Ukrainian Military Reverses Claim That Russian Forces Have Left Town In Kherson Region

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Ukrainian Military Reverses Claim That Russian Forces Have Left Town In Kherson Region

By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service March 23, 2023

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said it mistakenly announced the withdrawal of Russian forces from Nova Kakhovka in the southern Kherson region.

"The occupiers are still temporarily in Nova Kakhovka. Information about the alleged withdrawal of the enemy from this settlement was made public as a result of incorrect use of available data," the General Staff said on Telegram on March 23.

After the initial announcement, a Moscow-installed official in the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, denied the withdrawal of Russian forces, saying all Russian military personnel deployed in Nova Kakhovka remain in place.

The earlier General Staff statement said the Russian forces left Nova Kakhovka as of March 22. It added that the Russian forces looted homes before they departed, taking large quantities of household and electronic appliances, jewelry, clothing, and mobile phones.

Nova Kakhovka lies on the east bank of the Dnieper River, where Russian forces redeployed in November after abandoning positions on the west bank.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier on March 23 visited the partially occupied southern region of Kherson as Kyiv's forces continued to battle Russian troops in the east amid what the Ukrainian military said were the first signs of Russian "exhaustion" in the fierce fighting for the city of Bakhmut.

Ukrainian defenders repelled 83 Russian attacks over the past 24 hours, most of them directed at Bakhmut, the city in the Donetsk region that has become the epicenter of Moscow's offensive in the east, the General Staff said in its morning bulletin on March 23.

Russians kept their pressure on other settlements in Donetsk, such as Lyman, Avdiyivka, Maryinka, and Shakhtarsk, the military said, adding that "the enemy is losing a significant amount of manpower, weapons, and military equipment."

The claims could not be independently verified.

General Oleksandr Syrskiy, commander of Ukraine's ground forces, said on March 23 that the Russians' relentless push in Bakhmut is beginning to take its toll on their strength and that Ukrainians are preparing to take advantage of their enemy's perceived weakness "very soon."

"The aggressor has not given up hope of taking Bakhmut whatever the cost, despite losses in manpower and equipment. Russia's main fighting force in this area is the Wagner mercenary group," Syrskiy said on Telegram.

"Not sparing anything, they are losing significant strength and becoming fatigued. Very soon, we will take advantage of this opportunity, like we did near Kyiv, Kharkiv, Balaklia and Kupyansk," he said.

British military intelligence has also suggested that Moscow's relentless pressure on Bakhmut, which has been mostly turned to rubble, is beginning to lose momentum in the face of Ukraine's staunch defense amid serious losses sustained by both sides.

But Serhiy Cherevatiy, a spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, cautioned that Bakhmut is still seeing intense combat.

"So far, Bakhmut remains the epicenter of hostilities, the main target of the enemy's attack," Cherevatiy told national television, answering a question about whether the Russian offensive near Bakhmut has weakened.

Cherevatiy added that the second-most intense fighting was taking place on the alignment between Kupyansk, in the Kharkiv region, and Lyman, in Donetsk.

Zelenskiy on March 23 visited Kherson, one of four regions that Moscow has groundlessly claimed to have annexed, pledging to restore the region's badly damaged infrastructure as fast as possible.

"We will try to rebuild before winter. Our priority is to restore electricity. Drinking water will also be provided according to the schedule.... I believe that everything will be fine," Zelenskiy said, according to the Ukrainian presidency's webpage.

Zelenskiy's visit to Kherson, the site of a Ukrainian counteroffensive that liberated much of the region in November, marked his second trip to Ukrainian regions in as many days, after he met troops near Bakhmut on March 22, handing them decorations and visiting a military medical facility in the northern Kharkiv region.

His visits came after Russian air strikes on Ukrainian cities killed at least 10 people, including eight who died when two dormitories were hit at a school in Rzhyshchiv, south of Kyiv, and one in Kherson city, where missiles struck a cardiology hospital.

Zelenskiy said Moscow's indiscriminate attacks on civilians shows Russia is not interested in peace and accused Russia of "bestial savagery" for targeting civilians.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not appear to be interested in immediate peace and was engaged "in a war of attrition."

In an interview with The Guardian, the NATO chief said Putin was "reaching out to authoritarian regimes like Iran or North Korea and others to try to get more weapons."

He said Russia was boosting its military production capacity and cautioned that Ukraine's Western allies must be prepared to supply Kyiv with weapons, ammunition, and military equipment for a long period of time.

"President Putin doesn't plan for peace. He's planning for more war," Stoltenberg said.

European Union leaders were poised on March 23 to endorse a plan for sending Ukraine 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition within the next 12 months.

EU foreign and defense ministers approved the plan for a fast-track purchasing procedure earlier this week, and the leaders of the bloc's 27 member nations will give it their political blessing at a summit in Brussels, according to several senior EU diplomats.

Zelenskiy thanked leaders for the initiative during a video call.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa

Source: fighting-civilians-nato-protracted-war/32330672.html

Copyright (c) 2023. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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