Vladimir Putin has kept quiet after Russia suffered a setback in withdrawing its troops from the strategic city of Kherson.
His spokesman has distanced himself from the decision, saying it is a matter for the Department of Defense, while the President appears to have avoided making big speeches or making announcements on the subject.
Cheering residents greeted Ukrainian troops who arrived in central Kherson yesterday after Russia gave up the only regional capital it had captured since its invasion began in February.
“Today is a historic day. We are taking back the south of the country, we are taking back Kherson,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an evening video address.
The retreat was the third major Russian retreat in the war and the first to abandon such a large occupied city in the face of a major Ukrainian counteroffensive that has retaken parts of the east and south.
Russian soldiers abandoned their wounded as they desperately fled Kherson, a Ukrainian soldier claimed.
Earlier this week, Russia announced it would withdraw from the region, including parts of the city that had been the only regional capital Moscow had so far captured.
The increased advance of Zelenskyy’s troops has forced Moscow to retreat, and in the 24 hours since Russia began retreating, Ukrainian troops have recaptured more than 250 square kilometers of territory.
Nikolai, a Ukrainian soldier fighting in the region, told The Telegraph Russian troops had retreated to “more fortified positions” but added that some points were still “populated” and engaged in fighting.
He said: “They are retreating because they are taking casualties, very heavy casualties. Also, they don’t even take the corpses of their soldiers, leaving the wounded behind.
“We’re always attacking. And they have no choice but to retreat across the Dnieper River, where they have concentrated all their strength.”
Ukraine has previously been wary of publicly celebrating the liberation of Kherson for fear that Russia would wreak havoc if forces withdrew.
But in his evening address on Thursday, President Zelenskyy paid tribute to his fallen soldiers who gave their lives to liberate 41 southern settlements.
“Today we have good news from the south,” he said. “We should all remember now and always what this movement means, we should remember that every step (forward) costs the lives of our warriors.
“It’s not the enemy that’s leaving. It is the Ukrainians who are driving out the occupiers at great expense.”
Moscow’s withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro River is a major blow to plans to establish a land corridor to Crimea and secure water supplies to the Russian-controlled peninsula.
Russian state media and pro-Kremlin war hawks defended it as a necessary move but conceded a heavy blow.
“I know for sure that this decision was not easy for anyone. Not for those who took it, nor for those of us who understood it would be like this but still prayed it wouldn’t happen,” said Margarita Simonyan, head of RT, Russia’s international propaganda channel.
The War Gonzo blog, which has more than 1.3 million Telegram subscribers, stated: “Apparently we’re going to leave town, no matter how painful it is to write about it now. In short, Kherson cannot be held with bare hands. Yes, this is a black page in the history of the Russian army, the Russian state, a tragic page.”
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/vladimir-putin-stays-silent-as-russian-troops-retreat-kherson-42138944.html Vladimir Putin is silent while Russian troops withdraw from Kherson