Russia has left 20,000 troops near Kherson in the face of a Ukrainian counterattack, the regional governor claimed.
Vitaly Kim said Russia is moving command posts on the western bank of the Dnipro River eastward, leaving behind “dumb orcs” — his term for Kremlin soldiers.
Ukraine has already blown up all three bridges under Russian control, meaning the soldiers on the western side have no easy way to resupply, reinforce or withdraw as the Kiev men continue their advance.
Kim, the governor of Mykolaiv, who sits on the western bank, said on Monday that Russian commanders are now beginning to withdraw — apparently fearing capture or death at the hands of the Ukrainians.
Russia has begun moving command posts from the west bank of the Dnipro River (left) to the east (right, with Mayor Vitaly Kim saying troops are being ‘abandoned’ by their leaders
“I feel a little sorry – but not much – for the stupid orcs left behind on the right bank of the Dnipro,” he wrote on Telegram.
“All commanders go to the other side.”
Kherson was captured by Russian forces in March when Putin’s forces stormed occupied Crimea and conquered parts of southern Ukraine.
It is a strategically important city because it spans the Dnipro River – which divides Ukraine in two – and is close to the Black Sea coast, which links Ukraine to valuable maritime trade routes.
The city also has enormous symbolic value, as it is the only regional capital captured by Putin’s forces during the invasion.
Ukraine last month announced plans for a counter-attack in the region, before it blew up two road bridges – the Antonovsky Bridge in Kherson and the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric dam bridge – using HIMARS missiles.
Both have been hit several times, including again over the weekend, with British intelligence saying they are now likely impassable to most vehicles.
“Even if Russia manages to make significant repairs to the bridges, they will remain a major vulnerability,” the defense ministry said.
“Supplying the ground for the several thousand troops on the west bank almost certainly depends on just two ferry crossings.
Ukraine says Russia has stationed about 20,000 men in Kherson who are now vulnerable to counter-attacks as all major bridges over the river are out of order (file image)
Ukrainian troops counterattack towards Kherson, aiming to retake it before winter comes (file image)
“With their supply chains limited, the amount of stocks Russia has managed to build on the western bank is likely to be a key factor in the force’s endurance.”
But the US think tank Institute for the Study of War believes Russia has already lost the ability to conserve the area.
“Russian forces on the western bank of the Dnipro are likely to lose the ability to defend against even limited Ukrainian counter-attacks,” it said on Sunday.
“It is impractical if not impossible to carry sufficient ammunition, fuel and heavy equipment for offensive or even large-scale defensive operations over pontoon ferries or by air.”
Retaking Kherson would be a huge morale boost for Ukraine, while also proving that its ultimate war goal – retaking all Russian occupied territory – is possible, with the right kind of support.
It would likely lead to a greater supply of weapons from Kiev’s western lenders, along with more financial support.
And it would make the prospect of a Russian attack on the vital port city of Odessa – about 90 miles west of Kherson – extremely remote.
To thwart those plans, Putin has moved thousands of troops from the eastern frontline to fortify the Kherson area.
But that – coupled with HIMARS attacks on devastating munitions depots and command posts – has slowed Russia’s advance into Donbas.
Kherson is the only regional capital in Ukraine to have fallen to Russian forces during the war, and retaking it would be a major morale boost for Kiev (truce)
Putin’s generals have not captured significant ground since they captured the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in late June and early July.
America believes Russia has now lost about 75,000 killed and wounded — half the force Putin had amassed before he invaded — and is struggling to recruit more men.
The shadowy Wagner mercenary group is said to be so desperate for recruits that Prigozhin personally enters Russian prisons in search of convicted murderers to join his ranks.
Conscription is also underway in occupied territories, but these troops are poorly trained and equipped and are referred to as ‘cannon fodder’ by Ukrainian soldiers.
Putin is also being forced to turn to a shrinking group of allies to help, buying up to 1,000 drones from Iran and deepening ties with North Korea.
At a major weapons expo that kicked off today, Putin boasted that Russian weapons are “decades ahead” of rivals – despite obvious shortcomings in Ukraine – and pledged to provide his allies with the best he has available.
Putin said: “[We] are ready to offer our allies the most modern types of weapons, from small arms to armored vehicles and artillery to combat aviation and unmanned aerial vehicles.
“Almost all of them have been used more than once in real combat operations. Many of them are years, if not decades, ahead of their foreign counterparts.
“And in terms of tactical and technical properties, they are significantly better than them.”
Delegations from more than 70 countries attend Army-2022 to take advantage of great deals on Russian equipment.