Another humiliating defeat for Moscow’s soldiers in the eight-month-old conflict takes the form of Russia’s order for its troops to leave strategically vital Kherson.
It is no longer viable to supply the city and adjacent areas of the west bank of the Dnipro River, according to General Sergei Surovikin, Russia’s top commander in Ukraine.
Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu responded by saying:
“I agree with your conclusions and proposals. Proceed with the withdrawal of troops and take all measures to transfer forces across the river.”
Early in the conflict, Russia captured Kherson City, which had a pre-war population of 280,000; it is still the only regional capital to have fallen. Along with Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia, four other Ukrainian areas were officially annexed in September.
Russian talk of leaving Kherson is premature.
According to Ukrainian presidential advisor Mikhailo Podolyak:
“It’s necessary to separate words from deeds. Until the Ukrainian flag is flying over Kherson, it makes no sense to talk about a Russian withdrawal. Ukraine does not take these statements by Russia into consideration. It is still too early to talk about the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson: a grouping of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is being maintained in the city, and additional manpower is being pulled into the region. Our armed forces work according to their plan: reconnaissance, risk assessment, effective counterattack.”
Mykhailo Mykhailovych Podolyak, currently serving as an adviser to the president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, tweeted that “Actions speak louder than words. We see no signs that Russia is leaving Kherson without a fight.”
Why is Ukraine’s Kherson region so strategically important?
Kherson, a province in southern Ukraine, borders Crimea and offers Moscow a land link to the peninsula in the Black Sea that it took from Kyiv in 2014.
Russia would lose access to that land corridor if Kyiv’s forces, who are launching a counterattack in the area, are successful in retaking significant portions of that terrain. Achieving such military success would also enable Ukraine to deploy long-range artillery closer to Crimea, which Moscow regards as being crucial to its interests.
If Ukraine were to recapture the partially held Kherson region, the territory’s fresh water supply to Crimea would likewise be in jeopardy.
NATO chief says Putin made ‘several huge mistakes’ over Ukraine
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said,. “President Putin made several huge mistakes when he invaded Ukraine, strategic mistakes,” Stoltenberg told reporters while on a visit to the United Kingdom.
“One was to underestimate the Ukrainians – their courage, their commitment to fight and protect their country. The other mistake he made was to underestimate NATO allies, partners, in our ability to support Ukraine.”
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