Ukrainian armed forces continue to move towards the Kherson front in Ukraine on November 9, 2022.
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Russia’s withdrawal from much of Kherson in southern Ukraine is likely to be dangerous for both sides in the war, according to analysts, who said the battle for the region “is not not finished”.
Russia said on Thursday its forces were beginning to withdraw from the western bank of the Dnipro River which runs through the Kherson region, while Ukraine said its forces had already advanced four miles and liberated 12 settlements in the area since then. Wednesday – the day Russia’s top military officials announced they would withdraw Russian troops from the city of Kherson and the surrounding area, and bring them back to defensive positions across the river.
Ukraine’s government has said it is skeptical of Russia’s withdrawal, although its forces on the ground appeared to exploit the opportunity on Thursday to target large groups of Russian troops preparing to withdraw. A Ukrainian official in Kherson said that when Russian forces moved their equipment to the east bank of the river, “we destroy it”.
Damaged parts of the city of Velyka Oleksandrivka, Kherson region, on October 24, 2022.
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Analysts say the withdrawal from Kherson is likely to pose major challenges both to the Russians – as they withdraw from the region – as well as to Ukrainian troops as they attempt to reoccupy the city of Kherson and its surrounding areas. surroundings.
“The Battle of Kherson is not over, but Russian forces have entered a new phase – prioritizing the withdrawal of their forces across the river in good order and delaying Ukrainian forces, rather than to seek to completely halt the Ukrainian counteroffensive,” analysts from the Institute for War Studies noted Wednesday night.
The institute said the entire Russian contingent will take some time to withdraw across the Dnipro, and it is not clear whether Russian forces will be able to carry out the withdrawal in relatively good order under the Ukrainian pressure.
The British Ministry of Defense agreed that the withdrawal was likely to be fraught with difficulty, with Ukrainian forces trying to reoccupy and liberate the Russian-occupied part of Kherson also facing dangers in that endeavour.
“As they retreated, Russian forces destroyed several bridges and likely laid mines to slow and delay the advance of Ukrainian forces,” the ministry said in a Twitter intelligence update on Thursday.
For Russia, the lack of passable bridges was likely to be a problem, she added: “With limited crossing points, Russian forces will be vulnerable when crossing the Dnipro River. It is likely that the withdrawal will take place over several days with defensive positions”. and artillery fire covering the retreating forces.”
The fighting escalates
There were already signs on Thursday that fighting was intensifying in Kherson as Russian troops retreated.
Kherson Regional Council member Serhiy Khlan said on Facebook that a large gathering of Russian troops had exploded at Kakhovka in Kherson.
Another Ukrainian official noted that Russia did not ask Ukraine to create a “green corridor”, or a safe route, for Russia to safely withdraw its troops from Kherson.
Separately, the South Ukraine Command Unit said today that its forces on Thursday attacked “two strongholds of the Russian occupiers, a column of enemy equipment and an ammunition depot” as enemy forces build up In the region.
“As a result of the attacks, Ukrainian defenders eliminated 125 occupants, three enemy tanks, five armored vehicle units and an ammunition depot in the Berislav district,” he added. Berislav lies upstream from Kherson, on the same western bank of the river – the bank from which the Russian forces are about to withdraw.
The Southern Command Unit repeated that Russia was laying landmines and leaving roadblocks, presumably in an effort to impede Ukrainian forces seeking to advance and reoccupy the area. Mikhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Ukrainian president, said the Russians wanted to “turn Kherson into a ‘city of death'” by withdrawing.
While efforts to reoccupy Kherson could be fraught with difficulties, analysts say Ukrainian forces have waged a relentless campaign to retake Kherson from Russia.
“The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the direction of Kherson since August – a coordinated interdiction campaign to force Russian forces to withdraw across the Dnipro without requiring major Ukrainian ground offensives – has probably succeeded,” officials said on Wednesday. analysts from the Institute for the Study of War.
A Ukrainian tank driver near the Kherson front in Ukraine on November 9, 2022.
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The institute said Ukrainian forces had targeted Russian units, military assets and logistics throughout the Kherson region “to render Russian positions in the West Bank untenable without having to conduct large-scale and costly ground maneuvers to liberate the territory”.
“Ukrainian troops launched constant attacks on bridges crossing the Dnipro River and targeted supply centers and ammunition depots on the eastern bank … which degraded the ability of Russian forces to supply the grouping on the bank west; Ukrainian forces have combined these strikes with caution and successful ground attacks on key locations such as Davydiv Brid. This campaign has paid off,” he said.