Russia will retreat from the occupied city of Kherson, Putin’s top military officials have announced, marking a major setback for the Kremlin.
Sergei Shoigu, the Kremlin’s defence minister, on Wednesday ordered his troops to withdraw from the west bank of the Dnipro River in the face of Ukrainian attacks. The announcement marked one of Russia’s most significant retreats and a potential turning point in the war, now nearing the end of its ninth month. Kherson is only regional centre Moscow’s forces have captured and held since President Putin launched the invasion in February, its loss is a significant blow.
In televised comments, General Sergei Surovikin, in overall command of the war, said it was no longer possible to supply Kherson city. He said he proposed to take up defensive lines on the eastern bank of the river admitting it was “not a very simple decision.”
Gen Surovikin, appointed by Mr Putin recently to get a grip on Russia’s ailing military campaign, said 115,000 people had been evacuated from the city since Russia started moving out civilians in anticipation of a Ukrainian assault.“There will be an additional threat to the civilian population and the complete isolation of our group of troops on the right bank of the Dniper,” he said of the situation in the southern region. “Under these conditions, the most expedient option is to organise a defense along the barrier line of the Dniper River. Assessing the situation, it is proposed to take up defense along the left bank of the Dniper River.”
One of Russia’s leading officials in the occupied region, one of four illegally annexed by Moscow last month, was killed in a car crash on Wednesday.
The death of Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed local administration, came just hours before troops were ordered to leave Kherson city.
Russia was thought to have been planning a retreat across the Dnipro river for the past week or so as a battle for Kherson looked set to be highly damaging.
Photo Credit: Getty