Russia plans to pull out of the city of Kherson and play it off as a civilian evacuation, Western officials said today.
Putin’s forces are well advanced in preparation for retreat, officials said, after moving conscripts into the city to cover the backs of fleeing soldiers and bolstering defenses on the other side of the Dnipro River. .
While no final decision has been made yet, officials believe Russian commanders have decided that Kherson is “not worth defending” and that fleeing to better positions over the Dnipro will increase their chances of holding out when winter comes. will increase.
They spoke when images emerged from Kherson showing that a Russian flag that had been flying over City Hall for months has suddenly disappeared.
Meanwhile, Colonel General Alexander Lapin, head of Russia’s central military district now believed to be responsible for the defenses in Donbas, has “probably” been fired.
Russia has removed a flag from the top of Kherson City Hall as Western officials say commanders are well advanced in planning a retreat
If the retreat continues, Russia will try to play it off as an evacuation to protect civilians, officials said (file image, Ukrainian HIMARS in the region)
It comes after General Lapin has been heavily criticized by both Ramzan Kadyrov and Yevgeny Prigozhin, Putin loyalists and hardliners, for alleged shortcomings since the start of the war.
General Lapin was the last commander to command Russian troops across the border into Ukraine in February and who was still in office.
His departure, if confirmed, points to a power shift within the Kremlin away from the Defense Ministry and warlords such as Kadyrov – Chechen dictator – and Prigozhin – Wagner’s founder.
News of Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson follows weeks of back-and-forth claims about the situation there — with Russia hinting that the city is about to fall, while Ukraine insists Putin is strengthening it.
Complicating the situation is a near-total news outage of Ukrainian troops on the front lines as they attempt to break through the Russian defenses.
Two weeks ago, there was hope that the city was on the brink of liberation when General Surovikin – head of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine – warned of a “tense” situation and began evacuating civilians.
But as the days passed with no sign of a Ukrainian breakthrough, Kiev began to report that wet weather and mud were hampering its advance.
Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, then gave an interview in which he said that Russia is sending reinforcements to the city and plans to defend it.
He confidently predicted that Kiev’s troops would drive out the Russians, but said it would take until the end of this month to do so.
Amid the conflicting reports, some have suggested that Moscow is playing a disinformation game to lure Ukraine into a death trap.
Vladimir Putin (right) has ‘probably’ fired Colonel General Alexander Lapin (left), the commander deemed responsible for the defense in the Donbas
Workers remove debris from the street in front of a destroyed storage complex in the recently recaptured village of Arkhangelske, Kherson Oblast
Speaking on condition of anonymity on Thursday, Western officials tried to clarify the situation by saying Russia is planning an “orderly, well-planned and deliberate” retreat to the eastern bank of the Dnipro.
Russia’s commanders have already crossed the river, they added, leaving a force of regular troops — largely conscripts — to face the Ukrainians.
However, they declined to say when the withdrawal could take place, admitting that Ukraine’s advance is “slow” — likely to slow down even more as wetter weather turns the ground into mud.
Losing the city of Kherson — the only regional capital Russian forces have captured since February — would be Putin’s most humiliating loss to date.
It is also the capital of the wider Kherson region, which it has recently annexed to Russia and has vowed to use “all forces” to defend.
That has raised fears that he could deploy Russia’s nuclear arsenal, though Western officials said they have seen no sign of that yet.
Putin is likely to come under tremendous pressure from Russia if Kherson falls.
On the last retreat – a disorderly route in Kharkov – his generals were sharply criticized for not having captured the area and mobilization was declared.
That order, in turn, sparked protests across Russia and saw hundreds of thousands flee the country, further worsening Putin’s situation.
Losing Kherson would also open the door for Ukraine to launch an offensive against Crimea, the jewel in Putin’s imperialist crown.
The peninsula was annexed during his last invasion, in 2014, and has become a symbol of Putin’s personal prowess and power as a Russian leader.
Losing control over it would spell disaster – not just for his invasion, but for his rule over Russia and could see him fall from power.
Sharon Stone stood out from the crowd on Thursday as she led the stars at…
The armed forces say the rebel group also violated a five-day-old ceasefire in the east…
David Harbor has revealed that Madonna called him to audition for one of the flop…
Last modified on Nov 01, 2022 13:27 GMT Phoebe Tatham Prince William and Princess Kate…