The U.S. has seen Russian forces completely withdraw from areas around Kyiv and Chernihiv to regroup in Belarus and Russia, a senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday.
“We are not showing Russian forces in or around Kyiv or to the north of Kyiv, and we’re not showing Russian forces in or around Chernihiv,” the official told reporters.
“We have now seen that the Russians have moved from the north into Belarus and to Russia for refit and resupply. We have seen indications that that refit and resupply is occurring,” the official added.
Russian forces are pulling back from positions across Ukraine as Moscow looks to regroup following what now appears to be a bungled invasion of the country beginning Feb. 24.
Beginning in late March, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to shift his plans from an invasion meant to topple Kyiv to an offensive focused in the Donbas in the east. The move follows the Kremlin’s struggle to take the capital city and other major metropolitan areas after being met with fierce Ukrainian forces armed with Western-provided weapons.
The Kremlin troops continue to shell major cities as they make their withdrawal and have launched more than 1,450 missiles against Ukraine since the invasion began, the official said.
But the official said that “we are assessing that they have completely withdrawn from Kyiv and from Chernihiv.”
There have also been reports and images of atrocities as Russian forces vacate formerly held areas, including Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv.
The U.S. does not yet have investigators on the ground to document what President Biden has called war crimes, but the apparent murders of civilians appear to be “premeditated,” “planned” and “very, very deliberate,” the official said.
“But it’s difficult to know what more motivation was behind this — whether it was an … attempt or not, clearly a message was sent to the world of Russia’s brutality,” the official said.