The Russians are retreating from Kherson, but the battle is far from over
Ukrainian armed forces continue to move towards the Kherson front in Ukraine on November 9, 2022.
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Russia’s withdrawal from a large part of Kherson in southern Ukraine is likely to be dangerous for both sides in the war, according to analysts, who said the battle for the region is “not over”.
Russia said on Thursday that its forces were beginning to withdraw from the west bank of the Dnieper River that divides the Kherson region, while Ukraine said that its forces had already advanced four miles and liberated 12 settlements in the region since Wednesday – a day when top Russian military officials announced that he would withdraw Russian troops from the city of Kherson and its surroundings and return to defensive positions on the other side of the river.
Ukraine’s government has said it is skeptical of a Russian withdrawal, although its forces on the ground on Thursday appeared to be seizing the opportunity to target large groups of Russian troops preparing to withdraw. One Ukrainian official in Kherson he stated that while Russian forces were moving their equipment to the east bank of the river, “we are destroying it”.
Damaged parts of the city of Velika Aleksandrovka, in the Kherson region, on October 24, 2022.
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Analysts say the withdrawal from Kherson is likely to pose major challenges for both the Russians — as they pull back from the region — and Ukrainian troops as they try to retake the city of Kherson and the surrounding area.
“The Battle of Kherson is not over, but Russian forces have entered a new phase – prioritizing withdrawing their forces across the river in good order and delaying Ukrainian forces, rather than trying to stop the Ukrainian counteroffensive entirely,” analysts at the Institute for the Study of War noted on Wednesday in the evening.
The institute said it would take some time for the entire Russian contingent to withdraw across the Dnieper, and that it was unclear whether Russian forces would be able to conduct the withdrawal in relatively good order under pressure from Ukraine.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense agreed that the withdrawal was likely to be fraught with difficulties, with Ukrainian forces trying to retake and liberate the Russian-occupied part of Kherson also facing dangers in the endeavour.
“Retreating, Russian forces destroyed multiple bridges and likely planted mines to slow down and delay the advance of Ukrainian forces,” the ministry said in an intelligence update on Twitter on Thursday.
For Russia, the lack of passable bridges would likely be a problem, it added: “With limited crossings, Russian forces will be vulnerable in crossing the Dnieper River. The retreat is likely to take several days with defensive positions and artillery fire covering the retreating forces.”
Already on Thursday, there were signs that fighting in Kherson was intensifying as Russian troops withdrew.
Serhiy Khlan, a member of the Kherson Regional Council, said on Facebook that a large group of Russian soldiers was blown up in Kahovka, Kherson.
Another Ukrainian official noted that Russia has not asked Ukraine to create a “green corridor” or safe route for the safe withdrawal of its troops from Kherson.
Separately, Ukraine’s Southern Command said today that its forces attacked “two strongholds of Russian occupiers, an enemy equipment column and an ammunition depot” on Thursday as enemy forces massed in the area.
“As a result of the attack, Ukrainian defenders eliminated 125 occupiers, three enemy tanks, five units of armored vehicles and an ammunition depot in Berislav district,” it added. Berislav lies upstream from Kherson, on the same western bank of the river – the bank from which the Russian forces are preparing to withdraw.
The Southern Command reiterated claims that Russia is laying landmines and leaving roadblocks, allegedly in an attempt to obstruct Ukrainian forces seeking to advance and retake the area. Mikhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, said the Russians wanted to “turn Kherson into a ‘city of death'” as they retreated.
While efforts to retake Kherson could be dangerous, analysts say Ukrainian forces have waged a well-led campaign to retake Kherson from Russia.
“Ukraine’s counteroffensive toward Kherson since August — a coordinated interdiction campaign to force Russian forces to withdraw across the Dnieper without the need for major Ukrainian ground offensives — has likely succeeded,” analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said on Wednesday.
A Ukrainian tank driver near the Kherson front in Ukraine on November 9, 2022.
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The institute said Ukrainian forces targeted Russian troops, military assets and logistics across the Kherson region “to render continuous Russian positions on the west bank unsustainable without the need for large-scale and costly ground maneuvers to liberate the territory.”
“Ukrainian troops launched sustained attacks on bridges over the Dnieper River and targeted supply centers and ammunition depots on the east bank…degrading the ability of Russian forces to supply the group on the west bank; Ukrainian forces combined these strikes with careful and successful ground attacks on key locations such as Davidiv Bridge. This campaign has borne fruit,” it said.
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