The Russian defense minister announced on TV last night that he was ordering the retreat of Moscow’s forces from Kherson. This could be a serious setback for President Vladimir Putin and his war efforts in the southeastern region.
Russia’s defense minister made a televised announcement about the recent decision to withdraw their military from Ukraine, explaining that it was “difficult” to make but would serve their purpose of saving soldiers’ lives and keeping them in good shape.
With Russia suggesting that it might pull back its forces for a time in order to let Ukraine “come to their senses,” Ukraine warns that Russia might try feigning a retreat to draw them into combat.
On Wednesday, Russia appeared to be retreating but had not confirmed whether the move meant a more permanent withdrawal of the Russian military from Kherson City and the surrounding Russian bridgehead on the Dnipro River’s western bank.
“We see signs that the Russian military is beginning to pull back,” Colonel Kostenko said. “They blew up bridges, which would have allowed our soldiers to advance. They continue abandoning populated areas and leaving behind a few soldiers.”
Ukrainian intelligence agencies were working to assess Russia’s movements but could not confirm anything. They noted that the Russian announcement might be a distraction tactic of some kind and said they would review it in more detail once they found more information.
Blatant Russian propaganda can be countered on the ground because President Zelensky’s advisers aren’t relying on “staged TV statements” from the Russians.
Reports from Russian military bloggers show deep anxiety about Russia’s looming withdrawal from Kherson.
Yuri Kotyonok, an influential blogger, wrote that the decision is “shocking to thousands and millions of people who are fighting for Russia, dying for Russia, believe in Russia, and share the beliefs of the Russian world.”
It would be an embarrassing rout for Vladimir Putin if Ukraine was able to recapture the city of Kherson. It would also be one of the only victories that the country has had since Russia invaded in February.
The armed forces that have broken down the line of defense and entered Kherson have begun looting and arresting members of the civilian administration. The Dnipro river has been sundered, and transmissions have been severed.
Serhii Khlan, the dismissed deputy governor of the Kherson region, has been protesting the government’s lack of action for weeks. The conditions are becoming direr for civilians every day, and without immediate help, there can be a humanitarian catastrophe.
Russian forces have taken control of Kherson, once a major city. The invasion at the end of February was initiated from this Ukrainian Black Sea port to ensure maximum strategic and symbolic importance.
Ukraine’s military and psychological health may be enhanced by a winter retreat from Kherson, but there are still plenty of challenges to overcome before that retreat can happen. The biggest one will be fighting in severe climatic conditions as the winter approaches.