Russia Orders Retreat from Occupied City of Kherson

The Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday it was withdrawing its forces over the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region, abandoning the only Ukrainian regional capital to have been captured since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. 

The withdrawal announcement was made by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russia’s forces in Ukraine. 

“The decision to defend on the left bank of the Dnipro is not easy, but at the same time we will save the lives of our military personnel and the combat capability of our forces,” said Surovikin in a clip aired on state television. 

“Kherson and adjacent settlements cannot be fully supplied or kept functioning. People’s lives are constantly in danger.”

The decision to retreat from Kherson, which fell to Moscow forces in the early days of the war, and pull back to the left bank of the Dnipro river comes after months of intense fighting in the area, with Ukrainian troops making incremental gains against a large Russian force.

Shoigu expressed his agreement with Surovikin’s assessment in the video clip. 

“The life and health of Russian military personnel are always a priority for us. And we should take account of the threats to the civilian population,” Shoigu said. “Begin the withdrawal of troops and take all measures for the safety of equipment, weapons and personnel transportations across the Dnipro River.”

Russian troops apparently plan to re-establish a defensive line in Russian-held areas on the left bank of the river. 

However, analysts warned that conducting an orderly retreat would be a challenge for Russian forces. 

“Very impressive and hard fought victory for Ukraine,” military analyst Rob Lee tweeted after the announcement of the Russian military decision. “The big question now is whether Russia can withdraw without taking heavy equipment and personnel losses.”

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