Russian analyst Igor Shishkin slammed the Kremlin’s marketing of its withdrawal from Kherson in an interview broadcast on Russian television.
Russia began withdrawing its troops from Kherson this week to further protect its civilians and troops from the exposed position. Earlier in the war, the Kremlin declared the Ukrainian city as part of the Russian Federation. Civilians viewed the withdrawal as a victory, butUkrainian officials are urging caution in case Russian forces use the retreat as an effort to unleash more attacks against Ukraine.
Russia has said since Kherson is the only land it holds west of the Dnipro River, it is growing increasingly difficult to supply the troops. It portrayed the withdrawal as a precaution and a strategic move, but Shishkin felt that sent the wrong message to the Russian people.
“When we suffer a defeat, let’s start saying that it’s a defeat and not pretend that it’s a victory or that it’s some kind of cunning move,” he said on Russian television. “We need to tell the truth.”
Shishkin said the retreat’s portrayal mirrors when Russia withdrew its troops from Kharkiv in September following a strong Ukrainian counteroffensive attack.
Center for Strategic and International Studies senior advisor Mark Cancian told Newsweek that Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson, though politically damaging for Russian President Vladimir Putin, was “militarily sensible” for protecting Russian troops.
Cancian said Russian troops were very exposed on the west side of the Dnipro River in Kherson. Russia was in a position where if their position collapsed, thousands of Russians could have been trapped on the wrong side of the river and then taken as prisoners.
“It allows them to redistribute their forces,” Cancian said. “So they can use some of these units elsewhere in a way that plays to their longer-term strategy, which I think, is to dig in and hold on to where they are.”
Shishkin also said Russian news reports shouldn’t fan “hysteria” or claim that “all is lost” either. Television host Ivan Trushkin countered by saying civilians often view the war as they would a football match – rooting for Russia when it “scores a goal” and criticizing the Kremlin when progress is made by Ukraine.
“And then if they start attacking us just a little bit: ‘The keeper can’t stop a thing! Sack the coach! The striker’s useless!'” Trushkin said. “I think it’s an enormous mistake when people treat a conflict like a football match.
“Over my many years in this profession…I’ve learnt one very important skill: to shut my trap at the right time so my emotions don’t get out,” he added. “In my view, we all need that important skill at the moment.”