Ukraine fears Russian trap amid reports of retreat

Ukraine: Loudspeakers warn civilians to evacuate Kherson

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In another potential setback for Russian forces, it has been reported by a Russian official in the south of Ukraine that Russia may be retreating. The official reported that it is expected that the Kremlin will pull back its forces from the west bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson.

Civilians in the area have been advised to flee the area in order to keep them safe.

On this report, senior figures in Moscow have made no comment but officials in Kyiv and the West are remaining sceptical about the information.

According to the Ukrainian Government and military analysts in the West, Kyiv is concerned that rather than retreating, Russia is setting a trap.

The Russian-installed deputy civilian administrator of Kherson spoke in an interview on Thursday with Solovyov Live, a pro-Kremlin news outlet.

Kirill Stremousov said: “Most likely our units, our soldiers, will leave for the left (eastern) bank.”

This region includes the capital of Kherson which marks the only major area Russian forces have captured and held onto since the beginning of the conflict in February.

The area includes one side of a dam across the Dnipro river which regulates the water supply to irrigate Crimea, the area Russia has occupied for eight years.

Despite the comments by Mr Stremousov, Russia previously denied a withdrawal of troops from the region.

However, the tone seemed to have shifted by Thursday night when Stremousov said “we have to take some very difficult decisions now.

“Whatever our strategy might be, and some people might be afraid to recognise things.

“But for me it is very important to try to say at the moment – People, please go over to the east bank. You will be in a far safer position.”

The Russian noted the significance of a Russian withdrawal from the area as he expressed his hope that “we will not leave Kherson” but added: “It will be a big blow not only in terms of the image of us all, but a big blow for people who could stay here.”

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Suspicions of a Russian retreat were fuelled by photographs which were shared online of the key administrative building in the area without the Russian flag flying on top of it.

However, Ukraine cautiously noted that the images may be disinformation from the Russians.

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern military command showed Ukraine’s caution surrounding Russian disinformation and traps.

In televised comments she said: “This could be a manifestation of a particular provocation, in order to create the impression that the settlements are abandoned, that it is safe to enter them, while they are preparing for street battles.”

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