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Kherson withdrawal: Views from Russian media
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The Russian military has withdrawn from Kherson. The city was declared a Russian territory at the end of September.
What do patriotic, pro-Putin, pro-SMO Russian-language media outlets think about this decision?
Topwar.ru, Russia’s most popular military news portal, published a scathing op-ed about the decision to abandon the city:
So, Kherson is finished.
The city is being handed over without a single shot being fired …
We have repeated Gostomel, Bucha, and Krasny Liman—only on a somewhat larger scale. 115,000 Kherson residents (data from the Ministry of Defense) became refugees, having lost everything: housing, work, property, prospects. […]
Now for several days we will listen to a stream of completely shameless propaganda, the purpose of which is to justify what happened. […]
But our shameless propagandists will justify anything. They’ve been paid. And they’ve already started to explain that Kherson was not needed at all and stuff like that.
The world’s second-largest army continues its heroic flight … But that's not the point. The main thing is that a subject of the Russian Federation has been abandoned. […]
The bottom line is that today Russia is losing the remnants of self-confidence of the so-called “Russian world.”
And so on. The commentary ends with an appeal to the Kremlin:
The Russian government, which conducts the special military operation so splendidly, needs to understand the main thing that it (they) stubbornly refuses to understand: what they call the SMO is an ordinary war for the rest of the world … it’s time to start [really] fighting. […]
I can go on and on about what Russia should be doing besides the stupid destruction of its citizens.
Russia’s leadership must put aside its “business interests” and conduct a “real war,” the op-ed implores.
If this is not a plan to lure enemy troops in order to beat them in advantageous positions (which I really want to believe in spite of everything) and we just left, then this is the most serious defeat of our army since 1991, which will badly damage the morale of both the fighters at the front and the entire people as a whole. […]
From the point of view of domestic policy, this is more than a serious blow to the trust in the authorities …
Moreover, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, announced her readiness to negotiate with Ukraine, taking into account the current realities.
“We are still open to negotiations. We have never refused them, we are ready to conduct them, of course, taking into account the realities that are developing at the moment,” she said at a briefing.
The day before, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said that Moscow does not set any preconditions for peace talks with Kiev. According to him, to start a dialogue “only the good will of Ukraine is enough.”
The article ends by expressing hope that the withdrawal is a trap set for the Ukrainian military, while acknowledging it may actually be part of a backroom deal between Moscow and Kiev (Washington).
Both Topwar and Katyusha expressed suspicions about the curious death of Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of Kherson, who reportedly died in a car accident on the same day that the withdrawal was announced.
“Two days ago, when no one still believed in the abandonment of Kherson, Stremousov said that there were still many Russian citizens left in the city who could not leave. And he was against the surrender of the city,” Topwar noted. Both outlets hinted Moscow may be responsible for Stremousov’s demise.
Will the military threat increase if the Armed Forces of Ukraine enter Kherson? The Armed Forces of Ukraine, in principle, previously had the ability to strike at fairly large distances—up to 100 km deep into our defenses. And due to the fact that now they are actively supplied with guided strike weapons like UAVs, the range of delivering these strikes is about 200 km to our rear. Therefore, the entry of the Armed Forces of Ukraine into Kherson will not change anything in terms of defense. The Armed Forces of Ukraine, as they struck with the American HIMARS, will continue to strike. As they delivered strikes from the French Caesar self-propelled guns, they will continue to deliver these strikes using precision-guided munitions.
However, as our army captured this bridgehead at the beginning of the SMO, and it will not work the second time, because back then the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not have the necessary resources, there was not enough personnel, there was no modern Western weapons, and in fact our army entered there as a her home, there was nothing to stop her.
Next time this will not work, because now the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the right bank will deploy their echeloned defense, which will be backed up by high-precision Western weapons, and storming the right bank along the already destroyed bridges, without having normal crossings—this is a conversation about the experience of the Great Patriotic War. Those who are interested can read how it happened at that time and what difficulties it caused. And if the Armed Forces of Ukraine blow up the dam, they will flood all our positions to which we retreated, and nothing will be flooded on the right bank.
But personally, I believe that there was no military need to leave the Kherson bridgehead. During various wars, the armies were in much more difficult circumstances, and as we know, in such circumstances, military operations were carried out that were not much different from how military operations are now conducted on the territory of Ukraine, if we recall the experience of the 20th century. And, in my opinion, there is very little military solution in the very leaving of this springboard, there is more politics involved.
Unfortunately, we all depend on the political decisions that are made by our political leadership. And until our political leadership tells our army to move from defense to offensive, nothing will change. Wars are not won on the defensive.
It is difficult to say how the departure will affect the political sense. We do not know what behind-the-scenes negotiations were conducted by our leadership with the American representatives, with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who was talking about something with our political representatives. We do not know what decisions were made and on what basis they were motivated. Perhaps there were political reasons for this, perhaps not.
However, this withdrawal does not look very nice against the background of the fact that this region was recently annexed to the Russian Federation. Concerts and celebrations were held even on Red Square.
I think that our political leadership should stop looking to the West, stop wondering what the US Democratic Party has to say. It must live by its own policy, make those political decisions that determine the national interests of Russia, and not live with an eye to the West …
If you pay attention to the statements made by various officials, including American ones, for them this was an expected decision. They expected that our politicians would decide to leave Kherson, because if it were a surprise and news for them, we would see completely different rhetoric.