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Ukrainians smell rat in Russian withdrawal from Kherson: scholar

With reports of Russian soldiers in Kherson disguising themselves as civilians and a bit too-well-flagged Russian withdrawal therefrom, concerns arise that Moscow might be preparing a trap for the advancing Ukrainian forces – a topic tackled by TVP World’s with its guest Frank Ledwidge, Senior Fellow in the Portsmouth Business School at the University of Portsmouth.

“We are not entirely sure that the Russian military presence has withdrawn from Kherson. There are two reasons why we might be forgiven for, as the saying goes, smelling a rat here. The first is: this has been very heavily telegraphed in advance. Withdrawal under fire, which is what the Russians will be doing, which is retreating whilst the Ukrainians are attacking them is probably one of the most difficult military operations accomplished in any circumstances,” Mr Ledwidge said.

“Now, you have your back to a river, and the river out there is a kilometre or so wide with the bridge that is unreliable under shelling,” the expert said, adding that if a military command was going to really withdraw its forces it wouldn’t “tell in particular adversaries in advance that” it was going to do it.

“So the Ukrainians are suspicious and it’s worth reminding ourselves that the Ukrainians have also made it clear that the city itself would be especially heavily boobytrapped and mined anyways. It’s going to be a very dangerous place to patrol through and it’s going to be a long time before people can go back there,” he said.

Referring to reports of Russian soldiers in Kherson disguising themselves as civilians, Mr Ledwige noted that this could be designed to present them as insurgents and as such they should be treated accordingly under international law.

“But never mind the international law, clearly that’s going to cause problems for Ukrainian troops as they begin gingerly to enter the city. I am not 100 percent sure that Ukrainians will be entering the city. I think they smell a rat. The Russians haven’t completed their withdrawal,” he said.

“The units on the other side of the river, according to fairly reliable information, are the better units within the Russian army. According to what I’ve learnt these are the 76th Assault Division which has been all over the country and a couple of others… So these are the better units that the Russians have and if they are going to be withdrawn, I suspect they would have been drawn out already,” Mr Ledwidge said.

TVP World’s guest went on to stress that Western intelligence also saw no point in Ukraine taking the initiative. “It is entirely possible that it is, because of how heavily flagged it is, a deception operation of some kind not just to cover… some uniformed fighters but perhaps some other operation elsewhere.”

“I think that they are going to withdraw and abandon the city and maybe double deception here, who knows? Eventually, they [the Russians] are going to be kicked out of there either within the next week or the next month,” Mr Ledwidge said, adding that Russia’s strategy was a defensive one “using the Dnipro river now as part of their defensive lines.”

If you are interested in more details regarding the battle situation, click the video above.

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