Ukrainian forces recapture key town outside Kyiv

Ukrainian officials played down the chances of a breakthrough, but the fact that they were taking place at all was a sign of shifts behind the scenes as Russia’s invasion has stalled and sanctions have hit home.

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KYIV: Ukrainian forces on Monday recaptured the town of Irpin on the outskirts of Kyiv from invading Russian troops.

“We have good news today — Irpin has been liberated,” said the town’s mayor, Oleksandr Markushyn.

A senior US defense official said the Ukrainians were “continuing to try to take back ground,” and the eastern town of Trostyanets, south of Sumy, was also back in their hands.

Meanwhile, face-to-face peace talks will resume in Istanbul on Tuesday for the first time since an acrimonious meeting between foreign ministers on March 10.

Ukrainian officials played down the chances of a breakthrough, but the fact that they were taking place at all was a sign of shifts behind the scenes as Russia’s invasion has stalled and sanctions have hit home.

However, neither side has budged over Russia’s territorial demands, including Crimea, which Moscow seized and annexed in 2014, and the eastern territory of Donbas, which Moscow demands that Kyiv cede to separatists.

“I don’t think there will be any breakthrough on the main issues,” Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said.

There was no sign of respite for civilians in besieged Ukrainian cities, especially the devastated port of Mariupol, whose mayor said 160,000 people were still trapped inside and Russia was blocking attempts to evacuate them.

Russia’s military said last week it would concentrate on expanding territory held by the separatists in Donbas, but Ukraine said it saw no sign Russia had given up a plan to surround the capital.

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said 100 people had been killed, including four children, and 82 multistory buildings had been leveled, but the city would not give up.

“We have destroyed the myth of the invincible Russian army,” Klitschko said.

“We are resisting against the aggression of one of the strongest armies in the world and have succeeded in making them change their goals.”

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