Ukrainian president says retreating Russian troops are leaving mines

Ukrainian soldiers inspect a Russian tank in the recaptured village of Nova Basan, on April 1, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LVIV (REUTERS) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russian soldiers of deliberately mining areas in northern Ukraine as they withdraw or are pushed out by Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine says its troops have retaken control of more than 30 towns and villages in the Kyiv region since Russia announced this week it would scale down its operations around the capital to focus on battles in the east.

“In the north of our country, the invaders are leaving. It is slow but noticeable. In some places they are being kicked out with fighting. Elsewhere they’re abandoning the positions themselves,” Zelensky said in a video address released on Saturday (April 2), without citing evidence.

“They are mining all this territory. Houses are mined, equipment is mined, even the bodies of dead people.” Russia’s defence ministry did not reply to a request for comment on the allegations.

Reuters could not independently verify the allegations.

On Saturday, the emergencies service told people in the Kyiv region’s newly liberated zones to be vigilant, saying over 1,500 explosives had been found in one day during a search of the village of Dmytrivka, west of the capital.

Zelensky said efforts were ongoing to clear mines and secure the areas, but advised residents who had fled to stay away for now.

“It is still impossible to return to normal life as it was,” he said.

Earlier on Saturday, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said heavy battles are coming up in Ukraine's eastern and southern regions and for the besieged city of Mariupol in particular.

"Let us have no illusions - there are still heavy battles ahead for the south, for Mariupol, for the east of Ukraine," he said on national television.

In the southern port city of Mykolaiv, at least 35 people were confirmed killed as a result of Tuesday's rocket strike on the regional administration building, governor Vitaliy Kim said in an online post on Saturday.

Rescue workers have continued to dismantle the rubble and search for victims after the strike blasted a hole through the side of the building in central Mykolaiv.

The bodies of at least 20 men in civilian clothes were meanwhile found lying in a single street on Saturday after Ukrainian forces retook the town of Bucha near Kyiv, AFP journalists said.

One of the bodies of the men had his hands tied, and the corpses were strewn over several hundred metres of the residential road in the suburban town northwest of the capital, the journalists said.

The cause of death was not immediately clear although at least one person had what appeared to be a large head wound.

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Russian forces withdrew from several towns near Kyiv in recent days after Moscow’s bid to encircle the capital failed, with Ukraine declaring that Bucha had been “liberated”.

But the town had been left devastated by the fighting, with gaping holes from shell explosions in apartment blocks and crushed cars littering the streets, AFP journalists who accessed the town said.

Sixteen of the 20 corpses found on one street in Bucha were lying either on the pavement or by the verge. Three were sprawled in the middle of the road and another was lying in the courtyard of a house.

An open Ukrainian passport lay on the ground next to the person who had his hands tied behind his back with a piece of white cloth.

All were wearing civilian clothes – winter coats, jackets or tracksuit tops, jeans or jogging bottoms, and trainers or boots.

Two of them lay near bicycles while another was next to an abandoned car. Some lay face up, with their limbs askew, while others were lying face down.

The skin on the faces of the dead people had taken on a pale waxy appearance, indicating that they may have been there for at least a number of days.

Separately, British military intelligence said earlier on Saturday that Ukrainian forces continued to advance against withdrawing Russian forces near Kyiv, and that Russian troops had abandoned Hostomel airport in a northwestern suburb of the capital, where there has been fighting since the first day.

The British daily assessment also said Ukrainian forces had secured a key corridor in eastern Kharkiv after heavy fighting.

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