Many people, especially Ukrainians, hoped that after Russian troops fled the southern Ukrainian city Kherson, we could now start looking forward to a further withdrawal of the Russian army and a coming end to the war in Ukraine.
The Russian military’s order on Wednesday 9 November for troops to retreat from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson was a major setback on the battlefield. And Putin’s decision not to go to the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia underlines his diminishing diplomatic clout.
Putin wasn’t present when his defence minister and top military commander in Ukraine announced the pull-out in a televised meeting. The Kremlin isn’t eager to associate the president with defeats that contradict his claim to have annexed Kherson and three other Ukrainian territories forever. On television General Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russia’s forces in Ukraine, said he believed that the time has come to withdraw from Kherson. The reason was given to save the lives of Russian soldiers, who faced being cut off if they did not retreat to the right bank of the Dnieper River. Television anchors appeared visibly upset even reading the news.
Not everyone felt comfortable when it was announced and could see the Russian soldiers crossing the right (west) bank of the lower Dnieper River over the pontoon to leave Kherson behind. They destroyed the last road bridges over the Dnipro river, which bisects Ukraine, as its forces completed their withdrawal. A railway bridge upstream was also destroyed as Russia’s forces made their hasty getaway, while satellite imagery from Maxar appeared to show damage to the bridge over the Kakhova dam.
Igor Konashenkov, Russia’s defence ministry spokesman, said its military had completed the “redeployment” in the early hours of Friday morning, without leaving any hardware behind or suffering any casualties. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said Russia had no regrets about annexing Kherson in September and said the decision to withdraw was made entirely by the ministry of defence. He also said that Russia continues to consider Kherson its territory, despite the withdrawal of its troops from the city.
It was feared at first, that the withdrawal could be a trap. Russia’s position to the north and west of the Dnieper River has been untenable for some months now. Ukrainian officials had initially feared a ruse in the Russian announcement of a pullback, which followed days of enigmatic declarations from the occupying authorities, but the Ukrainian troops dared to come closer to the Crimean Peninsula and ventured into what once was the first Russian naval base and shipyard on the Black Sea.
Following a remarkable change in fortunes, Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces re-entered the city in the most important victory for Ukraine since its defence of Kyiv in March. Locals in previously occupied areas were seen pulling down Russian propaganda posters and welcoming the soldiers as liberators and heroes in jubilant scenes.
Many people on the route to the city as well as in the city are overwhelmed with emotions. As they greet the men, they seem to forget for a moment their difficulties and compassionate living conditions. But we can find also lots of realistic citizens who say
“I want to celebrate, but something tells me it is not over yet, the Russians can’t be giving up so easily, not after everything that has happened.”
Nor should we lose sight of how the Russians have been trying to destroy the entire energy supply infrastructure in recent days. The Ukrainians have all reason to be scared for the winter and to worry the city will become a battleground again. Some do know
“We will be in the firing line.”
The few residents that remained in Kherson during the lengthy occupation endured curfews, food shortages, partisan warfare and a brutal campaign to force them to become Russian citizens. But as has happened in other wars, they could also find collaborators. Now the question is how they will deal with such pro-Russian citizens and how their revenge will be sweet or sour.
Both the Kherson Oblast and city governments returned to the city on Nov. 12, one day after Ukrainian troops liberated Kherson after over eight months of Russian occupation.
The Ukrainian military’s National Resistance Center said that Russian soldiers and collaborators had robbed the Oleksiy Shovkunenko Kherson Art Museum among others. The museum’s collection includes religious paintings of the 17th and early 20th centuries, Ukrainian art of the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and works of contemporary artists, according to the centre.
The Kremlin sought to distance President Vladimir Putin from the retreat in Kherson, saying the decision to withdraw Russian forces came from the defence minister.
Russian shortage of modern weapons due to the Western sanctions is pushing Moscow to purchase weapons from world pariahs, according to Vadym Skibitskyi, a representative of the Defense Ministry’s Intelligence Directorate.
The hope that Putin would accept the hand for peace offering from Zelensky is idle. Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson is eroding confidence in Vladimir Putin’s commitment and ability to deliver his war promises, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest assessment. On Nov. 12, a pro-war Russian ideologist Alexander Dugin openly criticised Putin — whom he referred to as the autocrat — for failing to uphold Russian ideology by surrendering Kherson. Russian irredentists still expect their leader to unite former parts of the Soviet Union into a unified Russian Federation. To which belong already Crimea, Southern and Eastern Ukraine and Kyiv should also come included.
Even as his difficulties mount at home and abroad, though, there’s no sign yet that the Russian leader is ready to throw in the towel and sue for peace. Putin’s room for manoeuvre is narrowing all the same. The question is how he will continue to be able to justify the fact that more than 100 000 Russian soldiers have already been killed.
On Nov. 14, Kherson Oblast Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych asked people to avoid gathering in the central part of liberated Kherson as sappers need to demine it first.
“The enemy has mined nearly everything (in Kherson). Please, avoid crowded places,”
For the moment, there is no stopping the invaders and the Russians again bombarded the country on all sides yesterday.
According to Belarusian monitoring group Belarusian Hajun, if its assessment proves to be true, missiles transported to Russia’s Rostov Oblast will likely be used to launch attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk directions.
Also, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace applauded the “remarkable capability” of Ukraine’s Armed Forces but said it is important not to “underestimate” Moscow.
“History will remind you that Russia can be brutal to their own. And if they need more cannon fodder, that is what they’ll be doing,”
The General Staff reported on Nov. 13 that Russian forces are bringing more troops and building fortifications around Melitopol in Zaporizhzhia Oblast,
Yesterday, Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that from Nov. 7 to Nov. 13, Ukrainian troops liberated 179 towns and villages in southern Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts and 4,500 square kilometres of formerly Russian-occupied territories.
A video shot by Ukrainian soldiers and shared on social media on Nov. 13 shows the yellow and blue flag being hanged upon the Antonivskyi Bridge, a strategic passage between the Kherson Oblast’s liberated west bank and the east bank to where Russians retreated.
Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said Russian strikes on Nov. 15 targeted power generation and transmission facilities across the country, affecting both Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and those of neighbouring states.
“After defeats in military and international arenas, the enemy (Russia) is carrying out another attempt at terrorist revenge and is trying to inflict maximum damage on our energy system on the eve of winter,”
On the same day the Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra on his visit to Kyiv, had to take shelter during Russia’s mass missile strike. The attack has demonstrated
“Putin’s willingness to resort to criminal methods,”
according to Hoekstra, and the only answer to it is
“to continue – continue to support Ukraine, continue to deliver weapons, continue to work on justice, continue to work on the provision of humanitarian aid.”
European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said
“Moscow’s ability to inflict damage is still significant. It’s not using it to fight the military, it’s using it to destroy critical infrastructure.”
Ukraine’s Air Force reported that Russia, on that day, fired around 100 missiles at Ukraine, the largest mass attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since the start of the war. Those energy supplies are a favourite target for the Russians because, in the dark days when temperatures can drop to -25°C, people will beg to stop. Yesterday, temperatures of -11° C had already been recorded. To keep courage in it then, one has to be very strong.
The day before yesterday, President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the city of Kherson and said that Ukraine is ready for peace, but peace for all of its territories, which is why it continues operations to liberate the occupied areas.
The Head of State yesterday thanked Hoekstra for his visit and said that he highly appreciated the consistent support for Ukraine from the government of the Netherlands and the personal efforts of Prime Minister Mark Rutte to counter Russian aggression.
“We thank the Netherlands for understanding the conditions in which our people live today and what Ukrainians are fighting for,”
said Volodymyr Zelensky.
He thanked for the recent decisions of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to provide additional security assistance to Ukraine, as well as a separate support package for preparing for the winter period.
Volodymyr Zelensky emphasised that the Russian Federation continues missile terror against the population of Ukraine and the destruction of energy infrastructure. He noted the importance of creating an air shield over Ukraine to protect against Russian missile attacks. It was stated that in the conditions of approaching winter, Ukraine is counting on prompt receipt of assistance from partners for the restoration of damaged infrastructure and stable electricity supply.
Hope was expressed that the Netherlands would support a new Ukrainian initiative to supply grain to African countries suffering from hunger.
“Helping those suffering from hunger today is an effective response to Russia’s attempts to repeat the genocide in the 21st century. And also a reminder to humanity of the lessons of the Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine,”
the President emphasised.
The President of Ukraine presented the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands with the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise of the III degree, which was awarded to him for significant personal merits in strengthening interstate cooperation and supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Yesterday Zelensky spoke in a video call to the gathering G20 members. He said:
Dear leaders, you now clearly see what modern war is. Today, it is impossible to imagine life without computer networks, high-speed communication, the Internet, and even more so – without electricity. But your enemies may try to deprive you of just that.
My good advice to you is to take Ukrainian defence experience in order to guarantee the safety of your people.
We have created an IT army that prevails in cyberspace. The best specialists and companies of the country have united to protect the state.
We repelled more than 1,300 cyberattacks during the 8 months of the Russian war. In the first week of the invasion, Russia destroyed a key data center of our country, and the response solution is the “clouds” into which we moved part of the information systems.
We have built the protection of public registers. We have preserved the digital resilience of banks. Thanks to digitisation, we can quickly organize social payments to those affected by hostilities.
Millions of Ukrainians use our Diia state service every day. These are more than 100 public services without contact with officials. A digital passport, opening accounts, paying fines and taxes, receiving state aid, raising funds to support the army… All this is Ukrainian “Diia”.
If you or your allies and partners do not already have such a system and such digital protection, we will be happy to help you build them!
Cyber defence is about cooperation. The stability of institutions is cooperation. Reliable communication, including satellite communication, is also about cooperation.
What we all need is to put aside disputes and develop collective efforts for global peace. The G19 can be very successful in this!
Ukraine is willing to help. Our security experience is your security experience.
And please remember that everything must now be considered from the point of view of security.
Thank you Mr. President Widodo for a very meaningful summit!
Thank you all for your support!
Let there be peace!
Glory to Ukraine!
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