Russia Retreats from Kherson

international politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

Another retreat by the Russian military, this time from Kherson. This past week Russian troops were ordered to evacuate from Kherson. Kherson is a port city located where the Dnipro River meets the Black Sea, and it was a central focus in Russia’s attempt to control the southern coast of Ukraine.

When Russia initially assaulted and captured Kherson it tried to assimilate the people into its sphere. But the Ukrainians of Kherson fought back and would not accept Russia’s efforts to strip the city and region of Ukrainian language, currency, and education. When Russia claimed to “annex” parts of Ukraine including Kherson, after a sham election, the citizens of Kherson stood defiant. This past week as Russian troops evacuated and Ukrainian soldiers entered the city the people of Kherson celebrated their return to Ukrainian control. One townsman reported to a New York Times reporter on scene, “people walk on the streets and congratulate each other, it’s just a holiday!”

There are a few schools of thought forming over Russia’s retreat. Some believe that Russia is moving to regroup and reposition its soldiers before the incoming winter, and in doing so avoid personnel and equipment losses from Ukrainian attacks and its own inability to adequately sustain forces over an extended battlefield. By moving its troops to the eastern side of the Dnipro River which borders Kherson, Russia is attempting to improve the survival odds for its troops using the river as a defensive barrier. 

President Biden spoke about the Russian retreat during a Press conference on Nov. 9 when he also answered questions about the midterm elections. Biden seemed to insinuate that the timing of the Russian retreat was linked to the US midterm elections. He pointed out that he thought it was interesting that Russia waited until after the US congressional election was complete to announce the retreat. Biden said, “it’s evidence of the fact that they have some real problems with the Russian military. 

In addition to this retreat, Russia is having problems on the home front. Hundreds of thousands of men have fled the country to avoid the draft. As of Nov. 4 the Kremlin reported over 700,000 men had left in approximately two weeks. Many believe Russian President Putin’s announcements that new military conscripts will not be sent to the vicinity of Kherson and that college students would be exempt from the military mobilization are an effort to deflect some criticism of the Russian military’s ongoing failures. Despite the tensions in Russia Putin has still managed to fill his military personnel quota to sustain his so called “special military operation” in Ukraine. Putin spoke to the media in early November saying that “mobilization is complete.” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also claimed that Putin’s goal of calling up 300,000 reservists had been achieved. However, as Ukraine continues to push back, a portion of the Russian public and military are not happy. 

To show his support for ongoing Ukrainian military advances and to celebrate the liberation of Kherson, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Kherson on Monday, Nov.14. Zelenskyy commented that he believes this (i.e., the liberation of Kherson) is the “Beginning of the end of the war.” Zelenskyy continued, “Ukraine was ready for peace, but peace for all of our country, all of our territory.…That is why we’re fighting against Russian aggression.” Now that the Ukrainian flag once again flies over Kherson and Zelenskyy has visited to celebrate the Russian retreat, morale is high in southern Ukraine. Zelenskyy’s presence continues to be motivating to Ukrainian citizens. He is a symbol of the resilience and courage of Ukraine as demonstrated in Kherson when Russia was firing missiles at entrenched troops less than a mile away.  

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