A senior Ukrainian official has warned Russia is booby-trapping the city of Kherson and accused it of trying to turn it into a “city of death”.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the office of Ukraine’s president, tweeted that Russia “wants to turn Kherson into a ‘city of death’.”
He claimed that the Russian military “mines everything they can: apartments, sewers” and that “artillery on the left bank” of the Dnipro river “plans to turn the city into ruins”.
Ukrainian troops claimed on Thursday to have recaptured the southern town of Snihurivka from Russian forces, saying it had been liberated in video footage published on social media and by Ukrainian national television.
The town, seen as the last remaining Russian-occupied town in the Mykolaiv region, is important for control of a strategic road that leads to the city of Kherson, which Russia captured in March.
“Today, on Nov. 10, Snihurivka was liberated by the forces of the 131st Separate Intelligence Battalion. Glory to Ukraine!” a soldier shouted as civilians clapped and cheered.
Reuters was able to verify the location of the footage, but not the date it was filmed. There was no immediate confirmation of the town’s recapture from the Ukrainian Defence Ministry, a day after Russia ordered its forces to retreat from the area.
Ukraine is treating Russia’s declared withdrawal from Kherson with caution until a fuller picture of the situation on the ground becomes clear.
The Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, has ordered the country’s troops to leave an area including Ukraine’s city of Kherson, the only regional capital captured by Moscow since the February invasion.
In his national address on Wednesday night, however, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, urged restraint despite “a lot of joy in the media space today”, saying “the enemy does not bring us gifts, does not make ‘gestures of goodwill’. We fight our way up.
“And when you are fighting, you must understand that every step is always resistance from the enemy, it is always the loss of the lives of our heroes. Therefore, we move very carefully, without emotions, without unnecessary risk. In the interests of the liberation of our entire land and so that the losses are as small as possible.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Mr Zelenskiy, told Reuters: “Actions speak louder than words. We see no signs that Russia is leaving Kherson without a fight. A part of the ru-group is preserved in the city, and additional reserves are charged to the region.”
“Until the Ukrainian flag is flying over Kherson, it makes no sense to talk about a Russian withdrawal,” he said.
In televised comments, Russia’s Gen Sergei Surovikin, overall commander of the war, said he had recommended the withdrawal of Russian troops from the west bank of the Dnipro River, citing logistical difficulties.
“Kherson cannot be fully supplied and function. Russia did everything possible to ensure the evacuation of the inhabitants of Kherson,” Gen Surovikin told Mr Shoigu. “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,” Gen Surovikin said.
The order to retreat came as Ukrainian forces pressed their attack on Russian positions on the western side of the river, including around the key town of Snihurivka.
Although the move had been anticipated to prevent Russian forces being encircled by Ukraine on the western side of the river, the admission by Gen Surovikin that Russian forces could not operate effectively comes despite recent efforts by the Kremlin to reinforce the Kherson front at the cost of the giving up large parts of Ukraine’s east.
Elsewhere the top US general and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Mark Milley, estimates Russia’s military had seen more than 100,000 of its soldiers killed and wounded in Ukraine, adding Kyiv’s armed forces has “probably” suffered a similar level of casualties in the war. – Agencies