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Russia in significant retreat from Kherson in Ukraine conflict

A destroyed residential building in Arkhanhelske, in the northern Kherson region, 06 November 2022

Ukrainian officials say it could take at least a week for Russian troops to withdraw from Kherson after Moscow ordered one of the war's biggest retreats.

Ukrainian troops have pushed forward after Moscow ordered one of the war's biggest retreats although officials fear Russian troops could still turn Kherson into a "city of death".

British PM Rishi Sunak cautiously welcomed the news:

Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told Reuters in an interview on Thursday Russia had a contingent of 40,000 troops in Kherson region and intelligence showed its forces remained inside the city, around the city and on the west bank of the wide Dnipro River:

"It's not that easy to withdraw these troops from Kherson in one day or two days.
"As a minimum, (it will take) one week."

A pullout in Kherson would free up forces from both sides to fight elsewhere. 

Russian propaganda had declared that Russia would be 'here forever' in Kherson. Local

residents greeted Ukrainian soldiers with hugs, relieved to be liberated:

The Russian army under General Sergei Surovikin appeared to have become more disciplined and brutal since his appointment as the new commander of its invasion forces in October, Reznikov said.

Russia announced on Wednesday it would withdraw from the west bank of the Dnipro that includes Kherson city, the only regional capital Moscow has captured since invading Ukraine in February.

Western military and diplomatic sources cautioned the Russian military move did not mean all was said and done even if it was a major victory for Ukraine. Ben Barry, a senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London said:

"It's definitely a turning point but it doesn't mean that Russia has lost or that Ukraine has won. It is far too soon to write them off."

Ukrainian forces liberated 41 settlements as they advanced through the south, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his Thursday evening video address.

Sappers and pyrotechnicians were going into areas retaken from Russian forces to rid them of thousands of unexploded landmines and ordnance left behind, he said.

About 170,000 sq km remained to be de-mined, Zelenskiy said, including in places where there was still fighting and "where the enemy will add landmines before its withdrawal, as is the case now with Kherson".

The region's Ukrainian-appointed governor, Yaroslav Yanushevych, writing on the Telegram messaging app, said Russian troops had "taken away public equipment, damaged power lines and wanted to leave a trap behind them".

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskiy, said Russia wanted to turn Kherson into a "city of death", mining everything from apartments to sewers and planning to shell the city from the other side of the river.

Russia denies it attacks civilians despite bombarding residential areas throughout the conflict. It has evacuated thousands of civilians from the Kherson area.

A small group of Ukrainian soldiers was shown on Ukraine's state TV being greeted by joyous residents in the centre of the village of Snihurivka, about 55km north of Kherson city, with a Ukrainian flag fluttering above the square behind them. Reuters verified the location of the video.

A few kilometres away, in a devastated frontline village reached by Reuters in an area already held by Ukrainian forces, the guns had fallen silent for what residents said was the first quiet night since the war began.

"We hope the silence means the Russians are leaving," Nadiia Nizarenko, 85, said. 

If Russia implements its withdrawal from an area that President Vladimir Putin proclaimed annexed a month ago, it would be its biggest retreat since its forces were driven back from the outskirts of Kyiv in March, and a clear shift in the momentum of the nine-month-old war.


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