Ukraine announces reconquests in Kherson, Moscow confirms its withdrawal

Ukraine announced on Thursday the reconquest of a dozen villages in the Kherson region, in the south of the country, where Moscow confirmed that it had begun its withdrawal, a new setback for Vladimir Putin’s army.

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At midday, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, Valery Zaluzhny, announced that his forces had advanced on Wednesday by « seven km, taking control of six localities in the direction of Petropavlivka-Novorayask » and also taking over » six localities in the direction of Pervomaiske-Kherson’.

Shortly before, the Russian army had announced that it had begun its withdrawal from the Kherson region, moving its troops from the right (western) bank to the left bank of the Dnieper river, a natural obstacle behind which Moscow established a line of defense.

« Units of the Russian troop contingent are maneuvering towards positions set up on the left bank of the Dnieper River, » the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Announced on Wednesday, this withdrawal involves a departure from the eponymous city of Kherson, the regional capital located on the right bank.

The general responsible for the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, had announced that the withdrawal would be done “very quickly” to preserve the “life of every Russian soldier”, without giving a timetable.

On the Ukrainian side, the announcement was received without triumph and with circumspection, kyiv suspecting a trap. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reacted on Wednesday with “extreme caution”.

Silence of the Kremlin

“We can neither confirm nor deny the information relating to an alleged withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson,” General Oleksiï Gromov, representative of the Ukrainian general staff, told the press on Thursday. But he also noted that with their backs to the Dnieper, the Russians have « no choice but to flee. »

In Mykolaiv, a large southern city about a hundred kilometers northwest of Kherson, residents are equally suspicious.

« We can’t trust, nobody is going to give us anything back just like that, » Svitlana Kyrytchenko, a saleswoman, told AFP.

“That would be the height of stupidity. It makes no sense in my mind,” argues Igor Kossorotov, a 59-year-old mechanic.

For its part, the Kremlin made no comment, the daily briefing of its spokesman having been canceled Thursday.

US President Joe Biden, for his part, considered that the announcement of the withdrawal constituted “proof that (the Russians) have real problems”.

A Russian withdrawal « would be a new victory » for Kyiv, welcomed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg from Rome.

The departure from Kherson, if confirmed, constitutes a new scathing setback for Moscow, already forced to abandon the Kharkiv region (north-east) in September.

Especially since Vladimir Putin had claimed at the end of September the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, including Kherson, and on September 21 ordered the mobilization of some 300,000 reservists to consolidate the Russian lines.

And the Russian president had warned that Russia would defend « by all means » what it now considers its territory.

Since the summer, the Ukrainian army, strong in Western armaments, has gradually worn down the Russian forces, in particular by pounding the bridges essential to supplying the troops on the western bank of the Dnieper.

Window for negotiations?

In the Donbass, Russia has been trying for several weeks to take the city of Bakhmout, 70,000 inhabitants before the invasion.

“It has become more complicated over the past three days,” Vitaly, a 26-year-old Ukrainian soldier, told AFP. “The Russians are pushing more and more, even if our men are holding their positions,” he says from Bakhmout.

Kyiv’s successes have also revived speculation about the possible resumption of peace talks, with some media even claiming that the West was pushing Ukraine to resume them.

“There are well over 100,000 Russian soldiers killed and wounded,” the top US military official, General Mark Milley, said Wednesday, speaking to the New York Economic Club. « Same thing probably on the Ukrainian side, » he added.

« There must be a mutual recognition that military victory is unlikely, in the proper sense of the word, to be achieved by military means », added General Milley, believing that there is « a window of opportunity for the negotiation ».

Sign of a change of tone after a visit to Kyiv on Friday by US presidential adviser Jake Sullivan, President Zelensky listed Monday his conditions for the resumption of talks with Moscow, including the withdrawal of his troops from Ukrainian territory.


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