The President of Russia, Vladimir Putinfaces another humiliating defeat after his forces abandoned their positions in the city of Khersonaccording to Western officials.
The Russian commanders fled the city they had captured during the first days of the invasion, leaving the recruits “demoralized and leaderless” to counter the Ukrainian advance. Analysts forecast a victory of defenders by the end of the year, according to information obtained by The Times.
Kherson is the last Russian-occupied city on the western bank of the Dnipro, the river that divides Ukraine. Western officials said it would be “impossible” for Putin to maintain a military presence across the river if Kherson fell.
The capture of the city was first great russian victory after the February invasion, when troops burst from the Crimea in a rapid advance.
However, with the arrival of the boreal winter, the Russian generals seem to have decided abandon your position on the west bank of the Dnipro and concentrate on fortifying their posts on the east bank.
“They have decided that Kherson is not worth fighting forbut that natural defensive barrier of the river is very valuable to them,” a Western official told The Times.
There are signs of a possible withdrawal, but Ukraine is wary of them because they come from Russian sources as well, which could hide a trap from Putin. Photos of the main administrative building of the city of Kherson without the Russian flag. kyiv did not give them credit.
Natalia Humeniuka military spokeswoman for southern Ukraine, warned: “It could be a particular provocation, in order to create the impression that the settlements are abandoned, that it is safe to enter them, while preparing for street battles,” she said.
Russian supply lines, already badly damaged, suffered a new hit this week when a pontoon bridge about nine kilometers from Kherson was damaged. Images posted on the Internet suggest that American rocket launchers Himars they shot six missiles against the bridge.
Western officials are waiting to see if this setback sparks further criticism of the Kremlin; hardliners resent what they see as the invasion’s calamitous mismanagement.
Officials said Russian forces were staying without ammunition and that the Kremlin was importing artillery shells from North Korea. After Putin ordered the recruitment of 300,000 menthe newly mobilized troops appeared at the front without weapons.
Kirill Stremousovdeputy head of the Kherson civil-military administration, insists that life is “going on as normal”.
A pro-Russian leader in southern Ukraine said that Moscow would probably he will withdraw his soldiers from the west bank of the Dnieper River in Kherson, and urged the civilian population to withdraw, which could indicate a withdrawal that would be a setback for Russia’s war.
Moscow’s top officials were silent. The kyiv government remained cautious, suggesting that Russia might be setting a trap for the Ukrainian soldiers.
“Most likely, our units, our soldiers, will leave for the left bank (Eastern),” Stremousov said, in an interview Thursday with Solovyov Livea pro-Kremlin online media outlet.
The zone includes the city of Kherson and one side of a dam across the Dnieper that controls the water supply to irrigate Crimea, the peninsula Russia has occupied since 2014.
Previously, Russia had denied that its forces were planning to withdraw from the area.
In extensive comments on Thursday night in a program organized by television RTStremousov was somewhat more equivocal, saying “we have to make some very difficult decisions now. Whatever our strategy. And some people may be afraid to acknowledge things.”
“But for me it is very important to try to say at this moment: “People, please, go to the east bank. They will be in a much safer position”, Stremousov said.
At another point, Stremousov said he hopes “we don’t leave Kherson” and that if that happens, “it will be a big shock not only in terms of the image of all of us, but a big shock for the people who could stay here.”
(With information from Reuters)