“The commander of the Russian invasion said on Tuesday that his army might face “hard decisions” about its tenuous hold over the strategically important Ukrainian region of Kherson, just minutes after a top Moscow-appointed official there announced an evacuation of civilians from four occupied districts.
Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the top Russian commander in Ukraine, acknowledged in a rare interview that the situation in the Kherson region has been “difficult” after the Ukrainian army damaged two key connections to other Russian occupied territory. For weeks, Ukrainian forces have been advancing slowly toward the regional capital, the city of Kherson, in a counteroffensive aimed at driving the Russians back across the Dnipro River.
In a video statement, Vladimir Saldo, the head of the regional occupation administration, said that residents would be evacuated from four districts on the west side of the Dnipro River. Mr. Saldo — who was appointed governor of the Kherson region by the Kremlin shortly after Russia formally annexed the territory at the end of September — cited the risk of shelling and the need for Russia to build defensive lines to repel an expected Ukrainian attack.
General Surovikin, in his first public remarks since he was appointed as head of the Russian military force in Ukraine on Oct. 8, said that the Russian Army would assist the evacuation and stressed the challenging conditions his forces face — with a tacit acknowledgment that a retreat from the city of Kherson might be necessary.
“Our future plans and actions regarding the city of Kherson will depend on the unfolding military-tactical situation,” he said in a televised statement. “I repeat — today it is already quite difficult.”
The announcements underscored Russia’s precarious hold on the strategically important swath of Ukrainian land that allows the Russian forces to operate on the western side of the Dnipro River, which divides the country into two. That control allows Russia to threaten the rest of the Ukrainian-controlled Black Sea coast, including the symbolic city of Odesa. But advancing Ukrainian forces have severed the bridges that were used to resupply and reinforce Russian troops on the west bank of the Dnipro River.
Ukraine has coveted the liberation of Kherson since the first weeks of the war, when the city became the only regional capital to fall to Russian forces since the invasion began.
But as Ukrainian forces push closer to the city limits, they face a conundrum: Unlike the Russian military, which appears to have no qualms about targeting infrastructure and killing civilians to achieve its war aims, Ukraine would like to avoid destroying Kherson in the process of recapturing it. If Russian forces put up a concerted fight to keep the city, Ukraine might hesitate to use all of its firepower.
Pro-Russian military bloggers — an increasingly vocal group in Russia — praised General Surovikin for being frank about the challenges in Kherson. Many interpreted his statement as a sign that Russia might be preparing for a large-scale battle, while others said it could be a sign of a coming retreat.
“There are three options here: Either our forces would dig in where they are, or they would retreat to the city of Kherson, trying to engage the enemy in street fighting,” said Vladlen Tatarsky, a popular blogger. “Or they would evacuate.””
Comment: Three options, eh? Well, no shit sherlock. I agree with TTG that the Russians have little chance of holding Kherson City because their artillery over on the Left Bank will be driven off or wrecked from west of Kherson but what they CAN do is make a mess of the city before they re-enact the surrender scenes from Stalingrad in WW2.
An interesting bit of trivia is that Surovikin seems to be an air force officer at present although he has an infantry background. MG Suheil, one of the most prominent Syrian combat commanders had also begun his professional life in some sort of air force ground commando force. I am devoted to the study of military history. There used to be various international paratroop units that were organizationally part of their respective national air forces and who can forget “Smiling Al” Kesselring.
But IMO the main Ukrainian goal in the south should be to force the surrender of Russian forces WEST of Kherson City. pl