Russia Ukraine: Kyiv celebrates withdrawal of 30,000 Russian soldiers from Kherson, Kremlin “denies defeat”
The Ukrainian army began invading Kherson, a major city in the south of the country, after the withdrawal of Russian forces, in a major setback for Moscow nearly nine months after Russia began invading the country.
“Kherson is returning under Ukrainian control. Units of Ukrainian armed forces are entering the city,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry wrote on Facebook, calling on the remaining Russian soldiers to “surrender immediately.”
The Russian Defense Ministry announced the end of the “relocation” of its forces on the east bank of the Dnipro River by confirming the withdrawal of more than 30,000 Russian soldiers from Kherson, a strategic point in the war.
The ministry added in a statement that the armed forces “did not leave any weapon behind and all soldiers crossed the river with no loss of life or equipment”.
Russian state news agency RIA Novosti broadcast images of Russian military vehicles leaving Kherson and noted that they were crossing the Antonovsky Bridge over the Dnipro River.
Several Russian correspondents said the bridge was destroyed, without clarifying whether the Russian army blew it up or whether it was destroyed as a result of the Ukrainian strikes.
And the BBC verified video footage showing residents of Kherson celebrating the departure of the Russian army with Ukrainian soldiers in Tahrir Square.
For its part, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on Friday welcomed the announcement of Russia’s withdrawal from the region, calling it an “important victory”.
Russia denies defeat
The Kremlin denied that withdrawing its forces from Kherson was a “defeat” and said the withdrawal was a Defense Ministry decision.
As for Kyiv, he commented on the field development in a victorious tone, saying: “It is the second strongest army in the world escaping on foot.”
Before the Defense Ministry’s announcement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov avoided answering journalists’ questions about the situation in southern Ukraine and asked them to direct their questions to the Defense Minister, but said that the Kherson region “belongs to the Russian Federation.” will .”
BBC correspondent Will Vermon asked Peskov what the Kremlin viewed the Kherson withdrawal as a painful blow to Putin’s prestige, rather than an insult to him.
Peskow’s response was: “There are many experts, some agree with what you said, others disagree.
He noted that the Russian presidency “has no regrets” about the grand celebration at which Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, including Kherson, to Russia in September.
BBC diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams says if Ukraine takes control of Kherson it will be a major turning point in the war.
Adams believes the winds have not flown as Russia wishes in recent months, starting with the sinking of one of its key warships in the Black Sea and the bombing of the bridge connecting Russia and Crimea, raising many questions about what winter will bring.
Fearing that retreating Russian forces will set a trap for them on their return, Ukrainians are wary of every step they take.
On the other hand, BBC Monitoring observed Russian pro-war commentators’ opinions on the communications pages as they expressed shock at the withdrawal, and some of them even said it was the worst defeat Russia had suffered since collapse of the Soviet Union.
Wagner builds fortifications
Meanwhile, fighting on the Eastern Front continues, especially in Bakhmut, the city Moscow has been trying to occupy since the summer and the main battlefield where the Russian army, supported by elements of the Wagner paramilitary group, is still on the offensive.
In this regard, the founder of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced on Friday that his organization would train militias and set up fortifications in two regions of Russia bordering Ukraine.
And the media office of Prigozhin’s Concorde company quoted him as saying: “The private military company Wagner helps and will help residents of the border regions (in Ukraine) to receive training, build facilities, prepare them and organize militias.”
According to Prigozhin, the aim is to set up “fortifications and training centers for militiamen in the border areas”.
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