Russia ‘abandons 20,000 troops’ near Kherson as Ukraine strikes back

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Russia abandoned 20,000 troops near Kherson in the face of a Ukrainian counterattack, the regional governor claimed.

Vitaly Kim said Russia was moving command posts on the west bank of the Dnipro River to the east, leaving behind “stupid orcs” – its term for Kremlin soldiers.

Ukraine has already blown up all three Russian-controlled bridges connecting the two banks, meaning its soldiers on the western side have no easy way to resupply, reinforce or withdraw as Kyiv’s men continue their advance.

Kim, the governor of Mykolaiv, which sits on the west bank, said on Monday that Russian commanders had now begun to withdraw – apparently fearing capture or death by the Ukrainians.

Russia has started moving command posts from the west bank of the Dnipro River (left) to the east (right, Mayor Vitaly Kim saying troops are ‘abandoned’ by their leaders

“I’m just a little sorry – but not too much – for the stupid orcs who were abandoned on the right bank of the Dnipro,” he wrote on Telegram.

“All commanders are moving to the other side.”

Kherson was captured by Russian forces in March as Putin’s troops marched out of occupied Crimea and captured swaths of southern Ukraine.

It is a strategically important city as it spans the Dnipro River – which divides Ukraine in two – and is close to the Black Sea coast, which connects Ukraine to valuable maritime trade routes.

The city also has great symbolic value, as it is the only regional capital to have been captured by Putin’s forces during the invasion.

Ukraine announced plans to counterattack in the region last month, before blowing up two road bridges – the Antonovsky Bridge in Kherson and the Nova Kakhovka Hydroelectric Dam Bridge – using HIMARS rockets.

Both have been hit several times, including again this weekend, with UK intelligence saying they are now likely impassable to most vehicles.

“Even if Russia manages to make significant repairs to the bridges, they will remain a key vulnerability,” the defense ministry said.

“Land resupply for several thousand troops on the west bank is almost certainly dependent on just two pontoon ferry crossing points.

Ukraine says Russia has around 20,000 troops stationed in Kherson who are now vulnerable to a counterattack as all major bridges over the river are out of service (file image)

Ukraine says Russia has around 20,000 troops stationed in Kherson who are now vulnerable to a counterattack as all major bridges over the river are out of service (file image)

Ukrainian troops counterattack towards the city of Kherson, aiming to retake it before the onset of winter (file image)

Ukrainian troops counterattack towards the city of Kherson, aiming to retake it before the onset of winter (file image)

“With their limited supply chains, the size of the stockpiles that Russia has managed to establish in the West Bank is likely to be a key factor in the endurance of the force.”

But the American think tank Institute for the Study of War believes that Russia has already lost the ability to hold the region.

“Russian forces on the western bank of the Dnipro will likely lose the ability to defend against even limited Ukrainian counterattacks,” he said on Sunday.

“Bringing in sufficient ammunition, fuel and heavy equipment for large-scale offensive or even defensive operations through pontoon ferries or by air is impractical, if not impossible.”

Reclaiming Kherson would be a huge morale boost for Ukraine while proving that its ultimate war goal – recapturing all territory occupied by Russia – is possible, given the right kind of support.

This would likely trigger an increase in the supply of weapons from Western backers to Kyiv, as well as increased financial support.

And that would make the prospect of a Russian assault on the vital port city of Odessa – some 90 miles west of Kherson – extremely remote.

In an attempt to thwart these plans, Putin moved thousands of troops from the eastern front line to reinforce the area around Kherson.

But that – combined with devastating HIMARS strikes from munitions dumps and command posts – has slowed Russia’s advance into Donbass.

Kherson is the only regional capital in Ukraine to have fallen to Russian forces during the war, and its recapture would be a major morale boost for Kyiv (file)

Kherson is the only regional capital in Ukraine to have fallen to Russian forces during the war, and its recapture would be a major morale boost for Kyiv (file)

Putin’s generals have taken no significant ground since capturing the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in late June and early July.

America believes Russia has now lost around 75,000 men killed and wounded – half the force amassed by Putin before the invasion – and is struggling to recruit more men.

Wagner’s group of shadowy mercenaries are said to be so desperate for recruits that Prigozhin personally visits Russian prisons in search of convicted murderers to recruit into their ranks.

Conscription is also underway in the occupied areas, but these troops are poorly trained and equipped and have been branded “cannon fodder” by Ukrainian soldiers.

Putin is also being forced to turn to a shrinking group of allies for help, buying up to 1,000 drones from Iran and promising to deepen ties with North Korea.

At a major arms show that kicked off today, Putin boasted that Russian weapons were “decades ahead” of their rivals – despite obvious shortcomings in Ukraine – and pledged to provide his allies with the best he had.

Putin said: ‘[We] are ready to offer our allies the most modern types of weapons, from small arms to armored vehicles and from artillery to combat aviation and unmanned aerial vehicles.

‘Nearly all have been used more than once in actual combat operations. Many of them are years, even decades, ahead of their foreign counterparts.

“And in terms of tactical and technical characteristics, they are significantly superior to them.”

Delegations from more than 70 countries are present at Army-2022 to take advantage of good deals on Russian kit.

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