The U.S. Department of Defense said Friday night that it is giving Ukrainian forces an additional $ 300 million in armaments.

Kyiv, Ukraine – When Russian troops retreat from the Ukrainian capital, retreating troops create a “catastrophic” situation for civilians, leaving mines around homes, abandoned equipment and “even the bodies of the dead,” – warned on Saturday, President Vladimir Zelensky.

Ukraine and its Western allies report growing evidence that Russia is withdrawing its forces from the outskirts of Kiev and stepping up forces in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian militants have recaptured several areas near the capital after ousting or following the Russians, officials said.

The visible shift did not mean that the country was facing a postponement after more than five weeks of war or that more than 4 million refugees fleeing Ukraine will return soon. Zelensky said he expects the withdrawn cities to withstand missile and missile strikes from afar, and fighting in the east will be intense.

“It is still impossible to return to normal life, as it was before, even in those areas that we return after the fighting,” – said the president of his nation in a night video. “We need to wait until our land is demined, wait until we can assure you that there will be no new shelling.”

Moscow’s concentration in eastern Ukraine also kept the siege of the southern city of Mariupol at bay. The port city on the Sea of ​​Azov is located in the predominantly Russian-speaking region of Donbass, where Russian-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian troops for eight years, and military analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to seize after his forces failed to secure Kyiv. and other major cities.

The International Committee of the Red Cross planned to try to get to Mariupol on Saturday evacuate residents. The Red Cross said it could not conduct the operation on Friday because it had not received assurances that the route was safe. City officials said the Russians had blocked access to the city.

The humanitarian group said a team with three vehicles and nine Red Cross staff was on track to help facilitate the safe passage of civilians on Saturday after a failed attempt the day before. In a statement late Friday, the group said its team plans to escort a convoy of civilians from Mariupol to another city.

“Our presence will put a humanitarian mark on this planned movement of people, giving the convoy additional protection and reminding all parties of the civilian, humanitarian nature of the operation,” the statement said.

Mariupol City Council said Saturday that 10 empty buses headed to Berdyansk, a city 84 kilometers (52.2 miles) west of Mariupol to pick up people who can get there on their own. About 2,000 people left Mariupol on Friday, some by bus and some by their own car, city officials said.

The evacuees boarded about 25 buses in Berdyansk and arrived in Zaporozhye at about midnight, a city still under Ukrainian control that served as a destination for previously announced ceasefires – and then violated – to withdraw civilians and aid to Mariupol.

Among them was Tamila Mazurenka, who said she ran away from Mariupol on Monday and reached Berdyansk that night. Mazurenka said she waited for the bus until Friday, having spent one night in the field.

“I only have one question: why?” She said of the trials of her city. “We lived as normal people. And our normal life was ruined. And we lost everything. I don’t have a job, I can’t find my son. “

Mariupol, which was surrounded by Russian troops a month ago, has become the scene of some of the war’s worst attacks, including on the maternity hospital and theater, where civilians have taken refuge. It is estimated that about 100,000 people remain in the city compared to the 430,000 pre-war population and face acute shortages of water, food, fuel and medicine.

The capture of the city will give Moscow an intact land bridge from Russia to Crimea, which it captured in Ukraine in 2014, but also acquired symbolic significance during the Russian invasion, said Vladimir Fesenko, head of Ukraine’s Penta think tank.

“Mariupol has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, and without his conquest Putin can not sit down at the negotiating table,” – said Fesenko.

Zelensky’s adviser Alexei Arestovich said in an interview with Russian lawyers and activists Mark Feigin that Russia and Ukraine have reached an agreement that “in the coming days” will allow 45 buses to go to Mariupol to evacuate residents.

Such agreements have been reached before, but they were violated. On Thursday, Russian troops blocked a convoy of 45 buses trying to evacuate people from Mariupol and confiscated 14 tons of food and medicine bound for the city, Ukrainian authorities said.

Turkey’s defense minister said his country had offered to help evacuate civilians by sea from Mariupol, where the Turkish authorities estimated that about 30 of their citizens remained trapped in the siege.

About 500 refugees from eastern Ukraine, including 99 children and 12 people with disabilities, arrived in the Russian city of Kazan by train at night. Asked whether he sees an opportunity to return home, Mariupol resident Artur Kirillov said: “It is unlikely that the city is gone.”

Meanwhile, Pope Francis on Saturday accused Russia of waging a “wild” war in Ukraine and said he was considering a trip to Kyiv. Francis, who was on a visit to Malta, said “some ruler” had unleashed the world’s threat of nuclear war in “infantile and destructive aggression” under the guise of “anachronistic declarations of nationalist interests”.

The Pope did not name Putin on Saturday, but his topic was clear enough.

On the outskirts of Kiev everywhere signs of fierce fighting after the Russian redeployment. Destroyed armored vehicles of both armies were left in the streets and fields and scattered military equipment covered the ground next to the remaining Russian tank.

Ukrainian forces have returned the city of Brovary 20 kilometers east of the capital, Mayor Igor Sapozhko said in a televised address on Friday night. Shops were being rebuilt and residents were returning, but “still ready to defend” their city, he added.

“The Russian occupiers have left almost the entire Brovary district,” Sapozhka said. “Tonight (Ukrainian) armed forces will work to clear the settlements of (other) occupiers, military equipment and possibly mines.”

Elsewhere, at least three Russian ballistic missiles were fired on Friday night Odessa region on the Black Sea, said the head of the region Maxim Marchenko. The Ukrainian military said Iskander missiles did not hit the critical infrastructure they targeted in Odessa. The largest port in Ukraine and the headquarters of his navy.

Ukrainian officials say the death toll from a Russian missile strike on Tuesday on a government building in Mykolayiv, a port city east of Odessa, has risen to 33, with another 34 injured. The confirmed death toll is growing steadily as the search and rescue operation continues.

As the war dragged on, the U.S. Department of Defense said Friday night that it was providing an additional $ 300 million in weapons to Ukrainian forces, including laser-guided missile systems, drones, armored vehicles, night vision devices and ammunition. Also included are medical supplies, field equipment and parts.

There was no information on Saturday about the latest round of talks between the Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, which took place on Friday on video. During a round of talks earlier this week, Ukraine said it was ready to abandon its application for NATO membership and declare itself neutral – Moscow’s main demand – in exchange for security guarantees from a number of other countries.

On Friday, the Kremlin accused Ukraine of carrying out a helicopter attack on a fuel depot on Russian soil.

Ukraine denies responsibility for a fire blast at a civilian oil depot on the outskirts of Belgorod, about 25 kilometers (16 miles) from the border with Ukraine. If Moscow’s statements are confirmed, it will be the first known attack in the war, during which Ukrainian aircraft entered Russian airspace.

Secretary of the National Security Council of Ukraine Alexei Danilov said on Ukrainian television: “For some reason they say we did it, but in fact it is not true.” Later, in an interview with Fox News, Zelensky declined to say whether Ukraine was behind the attack.

Karmanov reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Andrea Rosa of Irpen, Ukraine, and Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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