Ukraine takes back positions near Kyiv and inflicts 'huge losses' on Russian troops

25 March 2022, 08:38 | Updated: 25 March 2022, 08:49

Ukrainian forces have pushed back against Russia on the outskirts of Kyiv
Ukrainian forces have pushed back against Russia on the outskirts of Kyiv. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Ukrainian troops have struck back at the Russian advance on Kyiv, taking back towns and strategically important defensive positions which were captured by invading troops.

The Ministry of Defence says Ukrainian troops have reoccupied multiple areas up to 21 miles east of the Ukrainian capital.

In its latest intelligence update, the MoD said: "Ukrainian counter-attacks, and Russian forces falling back on overextended supply lines, has allowed Ukraine to reoccupy towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometres east of Kyiv.

"Ukrainian forces are likely to continue to attempt to push Russian forces back along the north-western axis from Kyiv towards Hostomel Airfield.

"In the south of Ukraine, Russian forces are still attempting to circumvent Mykolaiv as they look to drive west towards Odesa, with their progress being slowed by logistic issues and Ukrainian resistance."

Professor Gwythian Prins, former adviser to NATO and a member of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s Strategy Advisory Panel up to 2014, told LBC today: “We are at the culmination point, the high-tide moment for Russians. They have run out of energy.

“They have lost more people and almost as much equipment in 24 days than they lost in Afghanistan in 9 years and 9 months.”

Yesterday Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said Europe was "a little too late" to stop Russia's invasion, by not sanctioning Moscow and blocking the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline earlier.

In a separate development, Boris Johnson was accused by the Kremlin of being the most active 'anti-Russian' leader as he announced fresh sanctions and urged a targeting of Vladimir Putin's gold reserves.

Downing Street hit back, saying the Prime Minister was instead "among the most active anti-Putin leaders" as sought to rally leaders at a Nato summit in Brussels to provide more defensive military support to Ukraine.

In a virtual address to the allies on Thursday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded for "1% of all your planes, 1% of all your tanks" but it appeared his demand would not be met.

Mr Johnson had instead committed a new package of 6,000 more missiles and announced sanctions against a further 65 individuals and entities.

Among those hit with travel bans and asset freezes were the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organisation accused of plotting to assassinate Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Speaking to broadcasters after landing in Belgium's capital, Mr Johnson said: "We've got to tighten the economic vice around Putin, sanctioning more people today, as we are, sanctioning the Wagner Group, looking at what we can do to stop Putin using his gold reserves, and also doing more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves."

The Foreign Office said a total of 1,000 fresh sanctions have been handed out since the invasion begun, with the new round including Russian billionaire Eugene Shvidler and Galina Danilchenko, who was installed by Moscow as the mayor of occupied Melitopol in south-east Ukraine.

Britain's response in particular appeared to be riling Mr Putin.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the state-owned RIA news agency as saying: "As for Mr Johnson, we see him as the most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian.

"It will lead to a foreign policy dead end."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman firmly denied Mr Johnson being "anti-Russian".

"The Prime Minister is among the most active anti-Putin leaders," he said.

"We have no issue with the Russian people and in fact we have seen many bravely protest - not least (jailed opposition leader) Alexei Navalny - against Putin's regime and call on them to cease this war," the spokesman said.

Praising him as "one of the most extraordinary war leaders of recent times", Mr Johnson said Mr Zelensky wants tighter sanctions on Mr Putin's regime and "very specific defensive military support" for his armed forces.

"And that, we're determined to provide," Mr Johnson said.

He also hit out at Moscow's bid to host Euro 2028, saying Russia should withdraw its forces and the football tournament should be handed to Ukraine.

"The idea of Russia holding any kind of football tournament or any kind of cultural event right now is beyond satire," he said.

"The best thing possible would be for the entire Russian armed forces to retire forthwith from Ukraine and to hand it to them, of course."

However, those remarks came just a day after the UK and Ireland football associations submitted their joint formal interest in staging the tournament.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson was responding to a question about Moscow's "brazen and sorely misjudged" attempt to obtain a platform on the international stage by hosting the tournament.

"Clearly we remain entirely committed to the UK and Ireland bid for Euro 2028 which retains the Government's full backing," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

During his virtual address to leaders including US President Joe Biden, Mr Zelensky was understood not to have reiterated his plea for Nato to install a no-fly zone above Ukraine, following fears it would provoke a wider conflict.

A western official speaking after the summit did not rule out individual leaders providing tanks or planes as requested by the Ukrainian leader, but said "there was no direct discussion about allies providing that sort of equipment now".

They said leaders agreed Russia using chemical weapons in Ukraine would mark a "fundamental change" in the Ukrainian conflict that would be met with a "very severe response".

The western official said it was "highly unlikely" that would cause allies to send their troops to the conflict, but would not outline what the response would be, saying "we need to keep Putin guessing."

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg did announce an agreement to provide assistance in the cyber-security sphere and equipment to protect against biological, chemical and nuclear threats.

Leaders also approved the deployment of new Nato battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia to shore up the defence alliance's eastern flank.

Six more banks were among those being sanctioned with asset freezes and travel bans, as was one of the world's largest diamond producer Alrosa, and Polina Kovaleva, the stepdaughter of Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.