When Russia first invaded Ukraine in February it seemed apparent that the capital city of Kyiv was a primary target as Russian forces moving south from Russia and neighboring ally Belarus moved to encircle and besiege that city, likely to take out top Ukrainian government leaders.
That effort appears to have failed as reports now indicate that Russia has fully withdrawn all of its forces that were threatening Kyiv from the north in the face of a concerted defense of the capital by Ukrainian forces, The Washington Times reported.
The withdrawal is being viewed as an embarrassing defeat for Russian President Vladimir Putin and a crushing blow to the reputation of the Russian military for having failed to sack the Ukrainian capital.
Russian forces have withdrawn from northern Ukraine
An unnamed “senior Defense official” shared the assessment of a complete Russian withdrawal from the area around Kyiv in a background press briefing Wednesday, but made it clear that the situation remained fluid and Kyiv could potentially come under threat again at any time, though it appeared to be in the clear “for the moment.”
The official described how the several Russian battalion tactical groups that had previously advanced to the northern outskirts of Kyiv had now fallen back to starting positions in Russia and Belarus where it was believed they were getting refitted and resupplied while resting, likely before being redeployed elsewhere.
It was further assessed, based on intelligence and Russia’s statements, that some or all of those units withdrawn from around Kyiv could soon be repositioned to join the continuing Russian efforts to secure the separatist-controlled eastern Donbas region, where Russian forces are still attempting to encircle and crush the Ukrainian opposition forces.
Meanwhile, the Russian forces that invaded Ukraine from the south via Russian-occupied Crimea are continuing to exert control in southern Ukraine and threaten major cities in the region, such as the besieged port city of Mariupol, control of which would grant Russia a sort of land bridge connecting Crimea with the Donbas.
Maps display the progress of the invasion, counterattacks
An updated report from the BBC containing maps drawn up by the Institute for the Study of War and the U.K. Ministry of Defense painted a clear picture of the current situation in Ukraine that was in line with the assessments provided by the U.S. Defense Department.
Indeed, those maps displayed Ukrainian counterattacks to reclaim control of the area directly north of Kyiv as well as to the northeastern cities of Chernihiv and Sumy to Ukraine’s northern borders.
The maps also showed the classic pincer envelopment by Russian forces coming from the east and south to try and entrap the Ukrainian forces still committed to fighting the Russians and Russian-backed separatists in the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Russia claims it never intended to sack Kyiv
For what it is worth, and it may just be propagandistic spin to ease the sting of failure, The Times noted that Russia is now claiming that the assault on Kyiv was never a top priority and merely a feint to draw resources away from the real goals of the invasion — cementing control of the eastern Donbas and establishing a land bridge between there and Crimea to the south.
Whether that is the case or not is fairly irrelevant at this point, as it is clear that, at least “for the moment,” the Russian threat against Kyiv has been repelled and Russian forces have retreated from around the capital city.