“Huge” battles are being fought close to Kyiv, the mayor of the Ukrainian capital said on Friday, further undermining Russia’s claim to be scaling back its offensive as a precursor to further peace talks.
Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv’s mayor, warned that the “risk of dying” in the city was still “pretty high” as he urged residents who had fled the fighting in recent weeks not to risk returning yet, despite Moscow’s pledge this week to scale back its offensive in the region.
“My advice to anyone who wants to come back is: Please, take a little bit more time,” he said.
Elsewhere, shifting battle lines suggested Russia was moving troops away from some areas.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said Russian forces are not withdrawing but regrouping, and Ukrainian officials say Russian troops are losing ground rather than retreating of their own accord.
Kyiv’s regional governor said earlier in the day that Russian forces were pulling back from positions around Kyiv while fortifying its strongholds in others.
Oleksandr Pavlyuk, wrote on the Telegram messaging app that some enemy troops had moved back and were heading towards the border with Belarus.
“Our troops are chasing them both to the northwest and northeast [of Kyiv]pushing the enemy away from Kyiv,” said Oleksiy Arestovych, a political adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Mr Arestovych said Russia was carrying out a partial troop rotation and sending some of its forces to fight in eastern Ukraine.
Others appeared to be staying put. At a church northwest of the city, Russian forces had set up a staging ground as part of their assault on the capital, a US official claimed.
“Military personnel are situated both on the grounds of the church and the surrounding residential area,” the official said, without citing evidence.
“We believe the Russian military is using this staging point as part of its assault on Kyiv,” they said.
A UK military intelligence assessment said the Kremlin was continuing to order attacks on the city.
In its daily update on the war, the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) said Kyiv and Chernihiv, also in the north of the country, had been “subjected to continued air and missile strikes despite Russian claims of reducing activity in these areas”.
Ukrainian forces are having more luck pushing back Russian forces outside of those cities.
Villages to the south of Chernihiv, such as Sloboda and Lukashivka, which are located along one of the main supply routes between the city and Kyiv, have been retaken by Kyiv’s troops, the MoD said.
“Ukraine has also continued to make successful but limited counter attacks to the east and north east of Kyiv,” the assessment added.