LONDON, Nov 9 (Reuters) – Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday ordered his forces to withdraw from the occupied Ukrainian city of Kherson and establish defensive lines on the opposite bank of the Dnipro River.
The announcement was one of Russia’s most significant retreats and a potential turning point in the war, now nearing the end of its ninth month.
In televised remarks, General Sergei Surovykin, the overall commander of the war, informed Shoigu that surrendering the city of Kherson was no longer possible.
“Having fully assessed the current situation, it is proposed to carry out defenses on the left (eastern) bank of the Dnipro River,” Surovikhin said, standing at a lectern and indicating troop positions on a map. Television viewers.
“I understand that this is a very difficult decision, but at the same time we will protect the most important thing – the lives of our soldiers and, in general, the combat effectiveness of a group of troops, it is useless to keep it. The right bank in a certain area.”
The news follows weeks of Ukrainian advances on the city and Russia’s race to relocate more than 100,000 residents by transporting them to the opposite side of the river.
Kherson is the main city of the region of the same name – one of four Ukrainian regions that President Vladimir Putin declared in September to be “permanently” annexed by Russia, and which the Kremlin says is now placed under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella.
Shoigu told Surovikhin: “I agree with your conclusions and proposals. For us, the lives and health of Russian soldiers always come first. We must also take into account threats to civilians.
“Continue to withdraw troops and take all measures to ensure the safe transfer of personnel, weapons and equipment across the Dnipro River.”
The announcement was expected by Russia’s influential war bloggers, who described it as a bitter blow.
The War Gonzo blog, which has more than 1.3 million subscribers on Telegram, said, “As painful as it is to write about it now, we will leave town.”
“In simple terms, Gerson cannot be captured with bare hands,” it said. “Yes, this is a black page in the history of the Russian army. A sad page of the Russian state.”
Adding to the sense of Russian unrest in Kherson, Moscow’s No. 2 official, Kirill Stremosov, was killed in a car crash on Wednesday.
Stremosov was one of the most prominent faces of Russia’s occupation. Ukraine considered him a collaborator and traitor.
In a video statement hours before his death, Stremosov denounced what he called Ukrainian “Nazis” and said the Russian military was in “full control” of the situation in the south.
Reported by Reuters; By Mark Trevelyan; Editing by John Boyle and Jonathan Otis
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