Russian Forces ‘Fully Withdrawn’ From Northern Ukraine, U.K. Defense Ministry Says


Russian forces have now “fully withdrawn” from northern Ukraine and at least some will be transferred to fight in the eastern Ukraine, the U.K.’s defense ministry said on Friday, as Moscow shifts its attention away from Kyiv and toward the Donbas region.

Key Facts

Russian forces in northern Ukraine have now completely withdrawn to Belarus and Russia, the U.K. defense ministry said in an intelligence update.

Some of these troops will be transferred to fight in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, the ministry said, though many will “require significant replenishment” before they can be redeployed.

Any mass redeployment of forces from the north will likely take “at least a week minimum,” the statement said.

The ministry said Russian shelling of cities in the east and south of Ukraine continues and Russian forces “have advanced further south from the strategically important city of Izium,” which remains under Russian control.

Key Background

The intelligence update follows a rare admission of Russian losses during the war by the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday, who said Russia has suffered “significant losses of troops” during its invasion of Ukraine. Peskov described the loss as a “huge tragedy” and reiterated Russia’s claim that it is withdrawing from the north as “an act of goodwill” to help with peace talks. Ukrainian and Western officials doubt the claim, believing it a misdirection while Russia regroups and redeploys its forces. Analysts believe the Russian retreat from northern Ukraine after a series of defeats near Kyiv could signal a new and more protracted phase of the invasion as Moscow turns its eye eastwards toward Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking industrial heartland. Russian-backed separatists there in Luhansk and Donetsk regions have fought Ukraine since 2014 and Nato believes Russian forces could be trying to establish a land bridge between Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, and Russia.

What We Don’t Know

The true number of Russian deaths. As of March 25, Russia said 1,351 soldiers have been killed fighting in Ukraine and another 3,825 wounded. Ukraine puts the figure of Russian deaths at around 19,000. Neither of these estimates can be independently verified and both have reason to downplay or inflate figures for morale. Western leaders put the number of Russian deaths somewhere between 7,000 and 15,000.

Further Reading

Putin Spokesperson Admits ‘Significant Losses’ Of Russian Troops In Ukraine (Forbes)