Russia withdraws its troops from Kherson, but the Ukrainian authorities are skeptical

Kyiv, Ukraine — The Russian army announced on Wednesday that it would withdraw from the only Ukrainian regional capital he captured, but Kyiv was skeptical and an analyst warned it could be a ruse to lure the country’s forces into a deadly trap. A forced withdrawal from the city of Kherson would mark one of Russia’s worst setbacks in the 8-month war.

Ukrainian authorities have warned against viewing the announced plan to withdraw from Kherson, a gateway to the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula and neighboring regions, as a fait accompli. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that the Russians are faking a withdrawal from Kherson to draw the Ukrainian army into an entrenched battle in the strategic industrial port city.

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People draped in Ukrainian flags march towards Russian army trucks during a rally against Russian occupation in the city of Kherson, Ukraine, in a March 20, 2022 file photo.

Oleksandr Chornyi/AP

If confirmed, the withdrawal from Kherson – to a region of the same name that Moscow illegally annexed in September – would add another setback to Russia’s failed first attempt to capture the capital, Kyiv, and the chaotic and hasty retreat from the administrative region around The second largest city in Ukraine, Kharkiv, which itself never fell into Russian hands. Russian forces captured Kherson early in the invasion, which began on February 24.

Kyiv Forces focused on the citywhose pre-war population was 280,000, and has cut supply lines in recent weeks as part of a wider counter-offensive in eastern and southern Ukraine that has pushed Russian troops out of large swaths of territory.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak stressed on Wednesday that the effort to retake the city was not yet over, saying that until the Ukrainian flag was flown over Kherson, it makes “no sense” to discuss a Russian retreat.

Reclaiming Kherson could allow Ukraine to win back lost territory in the Zaporizhzhia region and other southern regions, including Crimea, which Russia illegally seized in 2014. A Russian retreat is almost certain to increase internal pressure on the Kremlin to aggravate the conflict.

Speaking sternly and with a steely face on Russian television, Moscow’s top military commander in Ukraine pointed to a blurry map as he reported to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday that he was impossible to supply the city of Kherson and that its defense would be “useless”.

General Sergei Surovikin said 115,000 people had been displaced because their “lives are in constant danger” and proposed a military retreat “in the near future” to the opposite bank of the Dnieper where Kherson is located.

Shoigu agreed with Surovikin’s assessment and ordered him to “begin with the withdrawal of troops and take all measures to ensure the safe transfer of personnel, weapons and equipment across the Dnieper “.

But Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press: “So far, we see no signs that Russia is leaving town altogether, which means these statements may be misinformation.

Yaroslav Yanushevych, the Ukrainian governor of Kherson, called on residents “not to give in to euphoria” for now. Another Ukrainian-appointed Kherson regional official, Serhii Khlan, told reporters that Russian forces blew up five bridges to slow down Kyiv forces.

Military analyst Oleg Zhdanov told the AP that the retreat announced by Russia “could very well be a Russian ambush and trap to force the Ukrainians to go on the offensive, to force them to penetrate the Russian defenses, and in response to striking with a powerful blow from the flanks.”

After a day of observations from his aides on the announced retirement and a meeting he held with his senior staff in Kyiv, Zelenskyy did not comment directly, saying in his nightly video address: “Our emotions must be contained – always during the war. I will certainly not give the enemy all the details of our operations. … When we have our result, everyone will see it.”

The authorities installed by Russia had ordered all residents of Kherson to leave “immediately” at the end of October, before an expected advance by Ukrainian troops who led a counter-offensive aimed at retaking the occupied zone.

Last week, CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent Holly Williams met one of the Ukrainian soldiers – a former crane operator who joined the army at the start of the war – who helped liberate village after village on the outskirts. from the city of Kherson.

A Ukrainian soldier recounts what he saw on the front line


Private Andriy Rogalski was keen to show Williams the small town of Vysokopillia. Like many other communities in the Kherson region, Russian forces occupied it for months, leaving many of its homes shattered. Rogalski described to CBS News how Ukrainian forces surrounded the city, overwhelming the Russians until the remaining troops fled in September.

On the main street of Vysokopillia, Williams and Rogalski met 74-year-old Nadia Sabsai as she cycled home. She showed CBS News the basement of her building, where she said eight families had taken refuge, their children trembling in fear, during the intense battle to liberate the city.

A map shows the oblasts, or politically administered regions of Ukraine and their regional capitals. The Kherson region is in the far south, just north of the Crimean peninsula.


Russia’s brutal occupation of much of the Kherson region has left many towns like Vysokopillia reeling, and there is still plenty of ground to be reclaimed. More than half of Kherson lies east of the Dnieper River, and orders issued by Russia’s defense chief on Wednesday called for Russian forces to establish their new defensive line on its eastern bank.

Surovikin, Putin’s relatively new commanding general in Ukraine, whose brutal tactics in The civil war in Syria earned him the nickname “General Armageddon”, told the defense minister in Moscow that the decision to bring Russian forces back to the bank of the Dnieper was “not easy”, but he said it would “save the lives of our servicemen”.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin applauds Colonel General Sergei Surovikin during an award ceremony for troops who fought in Syria, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, December 28, 2017.

Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

In its latest assessment of the situation in Ukraine, published online earlier on Wednesday, Britain’s Defense Intelligence Agency said the only bridge connecting the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula to the Russian mainland had been damaged, caused by an explosion weeks ago that Kyiv neither claimed nor denied causing, combined with a recent Ukrainian attack on the Russian Navy in the Black Sea” and the likely withdrawal from Kherson all complicate the Russian government’s ability to paint a picture of military success”.

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