Russian commander admits ‘tense’ situation for his forces in Ukraine
- Ukraine facing ‘critical’ power situation, official says
- Three dead in new strikes in Kyiv
- Zelenskiy accuses Russia of targeting civilians
- Moscow says it is hitting infrastructure
- The new Russian commander recognizes the difficulties
KYIV/MYKOLAIV, Ukraine, Oct 18 (Reuters) – The new commander of Russian forces in Ukraine has made a rare acknowledgment of the pressures they are under as a result of Ukrainian offensives to retake southern and eastern regions that Moscow claims having annexed only a few weeks ago.
And in another sign of Russian concern over the situation on the ground eight months after its invasion, the Kremlin-installed leader of the southern strategic region of Kherson on Tuesday announced an “organized and gradual relocation” of civilians from four towns on the Dnipro river. .
Russian forces in Kherson have been pushed back 20 to 30 km (13 to 20 miles) in recent weeks and risk being pinned against the west bank of the 2,200 km (1,367 mile) Dnipro. river that crosses Ukraine.
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“The situation in the ‘special military operation’ area can be described as tense,” Sergei Surovikin, a Russian air force general appointed this month to take charge, told the outlet. public information Rossiya 24.
On Kherson, Surovikin said: “The situation in this region is difficult. The enemy is deliberately striking infrastructure and residential buildings in Kherson.”
Ukraine and Russia have denied targeting civilians, although Kyiv has accused Moscow 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 seize territory from its pro-Western neighbor.
Russian troop positions in Kupyansk and Lyman in eastern Ukraine and in the area between Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih in Kherson province were cited by Surovikin as being under continuous attack.
He appeared to admit that there was a danger that Ukrainian forces would advance towards the town of Kherson, which lies near the mouth of the Dnipro on the western bank, and that it has been difficult for Russia to resupply since. east because the main bridge over the Dnipro was badly damaged by Ukrainian shelling.
Russia captured the city largely unopposed in the early days of the invasion, and it remains the only major Ukrainian city that Moscow’s forces have seized intact.
Kherson is one of four partially occupied Ukrainian provinces that Russia claims to have annexed, and arguably the most strategically important. It controls both the only land route to the Crimean peninsula which Russia seized in 2014, and the mouth of the Dnipro.
After holding referendums in September that Ukraine and its allies deemed illegal and coercive, Putin proclaimed the annexations of the eastern border provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk – together forming a major industrial region known as Donbas – as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.
Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed Kherson region chief, said the risk of attack by Ukrainian forces led to the decision to evacuate some civilians from four towns.
“The Ukrainian side is building up forces for a full-scale offensive,” Saldo said in a video statement. The Russian army was preparing to repel the offensive, he said, and “where the army operates, there is no place for civilians. Let the Russian army do its job”.
Surovikin has been dubbed “General Armageddon” in the Russian media after serving in Syria and Chechnya, where his forces reduced cities to rubble in a brutal but effective scorched-earth policy against his enemies.
His appointment was quickly followed on October 10 by the largest wave of missile strikes against Ukraine since the start of the war.
RAIN OF MISSILE, DRONES
Putin launched the airstrikes using missiles and drones in revenge for an explosion that damaged the Russian bridge to Crimea. The Kyiv government did not claim responsibility for the attack but celebrated the destruction of what it considers a military target used to transport weapons and troops.
Ukraine has invited UN experts to inspect what it says are downed drones of Iranian origin used by Russia to attack Ukrainian targets, in violation of a UN Security Council resolution that approved the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
Russia’s reliance on Iranian-made drones to attack Ukrainian targets exposes Russia to military bankruptcy, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asserted in his Tuesday night video address.
He said that after decades of funding the Soviet and post-Soviet defense industry, “in the end, they bowed to Tehran in order to secure pretty simple drones and missiles.”
Ukraine accuses Russia of using Iranian-made “Shahed-136 suicide drones”, which fly towards their target and explode. Iran denies providing 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 to provide Russia with more drones as well as surface-to-surface missiles.
In the north of the capital Kyiv, Russia has rained more missiles on infrastructure in what Ukraine and the West are calling a campaign of intimidation of civilians.
Russia destroyed nearly a third of Ukraine’s power plants last week, Zelenskiy said. Russia has targeted more than 10 regions in the past 24 hours, Zelenskiy said in his video address. He urged Ukrainians to reduce their electricity consumption in the evening.
Missiles struck power stations in Kyiv and elsewhere on Tuesday, causing power outages and cutting off water supplies. A day earlier, Russia sent swarms of drones to attack infrastructure in Kyiv and other cities, killing at least five people.
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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Andrew Osborn and Gareth Jones; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Peter Graff and Rosalba O’Brien
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