The Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, has ordered the country’s troops to leave Ukraine’s city of Kherson, the only regional capital captured by Moscow since the invasion began in February.
As details of Russian troop movements remain unclear, some Ukrainian senior officials cautioned against celebrating too soon until a fuller picture of the situation on the ground could be assessed.
The retreat came as Ukrainian forces pressed their attack on Russian positions on the western side of the Dnipro river, including around the key town of Snihurivka, and as a key Russian-installed official in Kherson was reported to have died in murky circumstances.
In televised comments, Gen Sergei Surovikin, overall commander of the war, said he had recommended the withdrawal of Russian troops from the west bank of the Dnipro River, citing logistical difficulties.
“Kherson cannot be fully supplied and function. Russia did everything possible to ensure the evacuation of the inhabitants of Kherson.” Surovikin told Shoigu.
“We will save the lives of our soldiers and fighting capacity of our units. Keeping them on the right (western) bank is futile. Some of them can be used on other fronts,” Surovikin said.
In recent weeks, Russia has been transporting civilians away from Kherson as the Ukrainian troops moved ever closer to the Russian-occupied city.