Russian withdrawal from Kherson will take ‘at least a week’

Ukraine’s defence minister says winter will slow battlefield operations

Ukraine’s defence minister said on Thursday it would take Russia at least a week to withdraw its troops from the southern city of Kherson and that winter would slow down battlefield operations, giving both sides a chance to regroup.

In an interview in Kyiv, Oleksii Reznikov said Russia had 40,000 troops in Kherson region and that it still had forces in the city, around the city and on the right bank of the vast Dnipro river.

“It’s not that easy to withdraw these troops from Kherson in one day or two days. As a minimum, [it will take] one week,” he told Reuters, acknowledging it was difficult to predict Russia’s actions.

Russia announced on Wednesday it would withdraw from the west bank of the Dnipro that includes Kherson city, the only regional capital Moscow has captured since invading Ukraine in February.


Mr Reznikov said that such an exit would free up forces from both sides to fight elsewhere.

Ukraine, he said, had a security and defence force of one million personnel to guard a “non-friendly” 2,500-km border with Belarus, Russia and occupied Ukrainian areas.

Mr Reznikov played down the threat of a Russian nuclear strike in Ukraine and dismissed as “crazy” the idea Moscow might blow up the vast southern Kakhovka dam as it withdraws.

He said that such a move would flood areas controlled by Moscow and also cut off their access to fresh water supply via a canal from the Dnipro to annexed Crimea.

“If you check the landscape in this district, you will find that the western bank is higher terrain and the east bank is lower terrain,” he said.

“This means the water will flow east of this bank and they will have a risk for their troops,” he said.

Both sides in the conflict have accused the other of planning to destroy the dam.

Mr Reznikov accused the new commander of Russia’s invasion forces of carrying out a “doctrine of terrorists” by heavily bombarding civilians and critical infrastructure. He also said that the Russian army under Gen Sergei Surovikin appeared to have become more disciplined since his appointment in October.

Asked if Moscow’s tactics had changed under Gen Surovikin, Reznikov said: “Yes, he changed it because he’s using terrorism tactics against civilians and infrastructure objects using cruise missiles, rocket missiles and drones, special Iranian drones,” he said. “They don’t send to Ukraine one or two rockets as before; they use 40 in a day and then wait – and then again, and again,” he said.

Witness reports said Russian forces were still visible in Kherson. Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy military intelligence chief, estimated over half of the Russian forces that were stationed on the right bank were still there – a force that had previously been put at some 20,000.

“The most recent information we have is the 4th Tactical Military Base has supposedly been transferred to the left bank. The rest are still there, fighting, conducting military activities with the aim of providing cover for others to leave,” said Mr Skibitsky.

Reports from Kherson said Russian troops have blown up part of a television broadcasting centre and damaged heating and power infrastructure in the city. “Today, during the day, Russian troops blew up the broadcasting centre of Kherson television,” said the website IMI, one of two outlets reporting the development, quoting residents. “According to our contacts the [television] tower remained intact.”

The report said the troops also blew up mobile telephone infrastructure and “left the city without power”.

Kherson region’s Ukrainian-appointed governor, Yaroslav Yanushevych, writing on Telegram, said Russian troops had “taken away public equipment, damaged power lines and wanted to leave a trap behind them”.

Another senior Ukrainian official warned that Russia is booby-trapping the city. 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”.

Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said his forces have liberated 41 settlements as they advance through the south of the country, adding that an unspecified number of pro-Kyiv troops had been killed.

Ukrainian troops claimed 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. Footage showed a group of Ukrainian soldiers in Snihurivka as one of them announced: “Today, on 10 November, Snihurivka was liberated by the forces of the 131st Separate Intelligence Battalion. Glory to Ukraine.” A small group of civilians applauded nearby. – Agencies