Not out of “good will”: how long was Russia preparing to escape from Kherson

18:18, 11/16/2022

The information that “Russia surrenders Kherson” appeared on November 9, after the corresponding report of the commander of the Russian occupation forces in Ukraine, Serhii Surovikin, and the corresponding decision of the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, Serhiy Shoigu. But in reality, the escape of the Russians was being prepared long before this date and was not a “gesture of goodwill”.

As usual, the Russian authorities tried to show retreat from Kherson as a “gesture of goodwill”. Like, it is not the offensive of the Ukrainians that makes the world run away, but some “peculiarities” of the region and “circumstances”. What’s more, such behavior was supposed to indicate that the Kremlin is ready for negotiations. But… The most interesting thing in this situation is that the Russian leadership was preparing a “retreat” long before November 9, when the military received the corresponding order “live”. That is, the Kremlin once again lied.

Operation “Teleportation”

We will remind you that a week ago, Russian General Surovikin began his report on the progress of the “special operation” with statements about the successes of the Russian army. They said that the situation at the front was generally “stabilized”, the mobilization was so successful, and there were so many volunteers that the capabilities of the Russian group allegedly increased. In particular, Surovikin spoke of Kherson Oblast as a favorable direction in which Russia is successfully resisting attempts by the Ukrainian army to attack.

After that, Shoigu noted that the defense in the Kherson direction is stable, but has “its own peculiarities.” And Surovikin, having listed these problems, proposed… to surrender Kherson. Shoigu agreed: “Start withdrawing the troops…”.

Many people in Ukraine did not welcome this news. After all, it was understood that the withdrawal of the number of Russian troops that the Kremlin had pushed to the right bank of the Kherson region (according to some data, it was about 20,000 people) would be long and difficult. Thus, according to Yehor Chernev, a People’s Deputy and Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence, the Russians decided to leave Kherson because the Ukrainian army created conditions for the occupiers “under which the enemy is no longer able to hold the captured territories.” However, you should also be prepared for “surprises”: “Probably, they will not leave quickly. And, probably, they will still wait in Kherson itself and try to fire strikes from the left bank. But our General Staff understands all this well. Therefore, we are in no hurry “.

However, literally the next day, information began to appear from the Ukrainian military from the Kherson region about the complete absence of Russians where the defense forces were planning to meet them.

“They left in a very organized manner. They took away almost all the heavy equipment. From what I saw, they didn’t even leave a broken one. They took everything,” SBU colonel Roman Kostenko , who, together with his comrades, was in the Beryslav direction of the Kherson region, told UNIAN.

Three weeks before

How could it happen that the Russian army received the order to withdraw on November 9, and already on the 10th it had already left the occupied territories, taking its tanks, artillery, and so on?

First of all, the occupiers did not manage to take out everything, because since the beginning of autumn, the Ukrainian defense forces regularly carried out successful strikes on Russian ammunition warehouses and accumulations of military equipment. And the Russian “mobs” themselves in some cases successfully “evacuated”, disguising themselves as civilians, i.e. without weapons and BC, leaving their equipment in rural schools and farms.

Secondly, in fact, Russians started fleeing Kherson Oblast three weeks before the official order. According to British intelligence, as early as the 20s of October, the Russian Federation was already preparing information conditions for the retreat of Russian troops across the Dnipro. Then the scouts assumed that the occupiers could leave via the barge bridge and pontoon crossings. 

This information was also confirmed by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW): “Russian forces probably learned lessons (at least partially) from their failures during the panicked retreat of the Russians from the Kharkiv region before the Ukrainian counteroffensive. From a military point of view, it would be wiser to withdraw people and equipment in full order to avoid another devastating rout. Such a rout in Kherson could have trapped Russian forces and equipment on the west bank of the Dnieper.”

Instead, in late October and early November, Russian propagandists continued to play IPSO, spreading information about the “redeployment” of troops, probable preparations for street battles in Kherson, and the creation of a large-scale “first line of defense” on the right bank of the Dnieper.

On November 4, even The Washington Post published an article with theses that Putin will throw all his forces into the defense of Kherson. They said that Russia has not shown any signs that it is ready to give up Kherson Oblast, because both the regional center itself and the entire region are of “huge strategic and political importance…” for the Kremlin.

What actually happened

The quick, if not lightning-fast, completion of the “redeployment” of Russian troops from the right bank of the Kherson region, which took place in just two days, indicates that the escape took much longer and was organized. In particular, British intelligence noted that the completion of the withdrawal of Russian troops took place only two days after its announcement, so it was probably carried out secretly, starting as early as October 22. And it was assumed that Russian military equipment and personnel dressed in civilian clothes probably left Kherson together with the claimed 80,000 “evacuated” civilians within a few weeks.

“The exit was completed only two days after its announcement. It is quite likely that the process of transition began on October 22, when collaborators in Kherson called on civilians to leave the city,” the message emphasizes.

According to Mykola Beleskov, chief consultant of the Department of Military and Military-Economic Policy of the National Institute of Strategic Studies, the withdrawal operation actually took place under the guise of an “evacuation” (actually deportation) operation of the civilian population.

“In essence, the civilian population of Ukraine became a human shield for the forces and means of Muscovy… Therefore, it is not surprising that the completion of the “evacuation” of civilians coincided with a public announcement of retreat. That is why there were so few captured enemy vehicles and BCs, prisoners and no damage at the crossings. And also, that is why only two days passed from the enemy’s announcement of withdrawal to the fact that the defense forces of Ukraine entered Kherson. Although the same General Milli said that the withdrawal of the group of 20-30 thousand will take a considerable amount of time,” he noted .

According to the expert, although our enemy is strategically stupid, but not so much that he does not learn from his mistakes.

“The Muscovites learned the lesson of the Balaklia-Kupian offensive operation of the Defense Forces of Ukraine and prepared more systematically for the retreat from the Kherson region,” he believes.

After the liberation of Kherson, the Ukrainian Defense Forces received confirmation of these versions. Thus, military correspondent Andriy Tsaplienko published interesting documents on his Telegram channel – the schedule of withdrawal of the Russian group, which, judging by the dates, was planned in several stages from October 21 to November 7.

In addition, the journalist also published the schedule of crossings of more than 6,000 units of weapons, military and special equipment.

What’s more, there are already available satellite images that show that back in October, the occupiers “evacuated” their equipment from the airfield they captured in Chaplinka (probably they were afraid that after retreating from the right bank it would come under HIMARS strikes).

In any case, the flight of the Russians from Kherson is not a “gesture of goodwill” at all. They got their teeth in the teeth and retreated for a long time and in an organized manner.

Military experts do not rule out that now military equipment and manpower can be transferred to other areas of the front, in particular to Donbas, in order to strengthen the Russian group, for example, near Bakhmut. However, it should not be forgotten that after the liberation of Kherson, all railway junctions on the left bank, which can be used to transfer such a large amount of weapons, are in the zone of damage of the Armed Forces.

Tatiana Urbanska

(C)UNIAN 2022

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