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Ukrainians say Russians are withdrawing from Kyiv area to regroup in Belarus

A destroyed Russian military vehicle was seen in a corn field in Sytnyaky, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday.Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine — After a month of intense fighting near Kyiv, some Russian military units are withdrawing through the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to Belarus to regroup, the Ukrainian military said Sunday, suggesting the Russian army was using the site of the defunct reactor for logistics.

Lingering radiation from the 1986 nuclear disaster poses only modest health risks, although those may be rising for Russian troops positioned in the area as dozens of small wildfires in the surrounding forest were spreading radiation in smoke.

The Ukrainian military’s statement about the partial pullback of Russian troops toward Chernobyl came as another sign that the Russian attack on Kyiv, the capital, has largely stalled in chaotic, inconclusive battles raging for weeks now in several mostly destroyed suburban towns.


There was no way to independently confirm the Ukrainian statement, but it was consistent with what Western intelligence agencies have said about the fighting to the northwest of Kyiv.

The Ukrainian military said an unspecified number of units of Russia’s 35th Combined Arms Army, a Russian military term for a large formation, were being pulled back to regroup after suffering losses in the fighting. It said several units were pulling back to the Chernobyl area and then crossing into Belarus, about 10 miles away. It is possible, the statement said, that after the regrouping and strengthening of the units, they will be redeployed in a renewed effort to encircle Kyiv.

That effort has in any case not wholly halted. On Saturday, Boyarka, a satellite town outside Kyiv to the south of Russia’s former front lines in the area, was shelled for the first time.

Five people were hospitalized, according to the town’s mayor.

“Russia can plan its attacks on us, but we are also getting ready, and I can say that it will not be easy for them here,” Oleksandr Zarubiv, the mayor, said in a telephone interview.


Also Saturday, intense fighting in the suburban town of Irpin, about 3 miles from Kyiv, knocked out electricity in Svyatoshyn, a northern district of the capital. At one point Saturday morning, Ukrainian soldiers engaged in a small-arms battle with what they said was likely a Russian reconnaissance group on the edge of the capital.

In that gunfight, the Ukrainian soldiers fired their rifles prone on a street in the Svyatoshyn neighborhood of Kyiv, aiming into a forest just outside the capital, according to a witness, Elena Goncharok.

To the east of Kyiv, the Ukrainian military said that it had successfully rebuffed the Russian advance toward the suburban town of Brovary and that Russian forces in the area were now on the defensive.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.