It is still unclear whether Putin’s troops will really withdraw completely from Cherson and the surrounding area. But not only the experts of the “Institute for the Study of War” (ISW) report that Russia is preparing, at least in part, to withdraw to the east bank of the Dnipro.

The military expert Mick Ryan – Australian ex-general, reports in a Twitter thread that Russia is preparing for a withdrawal – and explains what will be important.

In principle, a withdrawal is not a bad thing. They are designed to “allow a force to break away from the enemy and relocate to a new assignment or location while minimizing casualties,” writes Ryan. As many Western military textbooks state: “It should be treated as a routine tactic and not as a harbinger of disaster.”

Russia’s withdrawal across the Dnipro, on the other hand, is likely to present some difficulties. Ryan lists the following points:

– First, deception is crucial. “However, the reality is that it is difficult to hide an intention to retreat from the enemy. At some point it becomes obvious what’s going to happen,” Ryan said. “For the Russians on the west bank of the Dnipro, this will be difficult, but not impossible.”

– Second, the order of retreat is important. This includes when and how the logistical supplies, headquarters, reconnaissance units and ground combat troops will be evacuated. “Getting that sequence right will be crucial for the Russians. They must find a balance between maintaining their troops and stopping the advancing Ukrainian troops.”

– Third, Russia’s problem will be interfering with the Ukrainians’ ability to impede the withdrawal. “We should expect that the withdrawing Russians will use more air defenses, jammers and artillery and also receive more air support. They may also use civilians as human shields.”

– A fourth aspect is the issue of command and control. It is also about controlling an orderly retreat in the planned order and about good combat discipline. “This can be very difficult when there is a strong tendency to move backwards earlier than planned,” writes Ryan. “And this combat discipline is all the more likely to break down the smaller the remaining defense forces are.” His conclusion: “Russian leadership and discipline on the battlefield was not particularly good in this war. We can expect the later stages of their withdrawal to be chaotic.”

In general, you always strive for a “clean breakthrough” with such a maneuver, explains Ryan. “This means that the enemy is retreating so far that they are no longer able to pursue and engage the retreating troops.”

The “key” to a clean break, according to Ryan, is “an effective rearguard.” “I assume that the Russian rear guard will consist of armored and mounted infantry forces. These forces can move and fight quickly and have a better chance of making a clean break and crossing the Dnipro to fight another day. However, it could also be that the Russians “drop” newly mobilized troops to buy time to withdraw,” he analyses.

In summary, a successful retreat requires “excellent planning and coordination.” Therefore, “the concept for the process and execution of the retreat must come from the supreme commander. He must be aware that one mistake could result in the loss of the entire retreating force.”

For Ryan it is clear: “A lot can go wrong. And on the heels of the Russians will be a determined, aggressive Ukrainian ground force.”