Konashenkov said the Russian move was being made “in order to achieve the stated goals of the special military operation to liberate Donbas,’” an eastern area home to two separatist regions that Russia has declared sovereign.
Igor Girkin, a Russian who was an early leader of a Moscow-backed separatist uprising in Donetsk in 2014, sneered at the portrayal of the pullback being strategic.
Earlier Saturday, Ukrainian officials claimed major gains in the Kharkiv region, saying their troops had cut off vital supplies to Izyum.
The military did not immediately confirm entering the town, a railway hub that Russia seized in February.
Vladislav Sokolov, head of the Russian-appointed local administration, said on social media that authorities in Izyum had started evacuating residents to Russia.
Analysts suggest Russia may have taken soldiers from the east to reinforce the latter area, offering the Ukrainians the opportunity to strike a weakened front line.
However, Zelenskyy said Friday that troops had reclaimed more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region since the start of the counteroffensive. »