Kherson: Russian Defense Minister orders withdrawal of Russian forces from west bank
Russia has ordered a retreat from the key city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, a dramatic strategic setback for Moscow in the face of Ukrainian advances in the region.
Russian troops will withdraw from the west bank of the Dnipro River across the Kherson region, Russian state media reported Wednesday.
Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu made the order, according to state media, which came as Ukrainian forces make advances towards the city from two directions.
The Russian withdrawal would represent the most significant military moment in the war since Ukrainian forces swept through the northern Kharkiv region in September.
Defending occupied territory on the west bank of Kherson had become increasingly difficult for the Russians as Ukrainian forces disabled bridges across the Dnipro and attacked Russian supply lines.
More recently, the Ukrainian army has made advances along two fronts towards Kherson city. In response, Russian forces have begun fortifying positions on the opposite bank of the river.
Kherson was one of four Ukrainian regions illegally annexed by Russia in September. Once the withdrawal is complete, several thousand square kilometers of that annexed territory will have been surrendered.
The order to withdraw to the east bank of the Dnipro river came at a meeting in Moscow between Defense Minister Shoigu and the commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, Gen. Sergei Surovikin.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Surovikin said that “Kherson [city] and adjacent settlements in the current conditions cannot be fully supplied and function.”
Surovikin claimed that “The Armed Forces of Ukraine are attacking schools, hospitals and civilians in Kherson, who are being evacuated to the other side of the Dnipro river.”
Surovikin, who had warned that difficult choices would be required when he was appointed overall commander of the operation, said: “The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation successfully resisted the attempts of the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the direction of Kherson.”
He claimed that “from August to October, the Armed Forces of Ukraine lost more than 9,500 people in Kherson,” a number he said was seven to eight times more than Russian losses. It is impossible to verify Surovikin’s claim.