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Putin's top propagandist says Russia 'practically' took Kyiv at the start of the war, overlooking its humiliating retreat from the city

Business Insider India logo Business Insider India 05-12-2022 Sinéad Baker
  • The editor of Russia's RT outlet said Russia "practically" took Ukraine's capital in its invasion.
  • In reality Russia never took Kyiv, and instead retreated and never returned.

Russia's top propagandist said that Russia "practically" took Ukraine's capital city at the start of its invasion, when in reality Russia's army ended up making a humiliating retreat.

Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russian news outlet RT, made the claim in a TV appearance where she denied that Russia would strike Kyiv with nuclear missiles.

She said Russia would never use a nuclear weapon against Kyiv partly because Russia had almost taken the city earlier in the war, according to a translation by The Daily Beast's Julia Davis.

Simonyan said: "We will never conduct a nuclear strike against Kyiv. Never. This is something that is totally ruled out for several reasons."

She said one reason is that "it's totally senseless, it wouldn't solve anything, because we already defeated Kyiv during the first week. We were already in Hostomel and everywhere else. We practically took it, right?"

Russia started attacking Kyiv shortly after its invasion of Russia began on February 24. It hit the city with missiles as its troops moved closer.

Russia aimed to overthrow Ukraine's Kyiv-based government, but Ukrainian resistance and logistical issues within Russia's army meant that its troops never took the city, even though its missiles caused widespread damage.

A 40-mile-long convoy of military vehicles that was moving towards the city stalled, and then fell apart.

Russian troops retreated from the Kyiv region in April, leaving behind apparent atrocities in some of the cities and towns that it had taken.

Simonyan did acknowledge that Russia's army left Kyiv earlier in the war, but not that the army was effectively forced to retreat.

"I know the servicemen who were there and they were horrified that they were ordered to leave. I personally know these people. Since March, we aren't fighting against Kyiv, we're fighting against the West. So why the heck would we nuke Kyiv?" she asked.

She said the main reason that Russia would "never bomb Kyiv" is because "our holy sites" are in the city.

But Russia's attacks earlier in the war did cause damage to important religious sites in the city, as well as residential buildings and architecture.

UNESCO said that at least 33 significant sites in Kyiv were damaged, including multiple churches and museums.

Russian strikes have also destroyed multiple religious sites across Ukraine.

Simonyan hinted that Russia could bomb Washington, London, or Berlin, as Russia has no holy sites in those cities.

Russia currently has no military presence in or near Kyiv, though it is conducting missile strikes against the city and other built up areas far from the war's front lines, knocking out power infrastructure, damaging buildings and killing some civilians.

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