April 2 (UPI) — Russian forces broadly retreated from the Kyiv region Saturday, Ukrainian military officials said.
The Russian military left behind dead soldiers and burned vehicles in its retreat, according to to witnesses, Ukrainian officials, satellite images and military analysts, signaling a potential major turn in the war which is in its sixth week, The New York Times reported.
“The initial Russian operation was a failure and one of its central goals — the capture of Kyiv — proved unobtainable for Russian forces,” Michael Kofman, the director of Russian studies at C.N.A., a research institute in Arlington, Va., told the Times in a telephone interview Saturday.
Ukraine’s military also announced that Russian forces have retreated from other areas.
“Irpin, Bucha, Gostomel and the whole Kyiv region — liberated from the enemy,” Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine Anna Malyar said Saturday in a Twitter post.
Still, attacks on other cities have continued, and the Pentagon has cautioned that Russian forces near Kyiv could be repositioning for renewed assaults.
Meanwhile, Russian forces attacked a major oil refinery Saturday in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, Russian officials announced.
The Russian military targeted the major oil refinery in the central Ukrainian city in a series of strikes, including “high-precision long-range and sea-based weapons,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told CNN. The strikes destroyed storage facilities holding gasoline and diesel fuels for Ukrainian troops in the country’s eastern and central regions.
Russian forces also used high precision air-based missiles to hit military airfields in cities to the east of Kremenchuk, including Poltava and Dnipro, Konashenkov added.
Since Russian forces seized the central Ukrainian town of Enerhodar, close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, last month, there have been sporadic protests, according to CNN.
On Saturday, Russian forces dispersed these protesters with gunfire and explosions, National Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine Energoatom posted on Telegram on Saturday.
“The occupiers dispersed the protesters with explosions and shootings,” a Telegram post read, according to CNN’s English translation of the social media post.
“A series of loud explosions has taken place in Enerhodar,” another Energoatom post read, Ukrinform reported. “This morning, the town residents gathered for a peaceful rally in support of Ukraine. They sang the anthem and talked to each other. Russcist occupiers were watching them. When Enerhodar residents started to go away, paddy wagons approached, in which the invaders began to pack locals.”
The explosions injured about four people, according to Energoatom’s posts on Telegram.
In Mykolaiv state, the death toll from an explosion that destroyed the regional state administration building on Tuesday has risen to 31, Ukraine’s States Emergency Service said Saturday, adding that 34 were injured in the blast.
On Friday, a fire broke out at a fuel terminal in Belgorod, a Russian city near the Ukrainian border, which Russian officials blamed on a strike by two Ukrainian helicopters.
Firefighters have since put out the blaze engulfing half of the fuel tanks at the terminal, according to the Russian News Agency TASS, and no casualties resulted from the incident.
“Ukrainian forces continue to advance against withdrawing forces in the vicinity of Kyiv,” according to the British Ministry of Defense update earlier Saturday. “Along the northwestern axis, Ukrainian forces’ attempts to advance from Irpin towards Bucha and Hostomel are ongoing. Russian forces are reported to have withdrawn from Hostomel airport, which has been subject to fighting since the first day of the conflict. Along the eastern axis, Ukraine has re-taken several villages.”
“In the east of Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have secured a key route in eastern Kharkhiv after heavy fighting,” the update added. “This follows the liberation of Trostyanets, in the vicinity of Sumy, earlier this week.”
Since the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, 1,325 civilians have been killed and 2,017 have been injured, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ latest update.
The OHCHR warned actual casualties could be even higher as receipt of information from some locations of intense fighting has been “delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration.”