IN another sign of Russian concern, the Kremlin-installed chief of the strategic southern region of Kherson on Tuesday announced an “organised, gradual displacement” of civilians from four towns on the Dnipro River.
Oct. 20, 2022
4 min read
Russian commander admits situation is ‘tense’ for his forces in Ukraine
Russian forces in Ukraine
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“The situation in the area of the ‘Special Military Operation’ can be described as tense,” Sergei Surovikin, the Russian air force general now commanding Russia’s invasion forces, told the state-owned Rossiya 24 news channel.
On Kherson, Surovikin said: “The situation in this area is difficult. The enemy is deliberately striking infrastructure and residential buildings in Kherson.”
Russian forces in Kherson have been driven back by 20-30 km (13-20 miles) in the last few weeks and are at risk of being pinned against the western bank of the 2 200-kilometre-long Dnipro river that bisects Ukraine.
Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-installed council governing Zaporizhzhia, also in Ukraine’s south, said Kyiv’s forces had intensified their overnight shelling of Russian-held Enerhodar – the town where many of the employees of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station live.
Artillery fire had hit the town’s outskirts and there had been 10 strikes around the local thermal power station, he said on the Telegram messaging app on Wednesday.
Reuters could not independently verify battlefield reports.
Both Ukraine and Russia have denied targeting civilians, although Kyiv has accused Moscow’s forces of war crimes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered what he calls a “special military operation” on February 24, because he said he wanted to ensure Russian security and protect Russian speakers in Ukraine. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of an unprovoked war to grab territory from its pro-Western neighbour.
Russian troop positions in Kupiansk and Lyman in eastern Ukraine and the area between Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih in Kherson province were cited by Surovikin as under continuous attack.
He appeared to concede that there was a danger of Ukrainian forces advancing towards the city of Kherson, which lies near the mouth of the Dnipro on the west bank. Russia captured the city in the early days of the invasion and it remains the only major Ukrainian city that Moscow’s forces have seized intact.
Kherson, one of four partially-occupied Ukrainian provinces that Russia claims to have annexed, controls both the only land route to the Crimea peninsula Russia seized in 2014 and the mouth of the Dnipro.
After staging what Moscow called referendums in September, which Kyiv and Western governments denounced as illegal, Putin proclaimed the eastern Ukrainian border provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk – together known as Donbas – as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as full-fledged regions of Russia.
Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed Kherson region chief, said the risk of attack by Ukrainian forces had led to a decision to evacuate some civilians from four towns.
“The Ukrainian side is building up forces for a large-scale offensive,” Saldo said in a video statement. The Russian military was preparing to repel the offensive, he said, and “where the military operates, there is no place for civilians”.
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Last week, Russia unleashed the biggest wave of missile strikes against Ukraine since the start of the invasion.
Putin cast the air strikes using missiles and drones as revenge for an explosion that damaged Russia’s bridge to Crimea.
Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the explosion but celebrated it.
Ukraine has invited United Nations (UN) experts to inspect what it says are downed Iranian-origin drones used by Russia in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
Russia’s dependence on Iranian-made drones exposes Russia as “bankrupt in military and political terms”, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his Tuesday night video address.
Ukraine accuses Russia of using Iran-made Shahed-136 “kamikaze drones”. Iran denies supplying them and on Tuesday the Kremlin also denied using them.
However, two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats told Reuters that Tehran had promised Russia with more drones and surface-to-surface missiles.
Russia has destroyed almost a third of Ukraine’s power stations in the past week, Zelensky said.
Russia had targeted more than 10 regions in the past 24 hours, Zelenskiy said in his address, urging Ukrainians to cut back on electricity consumption in the evenings. - REUTERS