KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian troops are withdrawing from Ukraine’s second-largest city after weeks of heavy bombardment, the Ukrainian military said Saturday, as Kyiv and Moscow’s forces engaged in a grinding battle for the country’s eastern industrial heartland.
Ukraine’s general staff said the Russians were pulling back from the northeastern city of Kharkiv and focusing on guarding supply routes, while launching mortar, artillery and airstrikes in the eastern Donetsk province in order to “deplete Ukrainian forces and destroy fortifications.”
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine was “entering a new – long-term – phase of the war.”
As the country’s top prosecutor put a Russian soldier on trial for war crimes, the first of dozens that could face charges, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainians were doing their “maximum” to drive out the invaders and that the outcome of the war would depend on support from Europe and other allies.
“No one today can predict how long this war will last,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address late Friday.
Russia’s offensive in the Donbas, a mining and industrial region which Moscow-backed separatists have partially controlled since 2014, appeared to be turning into a back-and-forth slog with no major breakthroughs on either side.
After failing to capture Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, the Russian military decided to concentrate on the Donbas, but its troops have struggled to gain and hold ground. Before the war, Ukraine had its most highly trained soldiers in the region to stave off the Russia-backed rebels.
Russia has captured some villages and towns during its invasion. The Ukrainian military chief for the Donbas’ Luhansk province said Friday that Russian troops had nearly full control of Rubizhne, a city with a prewar population of around 55,000.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s forces had also made progress, retaking six Ukrainian towns or villages in the past day.
Western officials said Ukraine…