Vladimir Putin’s real reason for suddenly withdrawing his troops from Kyiv has been revealed, with Ukraine preparing for a fresh attack.
Vladimir Putin’s next move is finally becoming clearer following his surprising decision to pull Russian troops away from the Kyiv area.
For more than five weeks, Russian forces have been desperately trying to capture the capital of Kyiv, laying siege to areas around the city in order to press forward with their advance.
Civilians have endured weeks of restless shellings, watching their homes reduced to rubble and being cut of from essential supplies.
Capturing Kyiv has been Russia’s clear goal since the beginning of the invasion on February 24.
But that plan has changed, with Mr Putin ordering his forces to retreat from areas around Kyiv and pull back to eastern and southern areas of Ukraine.
So what is behind the sudden change in tactics?
Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, along with other government officials and military analysts, believe Mr Putin is gearing up for a new offensive.
Russia’s official explanation for withdrawing from Kyiv was to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations” between the two countries.
This claim has been met with heavy scepticism for Mr Zelensky, who said Ukraine is “preparing” for what will come next.
During his nightly address on Saturday, Mr Zelensky warned Russia was likely planning to increase pressure in the east and south, where Moscow already holds vast swathes of territory.
“We are strengthening our defences in the eastern direction and in Donbas. We are aware that the enemy has reserves to increase pressure in the east,” the Ukrainian leader said.
“What is the goal of Russian troops? They want to capture both Donbas and the south of Ukraine. What is our goal? Protect us, our freedom, our land and our people.”
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak backed up this statement, confirming Russia’s retreat meant the invaders were now “prioritising a different tactic”.
He warned Ukraine still needs more weapons if its forces have a hope of driving Russian troops out.
“(Russia) will leave all territories except the south & east, will try to dig in there, set air defence, drastically reduce losses & dictate terms,” Mr Podolyak wrote on social media.
“Without heavy weapons we won’t be able to drive (Russia) out.”
However, Russian forces that have withdrawn from the north are likely to be heavily impacted from the weeks of combat, meaning they will likely need some time to recover before they can contribute to the military operations in the east and south.
A recent assessment of the situation from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), conducted by researchers Mason Clark, George Barros, and Karolina Hird, revealed it could be days before these troops can “provide meaningful combat power”.
“The Russian units withdrawn from northeastern Ukraine for redeployment to eastern Ukraine are heavily damaged,” the assessment states.
“Russian forces likely require an extensive operational pause to refit existing units in Donbas, refit and redeploy reinforcements from other axes, and integrate these forces — pulled from several military districts that have not yet operated on a single axis — into a cohesive fighting force.
“We have observed no indicators of Russian plans to carry out such a pause, and Russian forces will likely fail to break through Ukrainian defences if they continue to steadily funnel already damaged units into fighting in eastern Ukraine.”
Bodies line the streets in wake of Russian retreat
On Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Maliar announced their forces had taken back the “whole Kyiv region”.
“Irpin, Bucha, Gostomel and the whole Kyiv region were liberated from the invader,” Ms Maliar said.
All three towns have suffered heavy destruction in the five weeks since Russia began its invasion, with civilians facing relentless shelling and artillery fire.
Horrifying images have emerged showing bodies lining the streets of Bucha, with all the victims appearing to be dressed in civilian clothing,
“All these people were shot, killed, in the back of the head,” Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk told AFP.
Mr Fedoruk said a further 280 victims has already been buried in mass graves across the town.
Another picture, taken on a road between Myla and Mriia, shows a burned body laying next to a burnt out car.
Mr Podolyak shared graphic images of civilians laying dead in the streets of Bucha with their hands tied behind their backs.
“These people were not in the military. They had no weapons. They posed no threat. How many more such cases are happening right now in the occupied territories?” he wrote.
Illia Ponomarenko, a defence reporter with The Kyiv Independent, confirmed people had been “executed” in Bucha.
“You did it. You are all involved. You allowed it,” Ponomarenko told the Russians.
“In the Kyiv region alone, there are still a lot of cities and villages in ruins and with mountains of corpses on the streets.
“Live as you wish with this knowledge until the end of your days.”
– with AFP