Ukraine has gathered hundreds of dead Russian soldiers and is storing their bodies in a refrigerated train to send them back to their families.
Soldiers have been brought from all over the Kyiv region, the northern city of Chernihiv and a number of other areas to a railway station just outside Ukraine’s capital, said the country’s top civilian-military liaison officer, Volodymyr Lyamzin.
While there have been no reliable estimates of the number of Russian troops killed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has claimed that 27,000 soldiers have died since the war began.
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People dressed in top-to-toe protective suits were seen lifting body bags into the rooms.
Sir. Lyamzin added that several refrigerated trains were stationed in other regions across the country and were used for the same purpose.
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Anton Garashenko said there were more than 250 dead soldiers stacked in the cars, claiming that Russia “still does not pick up the bodies”.
It comes as Ukraine claims that Russian troops have begun withdrawing from its second-largest city after weeks of heavy bombardment.
Kharkiv has been a key target for Moscow since it moved to take control of the eastern part of the country, called the Donbas, after its inability to conquer Kiev.
Troops, however, have struggled to gain ground.
“The Russians really have not done much in the way of tactical gains recently,” a Western official said, describing the front lines of the war as “oscillating.”
“The Ukrainians continue to launch counter-attacks, especially around Kherson and Kharkiv. We expect this to escalate into a long battle of exhaustion,” the official added, asking to remain anonymous.
Other important developments:
• President Zelenskyy says talks with Russia to get wounded defenders out of Azovstal factory in Mariupol
was “very complex”
• G7 foreign ministers promise to continue to put economic pressure on Russia and supply arms to Ukraine
• Russian fighter jets have participated in Baltic exercises, Interfax reported
• Russia says it will take appropriate action if NATO deployes nuclear forces and infrastructure close to its border
Ukraine has ‘won’ the battle for Kharkiv
Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian forces withdrew from Kharkiv and focused on guarding supply routes while launching mortar, artillery and air strikes on the eastern Donetsk region.
The move indicates that Ukraine has probably won the battle of Kharkiv, according to the US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
It added that Russian units “generally have not tried to hold on” to counter-attacks by Ukrainian forces over the past few days.
“Ukrainian forces prevented Russian troops from encircling, let alone capturing Kharkiv, and then expelled them from all over the city, as they did to Russian forces attempting to capture Kiev,” ISW said.
“Reports from Western officials and a video from an officer from the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) indicate that Moscow is focused on conducting an orderly withdrawal and prioritizing getting Russians home before allowing proxy forces to enter Russia instead of to try to keep its positions near the city. “
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Ukraine’s president said his country’s forces had also made progress in recapturing six towns or villages over the past 24 hours, and that Ukrainians were doing their “maximum” to drive out the invaders.
“No one today can predict how long this war will last,” Mr Zelenskyy said.
War will be over by the end of the year, Ukraine claims
The comments come after Ukraine’s head of military intelligence told Sky News about the war Russia is doing so well that it will be over by the end of the year.
Major General Kyrylo Budanov also said that a coup to remove Russian President Vladimir Putin is already underway and that he is seriously ill with cancer.
The 36-year-old explained that the “breaking point” will be in the second half of August and Russia has suffered “large loss of manpower”.
“We know everything about our enemy. We know about their plans, almost as they are made,” he said.