World

War in Ukraine: Johnson congratulates Volodymyr Zelensky over Kyiv pushback

Deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar said the area around the capital had been ‘liberated’

Boris Johnson congratulated Volodymyr Zelensky after Ukrainian forces allegedly retook the entire Kyiv region from Russian troops.

Speaking with Mr Zelensky on Saturday evening, the Prime Minister heaped praise on Ukraine’s “brave army” for “successfully pushing back Russia’s invading army in a number of areas”.

Mr Johnson updated the Ukrainain president on the progress made at the recent military donor conference, which is convened by the UK with 35 countries, and “committed to continue to step up defensive support”.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “He congratulated Ukraine’s brave armed forces for successfully pushing back Russia’s invading army in a number of areas, but recognised the huge challenges that remain and the immense suffering being inflicted on civilians.”

The spokesperson added: “President Zelensky underscored the urgency of Ukraine’s fight for its survival as a free and democratic nation, and the importance of international assistance.”

Both leaders committed to remain in close contact and speak again in the coming days.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar claimed Ukrainian forces had retaken the entire Kyiv region from Russian troops.

Ms Malyar said the area around the capital had been “liberated” amid mounting evidence that Russian troops were withdrawing from the region after suffering heavy casualties.

She wrote on Facebook: “Irpin, Bucha, Gostomel and the whole Kyiv region – is liberated from the invader.”

The Standard could not independently verify Ms Malyar’s claims. If true, it would mark a significant victory for President Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces following five weeks of intense fighting.

Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have died and over 4 million have fled the country since Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of the country on February 24. His army has failed to achieve its key military objectives amid logistical issues, low morale and fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Ukrainian officials said that 30 towns and villages in the region had already been recaptured from Russian control. The Kremlin last week claimed it would significantly reduce its activities in the capital and neighbouring area Chernihiv to refocus on the Donbas region.

However, the announcement was welcomed with scepticism by Ukrainian and Western officials following weeks of disinformation and broken pledges from Moscow, who have repeatedly violated ceasefire agreements during civilian evacuations.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russian forces retreating from the Kyiv region had created a “catastrophic” situation for civilians by leaving mines around residential areas, as well as abandoned equipment.

“In the north of our country, the invaders are leaving. It is slow but noticeable. In some places they are being kicked out with fighting. Elsewhere they’re abandoning the positions themselves,” Mr Zelensky said in a video address released on Saturday.

“They are mining all this territory. Houses are mined, equipment is mined, even the bodies of dead people.”

Chernihiv Governor Viacheslav Chaus also accused Russian troops of planting mines as they retreated from positions around the regional capital.

“There are a lot of mines. They (the villages) are strewn with them,” he said on national television.

Prime minister Boris Johnson spoke with Mr Zelensky on Saturday evening and “congratulated Ukraine’s brave armed forces for successfully pushing back Russia’s invading army in a number of areas”, Downing Street said.

The spokesperson added: “President Zelensky underscored the urgency of Ukraine’s fight for its survival as a free and democratic nation, and the importance of international assistance.”

Elsewhere, a senior Ukrainian negotiator said that Russia had indicated that a draft treaty was at an advanced enough stage to allow for direct consultations between the two nations’ leaders.

David Arakhamia told the Interfax news agency that Russia had accepted Ukraine’s overall position with the exception of its stance on Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Mr Putin in 2014.

Western and Ukrainian officials have warned that Mr Putin could be using negotiations to buy time for his army to regroup, saying he is not seriously committed to de-escalation.