According to Moscow, Russia has completely withdrawn from the Kherson region in southern Ukraine. The people there celebrate the end of the invasion. In the west, the withdrawal is seen as a defeat, for the Kremlin the area remains Russian.
Russia has now “completely” withdrawn its troops from the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, the Kremlin announced. Government spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency that it was not a defeat for the Moscow leadership. Especially since the area still belongs to Russia: “This status is determined and consolidated by law. There are no changes here and there cannot be any,” said Peskov.
Horn concerts in Kherson
After the invading troops retreated to the other, left bank of the Dnipro (or Dnepr), the remaining residents celebrated with Ukrainian flags and honking their horns. Pictures showed the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine being hoisted again on top of the local oblast administration building. Ukrainian soldiers who were already on the outskirts were enthusiastically greeted by the people with hugs and applause.
There are several interpretations of the withdrawal of the Russian soldiers: The Ukrainian counter-offensive launched at the end of August caused the pressure to become too great. With long-range artillery pieces supplied by the West, Kyiv continued to shell Russian ammunition dumps and supply lines in the region for weeks. Pro-Russian cadres were also being deliberately killed more and more frequently. “The enemy had no choice but to flee,” said Oleksiy Gromov of the Ukrainian General Staff. The constant shelling also made it increasingly difficult to supply the Kremlin’s troops.
Who Destroyed the Antonovsky Bridge?
- The Russian news agency RIA Novosti published footage of Russian military vehicles leaving Kherson via the strategically important Antonovsky Bridge. Several Russian reporters suggested that the bridge was subsequently destroyed. However, it remained unclear whether it was blown up by the Russian army or hit by Ukrainian attacks.
- Also in Moscow’s view, the abandonment of Kherson allows their forces to entrench themselves behind the natural barrier of the Dnipro, which would make it difficult for the Ukrainians to advance. After heavy losses, Moscow also wants to take its time to equip and train the soldiers who have been called up since September – possibly for a new offensive after the winter.
- The city was the first major urban center that Russian forces have captured since the February 24 “special military operation.” It was also the only Russian-controlled regional capital in Ukraine. For Moscow, the region is of great strategic importance in order to be able to continue the offensive in the direction of Mykolaiv and the Black Sea port of Odessa. In addition, Kherson is home to the Kakhovka Dam, which supplies water to the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia.
- Some observers also do not want to rule out that the Kremlin wants to use the withdrawal to test how the Russian population will react to an unfavorable end to the “special military operation,” as the war is officially called in Russia. Representatives of the US government are therefore considering that negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow could now be resumed.
Russian hardliners are retreating
So far, the Russian broadcasters have hardly reported about the withdrawal – as with much bad news from the Ukrainian front. In contrast to previous Russian backlashes, pro-Kremlin hardliners broadly agreed to abandon the area and have been reluctant to criticize the military leadership. Both Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and the leader of the powerful Wagner paramilitary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, spoke of a difficult but necessary decision.
“Putin was faced with the choice of sacrificing a contingent of around 20,000 men for a hopeless defensive struggle in order to postpone the moment of further shame, or to draw a line. The second option is clearly the more sensible one. That Putin accepts this reality is proof that he is still receptive to rational arguments,” writes the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”.
And the Times of London notes: “This war can be ended by Russia losing it, and Ukraine is perfectly capable of bringing about that defeat. She has impressively shown that the way to peace is, Putin is not He must be defeated and he must give up all hope of retaining the territorial spoils of his aggression.”