Nov 9, 2022 - World

Russia announces retreat from key Ukrainian city of Kherson

Ukrainian artillery unit members fire toward Kherson on Oct. 28.

Ukrainian artillery unit members fire toward Kherson on Oct. 28. Photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty Images

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered troops to withdraw to the eastern bank of the Dnipro River on Wednesday, effectively surrendering the key southern city of Kherson.

Why it matters: Kherson was the only provincial capital captured by Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February. Its liberation would represent a remarkable victory for Ukrainian forces.

  • It marks another major setback for Moscow in the nine-month war, coming after Ukraine recaptured a major portion of Kharkiv Oblast and made significant gains in Kherson Oblast in earlier this fall.
  • Russian forces will also cede all of the territory captured on the western bank of the River Dnipro and will organize defensive lines on the opposite bank of the river.

What they're saying: Gen. Sergei Surovikin, Russia's commander in Ukraine, said in a meeting of other senior military leaders that troops in Kherson could no longer be supplied.

  • "We will save the lives of our soldiers and fighting capacity of our units. Keeping them on the right (western) bank is futile. Some of them can be used on other fronts," Surovikin said in the meeting, according to a translation from Reuters.

The big picture: The announced withdrawal comes after Russian state media reported that Moscow's appointed occupation official in Ukraine’s Kherson region, Kirill Stremousov, "died in a road accident" on Wednesday.

  • Russia fought for months to maintain its foothold on the west bank of the Dnipro.
  • The territory is part of Kherson Oblast, one of four partially occupied Ukrainian regions that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed last month.
  • Russian authorities ordered residents of the city of Kherson to evacuate across the Dnipro River in late October, though it's unknown how many people followed the command.

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional details.

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