War in Ukraine: Russia says latest retreat at Kherson is complete

Russia said its troops have finished retreating from the western bank of the river dividing Ukraine’s southern Kherson region.

The move would allow Ukrainian forces to move cautiously toward reclaiming the country’s only Russian-occupied provincial capital in what would be a major victory.

In a statement carried by Russian state news agencies, Russia’s defence ministry said the withdrawal was completed at 5am on Friday and no military equipment was left behind.

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The pullback, which comes two months after Russian forces withdrew from eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, represents another huge setback for Moscow in its eight-and-a-half-month war in Ukraine.

People with Ukrainian flags walk towards Russian army trucks during a rally against the Russian occupation in Kherson. Picture: AP Photo
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Reports have emerged of residents hoisting Ukrainian flags in places the Russians retreated from, including the city of Kherson.

A Ukrainian regional official, Serhii Khlan, said he was told the flags are “appearing en-masse all over the place”.

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He disputed a Russian claim retreating forces took all their equipment with them, saying he was told “a lot” of hardware got left behind.

Mr Khlan, who spoke to journalists from outside the city, said he heard some Russian troops were also left behind and had dressed in civilian clothes, possibly with plans to engage in acts of sabotage. He said their exact number was unclear.

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The Kremlin remained defiant on Friday, insisting the development in no way represents an embarrassment for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Moscow continues to view the entire Kherson region as part of Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. He said the Kremlin does not regret holding festivities just over a month ago to celebrate the illegal annexation of Kherson and three other occupied or partially occupied regions of Ukraine.

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Despite abandoning their positions on the western bank, Russian forces still control about 70 per cent of the Kherson region. Shortly before the Russian announcement, the office of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky described the situation in the province as “difficult”.

It reported Russian shelling of some of the villages and towns Ukrainian forces reclaimed in recent weeks during their counteroffensive in the Kherson region.

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The General Staff of Ukraine’s army said Russian forces also left looted homes, damaged power lines and mined roads in their wake. On Thursday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak predicted the departing Russians would seek to turn Kherson into a “city of death” and continue to shell it after relocating across the Dnieper River.

Ukrainian officials were wary of the Russian pullback announced this week, fearing their soldiers could get drawn into an ambush in Kherson city, which had a pre-war population of 280,000.

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Military analysts had also predicted it would take Russia’s military at least a week to retreat.

Without referencing events unfolding in Kherson, Mr Zelensky said in a video message thanking US military personnel on Veterans Day that “victory will be ours”.

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“Your example inspires Ukrainians today to fight back against Russian tyranny,” he said.



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