Ukrainian forces have regained control of parts of the key port city of Kherson, the Pentagon said on Friday – as the Kremlin seemed forced to change strategy after failing to capture Kyiv.
“Kherson is contested territory again,” said a senior US defense official, claiming that Russian forces no longer controlled the area and Ukrainians continued to wage a bitter struggle there.
Kherson, which lies at the mouth of the Dnieper River, which bisects Ukraine and lies just north of the Crimean Peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, was the first and only major population center to be taken by Russian forces since the invasion began last month.
The city has been the scene of regular protests against Russian forces, which used live rounds to disperse protesters earlier this week.
The Kremlin denied it had lost control of Kherson, with Russian Colonel General Sergey Rudskoy claiming on Friday that “Kherson and most of the Zaporozhye region are under full control,” according to the state news agency Sputnik.
But Rudskoy added that Russia is now considering confining its invasion – which Rudskoy described as a “special operation” – to the Donbass region in the east, where Kremlin-backed separatists have been fighting Ukraine since 2014.
“The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been significantly reduced, allowing our core efforts to be focused on achieving the main goal of liberating Donbass,” Rudskoy claimed in a speech on Friday, ignoring reports of Ukrainian victories and Russian losses.
“Our forces and resources will be concentrated on the main thing – the complete liberation of Donbass,” he said.
The Pentagon confirmed Russia’s U-turn on Friday.
“This is a relatively recent decision by the Russians,” said a senior US defense official.
The message came as:
- The senior US official said Russia is trying to bring in reinforcements from the former Soviet state of Georgia to supplement its forces in Ukraine. The official added that there was no sign Belarus – a Kremlin ally used as a base for Russian President Putin’s forces in the early days of the invasion – would send troops to Ukraine.
- According to a Pentagon analysis, Russian guided missiles missed their targets at a “significant” rate of 20 to 60 percent.
- -Some Russian National Guard soldiers have refused to fight in Ukraine, according to a report by the Times of London. A dozen Guard soldiers – an internal military force reporting directly to Putin – have argued that their employment contracts only apply on Russian territory and that there is no legal basis for deploying them to Ukraine.
- Russian cruise missiles struck a Ukrainian Air Force command center in the west of the country, causing “considerable damage,” according to a CNN report. “A total of six cruise missiles were fired by the Russians. Some of them were hit by air defenses,” Ukrainian authorities said. “The remainder hit several buildings and caused significant infrastructure destruction.”
- The United Nations said more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, adding that the death toll is likely higher based on limited information from active combat zones. “Most of the recorded civilian casualties were caused by the use of long-range explosive weapons, including heavy artillery and multiple-missile systems fire, as well as missile and airstrikes,” the UN said in a statement.
The Ukrainian advance on Kherson comes after successful Ukrainian counterattacks in the north, which have also recaptured a handful of Kiev suburbs and cut supply lines vital to Russian plans for the Ukrainian capital.
“They clearly overestimated their ability to take Kyiv…take every population center,” the senior defense official said of the Russians.
Ukrainian forces also destroyed a large Russian landing ship in the port city of Berdyansk on Thursday, reportedly disrupting Moscow’s efforts to resupply its ailing troops.
As Russian morale continues to plummet, a Russian brigade commander was reportedly killed by his own troops after his unit suffered massive casualties in Ukraine, a Western official said on Friday. According to reports “Colonel Medvechek, commander of the 37 Motor Rifle Brigade,” the officer could likely be the same senior who was run over and wounded by a tank under his command on Thursday.
With postal wires
https://nypost.com/2022/03/25/ukrainian-troops-take-back-parts-of-kherson-from-russian-forces-us/ Ukrainian troops recapture parts of Cherson from Russian forces: USA