The withdrawal from Kherson, a huge military and political setback for Russia

The withdrawal from Kherson, a huge military and political setback for Russia

Russian soldiers guard an area during a visit by a group of foreign journalists in Kherson, southern Ukraine, May 20, 2022.

It was at the turn of a simple point of military situation that the Russian authorities announced, Wednesday, November 9, nothing less than the abandonment of what they consider to be one of their regional capitals. Unable to withstand Ukrainian military pressure, the Russian army has indicated that it is withdrawing from the city of Kherson and an adjoining area of ​​some 4,800 km2to regroup on the left bank of the Dnieper, sheltered from the wide river which cuts Ukraine in two.

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The setback is immense, both military and political. Kherson was the only oblast capital captured – almost without a fight – by Moscow in its March offensive. It was to serve as a fulcrum for a later advance towards Odessa and Transnistria. From now on, it is the capacity of the Russian army to carry out such an evacuation of its troops, with barges and pontoon bridges, which is at stake.

Since September 30 and the holding of a puppet referendum, the city had earned the rank of administrative center of one of the eighty-nine subjects of the Russian Federation. Vladimir Putin then promised to defend it ” by all means “. Before that, the leader of the presidential party, Andrei Tourchak, assured that “Russia is here forever”repeating the mantra displayed on dozens of giant billboards installed in the occupied territories of Ukraine.

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Wednesday, without going so far as to mention a “goodwill gesture”as during the retreats of kyiv and Tchernihiv, the same Turtchak evoked a simple “maneuver” destined to “defend the people”.

Significant losses

As striking as the reverse is the care taken to conceal it. The announcement of the withdrawal from Kherson was almost drowned out in a lengthy military briefing broadcast by army television. The Commander-in-Chief of the“special military operation”General Sergei Surovikin, assures us that “The situation is stable on the whole front”. Then he reports the ” hit “ registered by Moscow in the Donetsk region. In Kherson, he explains, “we are successfully resisting the onslaught of the enemy”which undergoes “huge losses”.

Without transition, General Surovikin continues: “We will preserve the lives of our soldiers and the combat capability of our units. Keeping them on the right bank is pointless. “I agree with your conclusions and your proposalsreplies the Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu. Proceed with the withdrawal of the troops. »

If there is some truth in these statements, it is that what is at stake for Moscow is indeed to avoid a disaster comparable to the stampede observed in August in the Kharkiv region, which had resulted in significant losses in equipment and men. The counter-offensive on Kherson, less spectacular, had been launched at the same time with the partial or total destruction, thanks in particular to the Himars multiple rocket launchers supplied by the West, of the three bridges connecting the two banks of the river.

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