Russian troops are mostly retreating from a key region of Ukraine, rather than staying to fight, the UK Defense Ministry said Thursday.
The ministry said in an intelligence update that Ukraine had begun efforts to retake the southeastern region of Kherson on Sunday and that it was making some gains and moving the front line with Russia.
The Russian army lost 125 personnel, three Grad MLRS, Akatsiya self-propelled howitzer, Nona self-propelled mortar system, Tor missile system, 21 armored vehicles, as well as three ammunition depots in Bashtanka, Beryslav, and Henichesk districts.
It added that Ukraine had not threatened Russia’s main defensive positions and that Russians were mostly choosing to retreat, rather than oppose the Ukrainians.
“Russian forces have typically broken contact and withdrawn,” it said.
Ukraine has said that Russian troops have retreated and that it retook numerous towns in the Kherson region.
It’s possible that Russia’s retreat is to move troops to more defensible positions and make Ukraine’s job harder.
The Washington Post reported some Ukrainian troops thought Russia was pulling back to bolster its defense of the city of Kherson, the region’s capital.
That’s because the city is strategically important and has the symbolic importance of being the first that Russia claimed in its invasion.
A pro-Russian official said Russians were retreating “to gather their strength and deliver a retaliatory blow.”
Kherson is one of the four Ukrainian regions that Russia says it’s annexing, making the prospect of losing control there even more punishing.
The UK Defense Ministry said Russia was faced with a “dilemma” — to prioritize keeping its soldiers alive or to follow “the political imperative” to defend.
Ukraine launched its eastern counteroffensive last month and has since taken back vast swaths of territory.
The result is that Russia no longer has full control of any of the four eastern Ukrainian regions, which it last week declared it would absorb.
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