Led by an armored vehicle, the column of soldiers on foot moved down a dirt road where a woman came forward with a handful of fruit.
We’ve been waiting for you, please come through,” she called over the roar of the personnel carrier. “Here, please take these apples.”
Her small thank you was just one of many as Ukrainian villagers hailed their liberators as heroes.
“Thank you, thank you. The battle is not over yet,” replied one of the soldiers, wearing the Armed Forces of Ukraine armband.
The scene of liberation was repeated in over two dozen settlements as humiliated and exhausted Russian forces withdrew completely from the Ukrainian capital yesterday.
After their unexpectedly quick retreat, the Russians left behind dozens of burned-out tanks, abandoned vehicles and evidence of possible war crimes as Ukrainian forces found civilian bodies and traces of looting.
The swift withdrawal came three days after Moscow announced it would scale back its operations around Kyiv, claiming it was to boost trust between the warring factions during talks.
Even the most astute observers struggled to keep up with the news of the villages and towns liberated from Russian control: Demydiv, Dymer, Lytvynivka, Gavrylivka, Kozarovychi, Zhovtneve, Hlybivka, Yasnohorodka, and that was only in the northwest. The front lines shifted and curved around the capital as the Ukrainian army advanced and freed Kyiv from its Russian stranglehold.
But Ukraine and other allies have warned that the withdrawal is merely a tacit admission that Russia’s plan to seize Kyiv in a rapid offensive has failed and that Moscow is now regrouping to concentrate its forces in eastern Ukraine, where committed to conquering the Donbass region.
Meanwhile, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said it was not time for those who fled Kyiv to rush home.
“Huge” battles were fought,” he warned.
Despite this, the retreat was an important victory for Ukrainian forces in the battle for the capital. The pace of withdrawal marked a dramatic turn in the course of the war since February 24, when Western intelligence predicted that Kyiv could fall within days of the Russian invasion.
The full extent of the invasion’s devastation was visible along the E-40 west of Kyiv, where Ukrainian troops passed dozens of decomposing bodies – some believed to be civilians – on the shell-strewn highway lined with destroyed gas stations and buildings. who were killed by them Russians.
Two of the bodies were confirmed to be Ukrainian civilians, killed by the Russians on March 7 when the moment of their deaths was caught on camera by a drone unit of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces.
The video shows a Russian tank firing at a convoy of 10 civilian vehicles trying to reach Kyiv, with the cars quickly turning back to retreat.
However, a car is hit, and a man gets out with his hands up, only to be shot.
The man’s wife was also killed in the car, while their six-year-old son and another elderly woman in the back survived and were later released by the Russians.
The video sparked an international outcry and was presented as potential evidence of war crimes if the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
Ukrainian forces say they have found evidence of possible war crimes elsewhere in the invasion.
Abandoned, garbage-strewn camps are littered with empty vodka and beer bottles and other looted consumables, signs of looting that is a war crime.
Ukrainian civilians have also accused drunken Russian forces of looting and kidnapping people.
“As Russian troops retreat from the Kyiv region after suffering immense casualties, they are looting homes of ordinary people. Electronics, clothing, shoes, cosmetics. This isn’t an army. That’s a shame. We will never forget and never forgive,” said Foreign Ministry Spokesman Oleg Nikolenko.
West of the capital, Ukrainian reporters drove into Jasnohorodka, found it badly damaged by shelling when they visited yesterday.
A woman who remained in the devastated town said she stayed to look after six dogs, four cats and nine chickens left behind by their neighbors. Retiree Evgenia Rozhkova made her way past blast craters in her backyard and pointed to the pond she used for drinking.
Another couple rummaged through the ruins of their destroyed home. Sergei (58) told Nv.ua that he was just glad that “Ukrainian defenders drove the occupiers out of the village”..
Ukrainian military said retreating Russian forces mined cleared area and continued shelling, suggesting its retreat was not a total defeat.
Ukrainian soldiers were able to take the citys unopposed: a reported 15 settlements west of the Dnieper north of Kyiv as Russian troops retreated across the border Belarus, an ally of Moscow.
In Hostomel, northwest of Kyiv, a grinning, red-bearded Ukrainian soldier captured video of triumph.
“Russian soldiers are leaving and leaving their own. This is a fact that can be confirmed by the Ukrainian military. We will win Glory to Ukraine.”
He predicted further victories in eastern Ukraine against Russian-backed separatists. “Donbass and Crimea will soon be ours,” he said.
The Ukrainian flag was raised in every city. In Kozarovychi, north of Kyiv, a Ukrainian soldier lifted the blue and yellow over a brick house with broken windows.
East of the Dnieper, Ukrainian forces reported liberating another dozen villages, including Nova Basan, where apples were offered to the liberators.
The Ukrainian advance northeast of Kyiv has reportedly cleared a route to Chernihiv, where over 100,000 people have been trapped for weeks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the Russian withdrawal as planned and warned of further fighting.
But he also promised that Ukraine would continue to resist.
“We endured much more than the enemy expected. You said three or five days. They thought that would be enough to take over our entire state. It is already [day] 36. And we stand. And we will keep fighting.”
(© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)
Telegraph Media Group Limited 
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/russian-forces-are-retreating-amid-jubilant-scenes-but-zelensky-says-fight-is-not-over-41512862.html Russian forces retreat amid jubilant scenes, but Zelenskyy says ‘fight is not over’