- After six weeks of war, Russian troops have been unable to capture Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv.
- The Pentagon said Putin’s forces repositioned from the area to focus on the eastern Donbas region.
- NATO warned earlier that Putin still wants to capture all of Ukraine, despite troop redeployment.
Russian forces have withdrawn from the area around Kyiv after a disastrous six weeks of fighting in which they failed to capture Ukraine’s capital city, the Pentagon confirmed on Wednesday.
“If you look at what they’ve been able to do just thus far — [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has achieved exactly zero of his strategic objectives inside Ukraine,” Press Secretary John Kirby said during a briefing, adding that Putin “moved his forces out of Kyiv.”
Putin “didn’t take Kyiv, he didn’t topple the government, he didn’t remove Ukraine as a nation-state — and he’s really only taking control of a small number of population centers, and even they weren’t the ones he was really going after,” Kirby said.
The Pentagon spokesperson listed a handful of other cities around Ukraine — like Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Mykolaiv — that have still yet to fall into the hands of Russian forces.
“I think the proof is literally in the outcomes you’re seeing every day. The Ukrainians are bravely fighting for their country and they have denied Mr. Putin so many of his strategic objectives,” Kirby said.
CIA Director Bill Burns said in March that Putin originally believed he could take Kyiv within days of his February 24 televised war declaration on Ukraine.
But from the start, Russian forces made significant errors in their assault on the city: underestimating Ukraine’s resistance, failing to establish secure supply lines, and botching attempts to disable Ukraine’s air defense.
Kirby’s remarks come as NATO and other Western officials have said that Russian forces are now repositioning to focus on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, after starting to move away from the northern Kyiv region the last week.
But as Russian forces scale back and retreat from cities near Kyiv that were under occupation since the early days of the war, the grayly civilian cost of the war is being revealed.
In Bucha, a Kyiv suburb, hundreds of civilians were found dead — some partially excavated mass graves, and some lying in the streets. Many exhibited signs of torture and indiscriminate execution, according to Ukrainian authorities and media reports from the area.
Kirby said the fact that Russian forces are refocusing on the Donbas “certainly presents the possibility that the violence will continue” — and might “even intensify” — in that region of Ukraine.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned earlier, however, that he believes Putin still wants to capture all of Ukraine, despite the troop repositioning.
“We have seen no indication that President Putin has changed his ambition to control the whole of Ukraine and also to rewrite the international order,” Stoltenberg told reporters before meeting with foreign ministers in Brussels on Wednesday.