Two Russian state news agencies published a report Monday saying Moscow had ordered the withdrawal of Russian forces “to more advantageous positions.” Immediately, however, this information was denied by the Russian Ministry of Defense and it was suddenly withdrawn from all websites.
The incident comes amid mounting reports of a major Ukrainian military operation to attempt to cross the Dnieper River east of the city of Kherson.
The state agency RIA Novosti took down the report with the headline “The Dnieper group of troops will be moved to more advantageous positions” only ten minutes after its publication.
“After evaluating the current situation, the command of the Dnieper Group decided to transfer the troops to more advantageous positions east of the Dnieper. After regrouping, the group will release part of the forces that will be used in offensives in other directions,” the deleted article said.
The TASS agency also reported on the statement in a similar manner.
Another war story:
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on the report by both news agencies. But the Russian news site RBK managed to obtain a statement from the Ministry of Defense, according to which the information about the download is “false” and a “provocation”, writes The Moscow Times.
According to the Ukrainian Center of National Resistance, the Russian troops did not retreat. At present, according to local information, no relevant movements of enemy troops have been recorded, writes the Ukrainská pravda server.
In this context, it is worth mentioning that in the past, Russia has repeatedly used the same wording “about moving troops to more advantageous positions” in order not to have to fully state that the Russian army is retreating. The last time this happened was the announcement of the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Moscow-occupied regions of Ukraine – Kharkiv and Kherson last fall. That’s when Ukraine succeeded in a surprising counterattack and liberated Kherson, Radio Free Europe reminds.
But the Russian army has dug in on the other side of the Dnieper River, from where it is shelling Kherson and other Ukrainian positions.
In the same area, the Russian army (according to state-sanctioned reports) succeeded in thwarting a Ukrainian attempt to create a bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Dnieper and on nearby islands. If Ukrainian forces were able to cross the river and create a safe bridgehead, it would represent a significant advance.
Interview from flooded Kherson
“About a third of the city is under water,” Vyacheslav Chernavskyj tells Seznam Zprávám from Kherson flooded with water from the Kachovská Dam. According to him, even with the receding of the water, there will not be complete relief. That will be the restoration of the city without the threat of shelling.
The sudden withdrawal of the articles in question may also indicate confusion among Russian authorities and media over how to deal with developments on the front in southern Ukraine.
According to the American Institute for the Study of War, Ukrainian troops have achieved “minor successes” in this area, especially on the left bank of the Dnieper in parts of the southern Kherson region. Russian war bloggers then continue to report on ongoing Ukrainian ground operations on the eastern bank.
This is, for example, the explosion that killed at least three Russian officers in the occupied city of Melitopol on Saturday, which was claimed by Ukrainian military intelligence. Kyiv said the explosion was an “act of revenge” carried out by local resistance forces.
Other fighters on the Ukrainian side claim to have killed scores of Russian officials and local collaborators with car bombs. Last week, Mikhail Filiponenko, the former head of the separatist militia, was killed in the occupied city of Luhansk in an attack claimed by Ukraine, the BBC reminds.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi also hinted at the shift. He said in an interview with Reuters last week that the five-month-long Ukrainian counter-offensive is gradually making some progress in the south and east of the country.