Russian military leaders have reportedly withdrawn from the illegally annexed port city of Kherson ahead of a counteroffensive by Ukraine.
The invading army left behind newly conscripted soldiers to slow the impending attack, according to a Sunday report from the Institute for the Study of War think tank.
The withdrawal came a day after Russian authorities installed in the key Ukraine city told residents to evacuate. More than 20,000 civilians had left, fleeing along the left bank of the Dnieper River, according to a Russian administration official.
As Ukraine forces threatened on the river’s right bank, a Russian line of defense had “been reinforced and the situation has remained stable,” according to deputy administrator Kirill Stremousov.
Ukraine forces said they had deployed 17 air strike counteroffensives in the eastern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions after they’d been annexed by President Vladimir Putin last month in a sham election along with two other provinces. The Ukrainian military also said Sunday it had destroyed 14 Iranian-made Russian drones over the weekend.
Governors of two Russia border regions said multiple defensive lines had been built on Russian territory to protect against potential attacks from reinvigorated Ukraine forces.
Russia placed the four annexed Ukraine territories under martial law Thursday in a bid to tighten its grip on the region as the unprovoked invasion effort continued to flounder. On Friday, Ukraine blasted Russian resupply positions across the Kherson province as it geared up for an attempt to retake the region’s namesake city.
Ukraine is trying to reclaim Kherson — the only province capital captured by Russia, with a prewar population of 280,000 — without obliterating its infrastructure.
Ukrainian military officials said Russia was mostly on the defensive across the country with the exception of attacks on targets in the annexed Donbas and Mykolaiv regions — and widespread strikes on energy plants across the country.
Critical infrastructure sites across nine regions of the country had been attacked in recent days by some 25 Russian air strikes and more than 100 missile and artillery strikes, Ukraine military officials said.
Russia had targeted power plants in attacks across Ukraine recently in an attempt to torpedo morale and force the government to spend extra resources to protect civilians and energy infrastructure, according to the Institute for the Study of War.
An attack on a major chemical plant in the northwest city of Rivneazot suspended fertilizer production but didn’t pose an environmental risk, according to company officials.
Two overnight strikes targeted civilians in apartment buildings in a suburb of Mykolaiv, but no deaths were reported; residents had fled the area after an earlier attack.
Meanwhile, Ukraine security officials arrested the chief of the Motor Sich aircraft engine factory plant in Zaporizhzhia, and another official, accusing them of supplying Russia with military aircraft equipment.
Motor Sich, a Soviet-era aircraft maker, is one of Ukraine’s top manufacturers and had been repeatedly targeted by Russian strikes during the eight month war.
With Post wires