are the Russians about to withdraw from Kherson?

This is the only major city the Russians have occupied in Ukraine, and they may soon lose it. Military troubles, evacuations, vacant official buildings, authorities’ entanglements: the warning signals of Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson are mounting. However, the possibility of a Kremlin trap remains. Our experts analyzed the situation on the set this Friday.

From the point of view of the Kremlin, Kherson is the capital of one of the 48 regions integrated into the Russian Federation after the pseudo-referendum on the annexation of the occupied territories took effect in the first days of October. It is the last major city still held by Russian forces in Ukraine, after weeks of retreat in the face of rival military strikes. However, the buzz about the soon-to-be-announced Russians leaving their stronghold this Friday is going well.

Signals pointing to the direction of withdrawal from the agglomeration have been chained between the evacuation of the population, official speeches, cleaning of the administrative building from the Russian flag, and even the critical military situation. Our experts on the plateau call for caution regarding Moscow’s intentions around Kherson.

A flag shining through its absence

The photo was widely circulated on Ukrainian social networks. But what it shows is less important than what it doesn’t. We see there the seat of the administration of Kherson, abducted by the Russians, without the Russian flag which has crowned it since the day it was captured by the occupier.

“The fact that Ukrainians no longer see this Russian flag is symbolic above all,” said Sylvie Bermann, BFMTV’s diplomatic adviser and former French ambassador to Russia.

“Some people from the administration were also evacuated,” he continues. In addition to the deportation of these leaders, 140,000 residents were evacuated and moved to Crimea in the last two weeks.

The administrative building was cleared of the Russian flag.
The administrative building was cleared of the Russian flag. © Nexta_TV via BFMTV


In a propaganda broadcast, the pro-Russian vice-governor of the region, Kirill Stremoussov, did not hesitate to take the next step. He assured that the army was preparing to leave the city. According to footage broadcast by BFMTV, his troops are no longer visible on the streets anyway.

According to one of BFMTV’s defense advisers, Colonel Michel Goya, there is no reason to be surprised: “The city of Kherson is located on the right bank of the Dnieper River. In the end, the Russians will not be able to hold it. This is a losing battle, which will be an inevitable victory for the Ukrainians.”

Geographical location of Kherson.
Geographical location of Kherson. © BFM TV

The danger of street fighting

His colleague and also BFMTV adviser on military affairs Jérôme Pellistrandi presented a more nuanced position this Friday morning.

“The hardest part remains to be done,” he said.

Elaborating on the latest operations, he listed Ukraine’s assets: “Looking at the map, you see the right bank of the Dnieper River and you’re gradually taking back more agricultural areas. And around Kherson, everything is relatively easy (introduction, editor’s note) when you’re on the offensive.”

On the other hand, for the general, if it was relatively easy to approach the city, there would be less street fighting: “Now the Russians’ interest is to rely on the intact city of Kherson. It’s a riverside city, a port and an industrial city, so it’s the best place if they want to topple the Ukrainian army.”

Operations around Kherson continue.
Operations around Kherson continue. © BFM TV

The officer then presented a tactical option: “One working hypothesis might be: ‘We leave part of the right bank, because it is not defended, but we hang on to the city.'” Urban guerrilla warfare really has a double advantage for the Russians: it while allowing some savings for the besieged, it promises to be greedy for the attacker.

“There should be a ratio of six to one in the attack. So, if we deploy 10,000 Russian soldiers in Kherson, we need 60,000 Ukrainian soldiers,” General Jerome Pellistrandi said.

Citizen question

The Kremlin can calculate faster, because the sacrifice of several thousand lives does not really scare it. “Casualties are not a problem for Vladimir Putin. If you give casualties equal to the Ukrainian soldiers who will go to urban battles, you still have a tactical profit,” said the BFMTV Defense consultant.

Undoubtedly, many civilians have already been driven outside the city walls. But even if these 140,000 evacuees are removed from Kherson’s pre-war population of 290,000, the remaining 150,000 remain at the center of this crossfire. Information capable of slowing down an attack.

“This is a real tactical dilemma for the Ukrainians, because it may be necessary to bomb and destroy a large part of the city, where a large part of the Ukrainian population remains,” General Jerome Pellistrandi said.

The battle for opinion

Ukrainian MP Alona Shkrum, speaking from Kiev with a duplex, preferred to emphasize the support of the local population, even the national cause, which was torn from their homeland by Vladimir Putin’s expansionist goals. “I can tell you that there is a very strong resistance in Kherson. There were many flyers and paintings in Kherson saying that Kherson is Ukraine, this is a fake referendum,” he assured.

The military conflict is actually combined with the struggle for public opinion. And the Russian autocrat must consider his public when deciding the fate of Kherson. “Theoretically, Kherson remains Russian because it was annexed. A decision that seems absurd and will be symbolically damaging if Russia evacuates Kherson,” diplomat Sylvie Bermann finally emphasized.

Robin Werner

Robin Werner BFMTV journalist

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