As Russian forces continued pulling out of areas around Kyiv over the weekend, the US indicated it would amp up its assistance with newly pledged military equipment.
According to reports, the Biden administration plans to facilitate the transfer of Soviet-era tanks from NATO allies to Ukraine to help its defense in the eastern Donbas region. New York Times and CNN reported the move was requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The US Defense Department also announced an additional $300 million in equipment for Ukraine.
Ukrainian and Western officials have warned the withdrawal of Russian forces around Kyiv is a sign they will refuel. Ukraine has accused retreating Russians of executing citizens and leaving their bodies boobytrapped in the streets.
Saturday, Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said bodies of civilians were found in the streets of Bucha outside Kyiv with their hands bound. He accused Russian forces of executing them even though they “posed no threat.”
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►Over 4,000 citizens of Ukraine evacuated along humanitarian corridors on Saturday, officials said.
►The president of Lithuania on Saturday announced it would no longer import Russian gas, making it the first nation in the European Union to achieve independence from Russian gas supplies.
►A Russian group that monitors political arrests says 208 people were detained in demonstrations held Saturday across the country protesting Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
Zelenskyy: Troops shell retreating Russians
Ukraine has regained control over some areas of the Kyiv region as Russian forces pulled back over the last few days. But leaders warn this does not signal that Russia is giving up; rather, they could be refueling and shifting their strategy to the Donbas region and the south of Ukraine.
In his nightly video address Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said troops were not allowing the Russians to retreat without a fight: “They are shelling them. They are destroying everyone they can.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, said Saturday that the capital was “liberated” from invading Russian forces.
“Irpin, Bucha, Gostomel and the whole Kyiv region were liberated from the invader,” she said in a Facebook post.
Ukraine: Retreating Russians left boobytraps
As Ukrainian forces moved to retake control of areas surrounding Kyiv from retreating Russians, they moved with caution to avoid unexploded ordnance and boobytrapped streets and homes, Zelenskyy and other Ukraine officials said.
Zelenskyy said Russians were leaving behind a “catastrophic” situation, with landmines in streets, civilian homes and even on dead civilian bodies. Ukrainian soldiers were removing bodies from the streets with caution.
Residents of the town of Bucha said civilians were killed without apparent provocation.
US to facilitate transfer of Soviet-era tanks, reports say
The Biden administration intends to work with allies to provide Soviet-made tanks to Ukraine to help its defense in the eastern Donbas region, according to a report from The New York Times.
CNN confirmed the report, citing unnamed officials who said the T-72 tanks would be delivered within “days, not weeks.”
The report, citing an unnamed US official speaking on the condition of anonymity, says the move was requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who held an hourlong phone call with President Joe Biden his week.
The US would act as an intermediary, according to the Times. The official said the tanks would allow Ukraine forces to conduct long-range artillery strikes on Russian targets in Donbas, which borders Russia.
The White House declined to comment to USA TODAY.
Contributing: The Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism