A Ukrainian negotiator said on Saturday that Russia had indicated that draft peace treaty documents were at an advanced enough stage to allow for direct consultations between the two nations’ leaders, Interfax Ukraine reported.
The agency quoted David Arakhamia as telling Ukrainian television that Russia accepted Ukraine’s overall position with the exception of its stance on Crimea.
Ukraine said on Saturday it had seized back all areas around Kyiv, claiming complete control of the capital region for the first time since Russia launched the invasion.
As Russia’s forces regrouped for battles in the east, areas north of Kyiv were littered with destroyed Russian tanks. Ukraine presidential adviser Okeksiy Arestovych said its troops have retaken more than 30 towns and villages since Russia pulled back from the area this week.
Russia has depicted its drawdown of forces near Kyiv as a goodwill gesture in peace talks, which last convened on Friday. Ukraine and its allies say Russia was forced to shift its focus to east Ukraine after suffering heavy losses near Kyiv.
Since sending troops on Feb. 24 in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarise its neighbor, Russia has failed to capture a single major city and has instead laid siege to urban areas, uprooting a quarter of Ukraine’s population.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister, Hanna Malyar, wrote on Facebook that the “whole Kyiv region is liberated from the invader.” There was no immediate Russian comment on the claim, which Reuters could not immediately verify.
As Dmytro Kartavov and his family joined thousands of people trying to flee the bombed-out city of Mariupol, one additional obstacle awaited as Russian troops sought to identify anyone fighting with Ukrainian forces defending the city.
“They stripped the men naked, looked for tattoos,” said Kartayov, a 32-year-old builder, who said the troops paid particular attention to men’s knees.
“I work, I do repairs, naturally my knees – these are working knees. They say – (you) climbed trenches, dug, and the like.”
Speaking in a supermarket that has been turned into a reception center in the Ukrainian-held town of Zaporizhzhia some 200 km. from Mariupol, he said the family left the besieged city to the west, reaching the port of Berdyansk by bus before crossing into Ukrainian-held territory on foot.
On the way, Kartavov said Russian soldiers checked men for signs they had been fighting with Ukrainian forces. “They checked my forearms, looked at the hands, checked if I was shooting, whether or not there will be a callus here on the arms,” he added.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian soldiers of deliberately mining areas in northern Ukraine as they withdraw or are pushed out by Ukrainian forces.