The US assesses that Russia has now completed its withdrawal from around Kyiv and is refitting and resupplying its troops for an expected redeployment into Ukraine, a senior US defence official said on Wednesday.
Over the weekend, Ukraine said its forces had seized back all areas around Kyiv, claiming complete control of the capital region for the first time since Russia launched the invasion.
“We are assessing that all the Russians have left,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding that the US assessment was completed in the past 24 hours.
The withdrawal included Russian troops leaving the city of Chernihiv as well.
But the official said Kyiv remained under threat, even if Russian ground troops had left the area.
Out of the 130 Russian battalion tactical groups that were sent to Ukraine for the invasion, more than 80 still remained in the country.
“The threat of (a) ground invasion (of Kyiv) is clearly gone for the moment… but it’s not clear what their longer-range goals are,” the official said.
The troops leaving the area were withdrawing to Belarus and Russia to reconsolidate, but it was not clear how many would eventually be sent back to Ukraine,” the official added.
As Russian troops regrouped for battles in east Ukraine, towns surrounding Kyiv bore scars of five weeks of fighting.
Western policymakers have denounced the killings in the town of Bucha as a war crime, and Ukrainian officials say a mass grave by a church there contain between 150 and 300 bodies.
Moscow, which refers to the conflict as a “special military operation” designed to “denazify” Ukraine, denied targeting civilians there or elsewhere.
Russia’s foreign ministry said images of dead bodies in Bucha were staged to justify more sanctions against Moscow and derail peace talks with Kyiv.
“When you see individuals with their hands tied behind their backs and evidence of being shot in the head, that certainly appears to be premeditated, it appears to be planned, it certainly appears to be very, very deliberate,” the US official said.
It was not clear to the US who gave the order for the killings and unclear what the motivation was for the killings.