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Russia withdrew forces from the strategic Black Sea outpost of Snake Island in what the defence ministry described as a “gesture of goodwill” to help restore Ukrainian grain shipments, but which Kyiv claimed was a humiliating retreat.

The ministry said on Thursday that its troops had “finished fulfilling their tasks” and “demonstrated that Russia is not blocking the UN’s efforts to organise a humanitarian corridor to export agricultural goods from Ukraine”.

Kyiv rejected this, saying it had driven Russian forces from Snake Island with an artillery bombardment. Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said the victory showed that allies “should not be wary of providing Ukraine with more heavy weapons”.

Russian and Ukrainian military claims cannot be independently verified.

Other key maps and charts from the war

The shift in the conflict’s focus towards the Donbas region follows Russia’s failure to capture Kyiv during the first phase of the war. The Russians were thwarted by a combination of factors, including geography, the attackers’ blundering and modern arms — as well as Ukraine’s ingenuity with smartphones and pieces of foam mat.

Map showing Ukrainian counter-offensive area around Kyiv

The number of Ukrainians fleeing the conflict makes it one of the largest refugee crises in modern history.

Nearly 12mn people have fled the Ukraine conflict

Despite starting only a few months ago, the war has resulted in nearly twice as many people leaving Ukraine compared with those that fled the Iraq war, which spanned nine years.

In mid-March, an attack on a Ukrainian military base, which had been used by US troops to train Ukrainian soldiers, added to Russia’s increasingly direct threats that Nato’s continued support of Ukraine risked making it an enemy combatant in the war. On March 24, Nato agreed to establish four new multinational battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia to add to troops in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Map of Europe showing Nato member countries with locations of different military presences (multinational troops, air and sea forces, and other military)

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, Rochan Consulting, FT research

Cartography and development by Steve Bernard, Chris Campbell, Caitlin Gilbert, Emma Lewis, Joanna S Kao, Sam Learner, Ændra Rininsland, Niko Kommenda, Alan Smith, Martin Stabe, Neggeen Sadid. Based on reporting by Roman Olearchyk and John Reed in Kyiv, Guy Chazan in Lviv, Henry Foy in Brussels and Neggeen Sadid in London

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