Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered the withdrawal of his troops from Kherson City to the east bank of the Dnieper River, dealing a devastating blow to Vladimir Putin's desire to conquer Ukraine. Wednesday, Shoigu decided after receiving a recommendation to do so from General Sergey Surovikin, the head of the Russian forces in Ukraine.
"Shoigu agreed with the proposal to organize defense along the Dnieper River: proceed with the withdrawal of troops," according to RIA Novosti's report of Surovikin's videotaped report to Shoigu, which was broadcast in Russian media.
Surovikin replied, "The troop maneuver will be executed shortly, and the formations will occupy the prepared defensive lines on the [east] bank of the Dnieper." "The decision to defend on the [east] bank of the Dnipro is not an easy one, but it will save the lives of our military personnel and preserve the combat effectiveness of the group of troops."
According to the Moscow Times, Shoigu stated that the life and health of Russian military personnel are always a top priority.
Meanwhile, Russian milboggers reported their departure from the city.
The head of Ukraine's Defense Intelligence agency (GUR), Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov told The War Zone that the city would be captured after a bloody battle by the end of November. In addition, the GUR and other Ukrainian officials suggested last week that Russia may be attempting to lure Ukraine into a trap, a topic covered in this article.
Wednesday, Mykhailo Podolyak, a close advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, stated that it remains to be seen whether Russia will withdraw from Kherson City.
In recent days, the likelihood of a Russian withdrawal from the area has increased, according to local officials.
Serhii Khlan, the deputy head of the regional council of Ukraine's Kherson, stated on his Facebook page, "I predicted that the invaders would have no other way out. And this is what transpired. Friends, are you counting down the days until our meeting in Kherson? ”
Earlier in the day, during a press conference at the Ukrainian Media Center, Khlan stated that the Russians had blown up several bridges in Kherson Oblast as part of their retreat.
In support of a withdrawal, he added that Russian forces were reinforcing approaches to the road over the Kharkovka Hydroelectric Power Plant dam.
Although the precise timing of the withdrawal is unknown, it occurs as Ukrainian forces advanced in Kherson Oblast.
Kherson City is the sole regional capital of Ukraine held by Russia since its full-scale invasion. Although a blow to Putin, the move is consistent with Surovikin's stated strategy of digging in, attempting to hold territory where possible, and allowing Ukrainian forces to exhaust themselves from advancing.
However, taking Kherson City to the west bank of the Dnieper would be a major victory for Ukraine, as we reported last month.
The Institute for the Study of War reported last month that Russian ground attacks against the southwestern region of Ukraine would likely be exceedingly difficult. Therefore, the long-term defensibility of Mykolayiv, Odesa, and the entire Ukrainian Black Sea coast hinges heavily on the liberation of western Kherson.
Though Shoigu desires an orderly withdrawal across the Dnieper, Ukraine will likely attempt to make it as challenging as possible.
Russian forces have prepared fortifications along the east bank and further south, making it likely that crossing the Dnipro will be a formidable challenge for Ukrainian troops.
The river is about a half-mile wide and at times even wider near Kherson City. During its Kherson Oblast counteroffensive, Ukrainian forces frequently bombarded Russian river crossings with M31 guided rockets fired from the HIMARS system, impeding their ability to resupply the city.
Therefore, the question is whether Russia's withdrawal will be contested, and if so, to what extent, and what will they leave behind for Ukraine to add to its expanding military arsenal.
If Russia does indeed retreat to the eastern bank of the Dnieper, it could set the stage for a brutal and potentially protracted artillery battle across the English Channel.