The Kremlin maintained its defiance as state television released an interview with Dmitri S. Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, characterizing the United States as being at the root of Europe’s ills. He expressed confidence that European countries would renew relations with Russia once they “sober up a little from the American bourbon.”
Mr. Kofman, the expert on the Russian military, said the Russian pullback from Kyiv had begun quietly about a week ago and had now accelerated.
After the assault on the capital stalled about two weeks ago, he said, only two options remained: withdrawing or leaving forces in the area to pin down Ukrainian units, preventing them from reinforcing troops in the country’s east or south. It now appears the Russians are withdrawing, he said.
Throughout Ukraine, he said, the Russian army has lost about 2,000 pieces of equipment that were either destroyed, captured or abandoned, including about 350 tanks.
In other developments on Saturday, Pope Francis, visiting the Mediterranean island nation of Malta, edged closer to blaming President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for the war in Ukraine than he had before. In an address to Maltese dignitaries and officials, the pope blamed a “potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests” for casting “dark shadows of war” from Europe’s east.
Francis has declined to explicitly blame Mr. Putin or Russia as the aggressor for various reasons, including the Vatican’s hopes of playing a role in a potential peace agreement, and out of precaution to not endanger Roman Catholics around the world. But on Saturday, he clearly seemed to be speaking about Mr. Putin, who he said was “provoking and fomenting conflicts.”