The Ukrainian government on Saturday said that it has regained control of the Kyiv region and that the Russian forces have retreated from towns near the capital city, Al-Jazeera reported.

Ganna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister said that the towns of Irpin, Bucha and Gostomel have been “liberated from the invader”, according to AFP. The three towns are located in the north-west of Kyiv, and have suffered major destruction in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The mayor of Bucha said that the town is littered with bodies, and 280 people had been buried in a mass grave.

At Irpin, authorities said that at least 200 persons have been killed since the attack began, according to AFP.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed that retreating Russian troops were leaving mines around homes, abandoned equipment and “the bodies of those killed”, the Associated Press reported. He said that this was leading to a “catastrophic situation” for civilians.

Ukrainian armed personnel reportedly attached cables to bodies to pull them off streets, owing to fears that mines may be placed beneath them.

On Saturday night, Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian troops were not allowing Russian armed personnel to withdraw from areas around Kyiv without a fight.

“What is the goal of the Russian troops?” he said. “They want to seize the Donbas and the south of Ukraine. What is our goal? To defend ourselves, our freedom, our land and our people.”

Ukraine has claimed that Russian troops are withdrawing from the northern parts of the country, and seem to be focussing on the southern and eastern parts.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine

Russia invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. The Kremlin described its actions a “special operation” to demilitarise and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and Western allies have said that this a baseless pretext for a war of choice.

As per the United Nations’ human rights office, the conflict has killed at least 1,179 people, including 104 children. It also said that the real number of deaths could be considerably higher, and noted that there was delay in reporting casualties in areas with intense hostilities.

On Tuesday, Russia had announced that it would “drastically scale down” military operations around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, amid peace negotiations between the two countries.

Zelenskyy had said that Russia’s promise to curtail military operations was because of Ukrainian defence forces’s stiff resistance to their attacks.