Putin aide insists Kherson ‘a subject’ of Russia despite retreat

Russia Ukraine War
A Ukrainian female soldier poses for a photo against a Kherson sign in the background, in Kherson, Ukraine, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Dagaz) Dagaz/AP

Putin aide insists Kherson ‘a subject’ of Russia despite retreat

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An important city in southern Ukraine remains “a subject of the Russian Federation” despite the forced retreat of Russian troops, a senior spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted.

“This is a subject of the Russian Federation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday. “There are no changes in this, and there cannot be changes.”

Peskov reiterated Russia’s assertion of sovereignty over the Ukrainian district as the residents of Kherson raised the Ukrainian flag over the city and celebrated the ouster of Russian troops, who retreated across the Dnieper River after weeks of targeted artillery bombardments compromised their supply lines. The withdrawal is a high-profile setback for Putin, six weeks after he signed documents purporting to annex Kherson into the Russian state.

“In the Kherson direction, the redeployment of Russian troops to the left bank of the Dnieper River was completed at 5:00 a.m. Moscow time today. Not a single piece of military equipment was left on the right bank,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Friday. “Russian military formations and units took up defensive positions that had been prepared in the engineering sense.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky celebrated the liberation of the city just days after warning of the possible cost that Ukrainians would suffer if the Russian forces chose to dig in for a doomed fight.

“But, rejoicing, we should all remember now and always what this movement means, we should remember that every step of our defense forces is the lives of our warriors,” Zelensky said in a Thursday address. “Lives given for freedom for Ukrainians. Everything that is happening now has been achieved by months of fierce struggle. It was achieved through courage, pain, and loss. It’s not the enemy leaving. It is the Ukrainians who drive the occupiers out at a heavy cost.”

The withdrawal has prompted a mixture of shock and disappointment on Russian social media, and even state media broadcasts that promote the government’s position have struggled with the tension between Kremlin claims and the facts — particularly in light of Russia’s strict censorship laws.

“If you’re expecting me now to explain what I think about this, I’m not going to tell you anything, but I’ll explain why: If I support the decision and say that the defense minister is acting correctly by leaving Kherson, then I’m [guilty of] publicly calling for Russia’s territorial integrity to be violated. In our criminal code, that’s Article 280, part one … several years in prison,” Russian TV host Andrei Norkin said Thursday, according to a translation from BBC Monitoring’s Francis Scarr. “And if I don’t support the decision, and think that the defense ministry has done the wrong thing by leaving Kherson, then I’m publicly discrediting the Armed Forces, which is also [a crime under] Article 280, but part three, with approximately the same jail term. I don’t want to go to prison.”

A prominent pro-Russian account on social media was more candid about the dismay. “I couldn’t even imagine … what Kherson could have been exchanged for,” a commentary from Veterans Notes said, according to the War Translated project. “Such colossal image losses should be justified by something. If this justification does not appear in the coming days or at least weeks in the form of the successes of our army at the front, then this will result in a total demoralization of society and distrust of the authorities. People are not ready to endure humiliation all the time.”

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Peskov said that any questions about the military’s retreat should be directed to the Russian Defense Ministry, but he insisted that Putin was correct to declare the annexation of Kherson.

“No, we have no regrets,” Peskov said.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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