turned out to be accurate as NBC News reported Monday that the Russian military had finally launched the anticipated renewed offensive in the Donbas.
Meanwhile, as the Russian forces continue to try and encircle or overrun the Ukrainian defenders in Donbas, Russia has also continued to tighten its grip on the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, and while Zelensky can celebrate the reclaiming of abandoned territory to the north his prospects of hanging on to the embattled eastern and southern regions of his nation look increasingly dim.