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Russia Withdraws Troops from Ukraine’s Kherson City; Zelenskyy, Biden React

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Russia has announced the withdrawal of its forces from Ukraine’s strategic city of Kherson, in the southern region, eight months after seizing the area, in a significant setback to President Vladimir Putin’s war efforts that can lead to a turning point in the war.

While making the announcement, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu also ordered troops to be on the defensive on the opposite bank of the River Dnipro, as reported by the American news publication New York Times.  

On television, General Sergei Surovikin said that the army was not able to provide supplies to Kherson city any longer. General Sergei is the head of all command. He said, “We will save the lives of our soldiers and the fighting capacity of our units. Keeping them on the right (western) bank is futile. Some of them can be used on other fronts.”

The New York Times said that the revelation came after weeks of Ukrainian advances on the city and a scramble by Russia to evacuate tens of thousands of its citizens.

Shoigu said, “I agree with your conclusions and proposals. Proceed with the withdrawal of troops and take all measures to transfer forces across the river.”

Ukraine reacts to Russia’s withdrawal of troops from Kherson

After Russia’s move to step back from Kherson, Ukraine said that Russian forces still remained in the southern city and even additional forces were being sent there. Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy gave a statement to the British news agency Reuters. He said, “Until the Ukrainian flag is flying over Kherson, it makes no sense to talk about a Russian withdrawal.”

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the nation on Wednesday night, saying, “Ukrainian forces were strengthening their positions step by step in the south. There is a lot of joy in the information space today, and it is clear why, but … the enemy will make no gifts to us.” 

On the issue, US President Joe Biden said, “Moscow’s order to withdraw from Kherson was evidence of the fact that they have some real problems with the Russian military.”

Kherson City has been the target of a Ukrainian counteroffensive. The city, that lies north of annexed Crimea, the only Ukrainian provincial capital Russia had captured since its invasion on February 24, is in charge of the mouth of the Dnipro, a river that divides Ukraine, as well as the only land access point to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Tens of thousands of civilians have been evacuated in recent weeks by Russian-installed authority.

Russian war proponents support Russia’s decision

Russian war hawks have shown support for Russia’s move. A Russian military blogger has defined the decision as “a black page in the history of the Russian army”. Various proponents of the war have also defined the step as “wise and necessary”. 

Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader who has always been vocal about a more aggressive approach to the war, said, “After weighing all the pros and cons, General Surovikin made the difficult but right choice between senseless sacrifices for the sake of loud statements and saving the priceless lives of soldiers.” 

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the mercenary Wagner organization that is fighting for Russia in Ukraine, is another increasingly vocal war hawk who was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying: “The decision taken by Surovikin is not simple, but he acted like a guy who is not frightened of responsibility.”

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