Fragments of two burnt Russian tanks with flown turrets and several armored personnel carriers proved the violence of last week’s fighting in the village of Lukyanivka outside Kyiv. The charred body of a Russian soldier lay in a nearby field.
“There were mortars so powerful that it was scary even in the basement,” Valeriy Hudym told Reuters on Sunday, two days after Ukrainian troops recaptured Lukyanivka’s control in a five -hour battle with Russia.
“Shooting tanks, cannons and machine guns. Everything that might be there.”
More than a month since the Russian invasion, the defense of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv has been playing in fierce battles in places like Lukyanivka and the nearby cities of Brovary in the east, Irpin and Bucha in the northwest and Makariv in the west.
When history is written, such towns and villages may be small details, but they are places where Russia’s progress has come to a halt. Moscow promised at peace talks in Istanbul on Tuesday that it would drastically reduce operations around Kyiv to aid the dialogue.
In Lukyanivka, a two -hour drive from central Kyiv, residents remember warning Russian troops who had occupied their settlements to go as long as possible.
“I had a neighbor named Svitlana. She told them openly in front of them: ‘Friends, go home. You will be killed here’,” Hudym said.
The reversal has been repeated in areas around the northern half of the capital, as Ukrainian troops clawed back lost territory in the first month of fighting in small battles, without scoring a decisive victory.
“Russia does not have the power to move forward, and (the Ukrainian people) do not have the power to push them back to the border,” said Serhiy Zgurets, director of consulting firm Defense Express.
Russia’s defense ministry did not immediately respond to requests to comment on the military situation around Kyiv.
But the small victory has dealt a psychological blow to the stronger enemy and shows how agile units with knowledge of the area can defend the line and even push it, according to military experts.
They also have a strategic goal – to keep Russian artillery further away from the city center and prevent the invading army from besieging Kyiv completely, experts say.
Cities including Kharkiv and Mariupol have suffered massive bombings as Russia’s ground progress has stalled – part of what the Pentagon and other Western military officials describe as a sign of Russia’s frustration over the lack of progress.
Kyiv has also been hit by bullets and missiles, and at least 264 civilians have been killed according to city authorities. But the scale of the destruction, especially to the city center, is much smaller.
Russia described its actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” with the aim of destroying its neighbors. It has denied targeting the general public.
In Lukyanivka, Ukrainian soldiers drove off two apparently serviceable Russian tanks that were captured during the fighting.
“We defeated Russia. Russia has now been evacuated a few kilometers away,” said Marat Saifulin, of the Ukrainian “Brotherhood battalion” that took part in recapturing the village in an attack that lasted from noon to dusk.
SETBACKS AND RESISTANCE
CIA Director William Burns said in early March that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intention was to seize Kyiv within two days of the start of the invasion on 24 February.
Putin and Russian officials have consistently said that Russian military operations in Ukraine have gone according to plan.
However, two initial setbacks suggested it would not be a normal voyage for the existing Russian forces estimated by some diplomats before the war at around 190,000 troops. Russia has not yet provided figures for its deployment in Ukraine.
Russian paratroopers attacked Hostomel airport, a potential bridge northwest of Kyiv, on the first day of the invasion and, according to some reports, captured it. But fierce fighting there prevented a decisive victory, the report added.
Satellite imagery also captured large columns of military hardware over 40 miles (64 km) long and coming from the same direction.
Seen by some Western defense officials as a major threat to Kyiv in the first days of the war, by March 10 it had largely dispersed, with several vehicles spreading into surrounding cities.
A senior U.S. defense official said in early March that Russian advances to Kyiv, including convoys, appeared to be stunted due to logistical problems including lack of food and fuel, as well as low morale among some units.
Attacks by small units of the Ukrainian army on advancing tank poles, in some cases using shoulder -arm anti -tank weapons sent from abroad, were also a factor hindering Russian military machinery.
To the east, in Brovary, a convoy of Russian tanks was broken up after several tanks were destroyed in an ambush recorded in dramatic drone footage released by pro-Ukrainian troops.
North of Bucha, near Irpin, the city’s mayor recorded scenes of burning tanks and armored vehicles still on fire after a fierce attack.
In Irpin, Ukrainian troops destroyed large bridges connecting northwestern cities to Kyiv as a way to impede enemy advance. On Monday, Mayor Irpin said that Ukraine has returned to full control. Reuters could not immediately confirm his allegations.
As a result of Russia’s flexible defense strategy and weakness there was no major progress in Kyiv for several days.
In the city, where only half of the 3.4 million residents are still peaceful, there are signs of normal life returning to the streets, with several shops, restaurants and cinemas opening and people enjoying the spring sunshine in the park.
Hopes that the immediate threat to the capital may recede were fueled last week by the head of Russia’s Directorate of Main Operations of the General Staff.
He said that the first phase of operations in Ukraine has largely been completed and Russian troops will begin to concentrate in the Donbass region in the east.
That seems in line with Western intelligence assessments that the Russian military has abandoned, at least for now, their active attempts to capture Kyiv following massive losses and Ukraine’s unpredictable stubborn defenses.
PAYING PENSIONS, POOR MORALS
On many exits of Kyiv, damaged houses and debris show the price paid by those who decided to stay. Gas and electricity are often cut off and there is no certainty as to when and where the next missile might fall.
In the village of Krasylivka, 92-year-old Hanna Yevdokimova said the invasion was her third conflict after the Soviet-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 and World War II, when she saw German troops marching through the village.
Last week, his house was hit by missile fragments. The twisted fragments of a Russian Caliber missile are located 100 meters (328 feet) away in a neighboring park.
“What can I do? All I want is to rebuild so I can die in my own house,” he said.
Some Lukyanivka residents said they spent nearly a month under Russian occupation as virtual prisoners in their own homes, their mobile phones confiscated and movement only allowed under armed escorts.
Now they can come and go as they please in the middle of a badly damaged house.
Near Makariv in western Kyiv, which is still contested, great shots could be heard last week. Even so, the city’s mayor Vadym Tokar traveled through the surrounding villages wearing military uniforms and handing out pensions to senior citizens.
Farmer Vasyl Chaylo, from Peremoha, described what he said was a fearful Russian soldier, lacking in rations and disciplined by harder professional fighters.
“They are scared. According to my observations, some of them may not want to fight and want to give up, but they are controlled by special forces,” he said.
Chaylo added that he had asked the tank crew getting ready outside his home how long their dry rations would last and was told a week. “They came to us on the eighth day and said that they had nothing to eat.”
Russia’s defense ministry has acknowledged several military conscripts had taken part in the conflict, after initial denials by the Kremlin and military authorities. The ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on rations.
Halyna Shybka, a former nurse at a military hospital in Kyiv for 25 years, ignored her grandchildren’s requests and lived with her husband Mykola at home in Kalynivka, near the front line of Brovary, where they have lived since 1974.
“They tried to persuade us in every way they could to go with them, but I wanted to stay,” he said as he poured a cup of tea in his small kitchen, the sound of Ukrainian artillery gunfire coming out thundering in the background.
“This is our land, we will not go.”
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)