Ukraine Has Won The Battle Of Kherson
Russia announces withdrawal
One day after midterm elections in the United States failed to produce a strong antiwar party in Congress, Russia has announced withdrawal of forces from the right bank of the Dnipro in Kherson Oblast.
Reacting to the video release, a Zelenskyy advisor indicated that Kyiv remains cautious and there is still fighting in Kherson.
The move also followed ten days of Russian units withdrawing under fire, social media posts showing checkpoints left unmanned, and speculation that Russia was setting a trap for Ukrainian forces.
Rather than take the bait, Ukrainains continued their strategy of gradual advance and reduction of the enemy by fire. At least one barge ferrying Russians across the Dnipro was struck by artillery. Daily enemy casualty estimates from the Ministry of Defense declined, but did not stop.
These tactics appear to have worked. Hoping to “preserve the lives of our servicemen, and in general, the combat-readiness of our group of forces,” Gen. Sergey Surovikin recommended the withdrawal he was already conducting.
From early August, Ukraine set out on a force-directed offensive, targeting Russia’s ability to conduct offensive operations against Ukraine.
Saying that the withdrawn forces would be “used for activities, including those of an offensive nature, in other directions,” Surovikin tacitly acknowledged Ukraine has hit the mark.
Gen. Sergei Shoigu, the embattled Russian defense chief, absorbed the political damage of withdrawal in the video.
“For us, the lives of Russian servicemen are always a priority,” Shoigu said as he agreed with Surovikin. “Begin the withdrawal of troops, and take all measures to ensure safe withdrawal of personnel vehicles and equipment beyond the Dneiper.”
More than 70,000 Russian servicemen have been killed in Vladimir Putin’s “special operation” so far, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. It remains to be seen how much stuff Russians will leave behind.
Meanwhile, Kirill Stremousev, the Kremlin-appointed governor of Kherson Oblast, has just been killed in a reported car crash.
Although there is a nonzero chance of coincidence, the tragedy is quite convenient for the war party, which will not have Stremousev hanging around to embarrass them with his sad existence.
Kherson City had been the only regional capital captured in the 2022 invasion. Founded under Catherine the Great, the loss is a significant blow to Putin’s imperializing project.
Like the much-fabled villages of Catherine’s lover Potemkin, the televised meeting of generals is a flimsy propaganda construction.
Describing how he would implement the order, Surovikin said “the maneuver of the troops will be implemented in the nearest future,” but he was describing the recent past.
Russians have already been executing the order to “take up defensive positions, prepared in the engineering sense, on the left bank of the Dnipro River” since the weather turned in October.
Surovikin has to know that large-scale offensive operations are out of the question. Maximalist war aims are unrealistic. Thus the reports last week that Putin was “having a rethink” about his strategy in Ukraine. Sooner or later, reality sets in.
More limited aims are apparent now. Surovikin wants to hold the line at the Dnipro. If Ukraine attempts a river crossing operation, he can attrit their forces. However, the frontage along the southern line of contact is very long, and reports of Russian defensive construction around Mariupol indicate that Moscow is well aware of the danger.
With the Battle of Kherson at an end, the new Battle of the Dnipro is likely to be another extended artillery duel, with Russian mass fire versus Ukrainian precision fire.
Further reduction of veteran formations, such as VDV units now withdrawing from Kherson, will be the Ukrainian objective. Surovikin will fight to just not lose any more territory, or to at least hurt Ukraine the most he can while he loses it.
He will probably have to settle for the latter. A Ukrainian winter offensive seems likely now, as a hard freeze magnifies their advantages over Russia in training and logistics.
As with the defeat in Kherson, those hard truths will also have to be explained to Russians. This video does not show an important decision being made. It shows Russian generals making that decision politically palatable for Russians. Chances are we will see them make more of these soon enough.
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Ukraine Has Won The Battle Of Kherson