At 5:00 a.m. (4:00 a.m. CET), “the transfer of Russian soldiers to the left bank of the Dnipro River was complete,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement published online. “Not a single piece of military equipment and weapons” were left behind on the other side of the river, it said.
Ukrainian flags have already been hoisted in the center of the city of Kherson, as shown by images on social media. However, the Ukrainian regional administration is urging the population not to leave their homes before Ukrainian troops have fully taken over the city and the search for any Russian troops that may have been left behind is complete. The region’s only road bridge over the Dnipro, the Antonivka Bridge, partially collapsed after Russian troops withdrew.
Many Russian soldiers drowned while retreating to the other bank of the river, the Kherson regional administration claimed. The Russian Defense Ministry reported on Friday afternoon that more than 20 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed by minefields trying to pursue Russian troops, according to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. These reports cannot be independently verified.
Even after the withdrawal of its troops, Moscow continues to regard the Ukrainian region of Kherson as Russian territory. The Kherson region will remain part of the Russian Federation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Interfax news agency. “This status is determined and consolidated by law. There are no changes here and there cannot be any,” said Peskov.
On Wednesday, Russia announced the withdrawal of troops from the region’s capital, Cherson, because supplying its own soldiers had become impossible, for example due to bridges that were no longer usable. Since then, the Ukrainian armed forces have reported a gradual advance in the region. Several towns were therefore freed again. After the failure of the advance on Kyiv and the retreat at Kharkiv, this is considered another military defeat for Russia.
When asked if the defeat in Kherson wasn’t humiliating for Putin, Peskov replied with a “no”. At the end of September, Putin boldly declared four Ukrainian regions, including Cherson, to be part of Russia at a ceremony in the Kremlin. Peskov made it clear that the Kremlin does not regret the celebrations on Red Square for the incorporation of the regions. The international community sees the annexations as a breach of international law.