In the face of the Ukrainian attacks, Russia is now giving up Cherson, the only regional capital captured in the war. The troops would withdraw from the city and other parts of the occupied area there, as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Wednesday.
What do you think of the deduction? Australian ex-general and military expert Mick Ryan analyzes the consequences on Twitter. He makes six points to consider.
First, the deduction is serious and not a trap, Ryan said. “My impression is that this is a real thing. The Russian position in Ukraine is very difficult to maintain.” Of course, Ukraine will now “also ensure that the retreating Russians are attacked wherever possible.”
Secondly, Ryan thinks it is unlikely that the Ukrainians will undertake a large-scale crossing of the Dnieper to the east bank anytime soon. “Not only would this be a massive, obvious operation, but it would penetrate a number of dense Russian defense zones.”
Recapturing the Kherson area will expand the area to the south that the Himars system, for example, “can reach for design and attack activities in support of future offensives,” Ryan said.
Ryan’s third point: The withdrawal announcement was made by the military, “but cessions of territory are political. Without Putin’s approval, this would not have been possible under any circumstances.”
This is “proof that Putin can see reality and make rational decisions,” Ryan said. “But it is also evidence that he is using the military as a scapegoat for the Russian debacle in Ukraine.”
Fourth, the pace and organization of the Russian withdrawal will “tell much about the morale and capability of Russian forces in the south.” Ryan believes the Russians are leaving behind significantly less equipment and ammunition this time, as they did in the Kharkiv offensive .
A fifth point is that the Russians will presumably accompany this withdrawal with increased strategic attacks in other parts of Ukraine. “From a Russian perspective, these attacks would continue the ongoing ‘energy warfare’ against Ukraine and also provide strategic communications to distract the Russian public from the Kherson withdrawal and territorial losses. This is important for Putin. After declaring to the Russian people that Kherson belongs to Russia in the annexation declaration, Putin will need a story to justify the withdrawal and to distract the Russian public,” Ryan said.
Sixth, it should be borne in mind that with less defensible territory and an influx of mobilized troops, General Surovikin can “rebuild battered combat and support units.” “The locations to which the withdrawn troops will be transferred will also shed light on their combat status as well as General Surovikin’s likely priorities in the winter and into early 2023.” At the same time, this consolidation “may also prolong the war.”