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Russia claims all troops gone from key city in southern Ukraine

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered a troop withdrawal from Kherson and nearby areas on Wednesday after determining a defense was 'futile.'

MYKOLAIV, Mykolaiv Oblast — The Russian Defense Ministry says it has finished pulling out its troops from the western bank of the Dnieper River in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region.

In a statement carried by Russia’s state news agencies, the ministry said the withdrawal was completed at 5 a.m. on Friday, and not a single unit of military equipment was left on the western bank.

The retreat announced earlier this week marks another humiliating setback for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Areas the Russian military withdrew from included the city of Kherson, the only regional capital Moscow seized during its 8-month-old war in Ukraine.

A Kremlin spokesman on Friday refused to acknowledge the retreat as humiliating for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kyiv acknowledged Moscow’s forces had no choice but to flee Kherson but remained cautious, fearing an ambush. With Ukrainian officials tight-lipped about their assessments of the situation and reporters not present, it was difficult to know what was happening in the industrial port city, from which tens of thousands have fled in recent weeks and where remaining residents are afraid to leave their homes.

A forced pullout from Kherson — the only provincial capital Moscow had captured — would mark one of Russia’s worst setbacks, recalling their forces’ abandonment of attempts to take the national capital, Kyiv, in the early days of the war. Recapturing Kherson could provide Ukraine a launching pad for supplies and troops to try and win back other lost territory in the south, including Crimea, which Moscow illegally seized in 2014.

Already, Ukrainian forces seem to be scoring more battlefield successes in the region. The armed forces commander-in-chief, Valeriy Zaluzhny, said that since Oct. 1 Kyiv’s forces have advanced 36.5 kms (22.7 miles) and retaken 41 settlements in the Kherson region — which the Kremlin has illegally annexed. That included 12 just on Wednesday.

As Russian troops withdraw, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, warned they had laid mines throughout Kherson, saying they wanted to turn it into a “city of death” and would shell it from the positions across the Dnieper River where they are consolidating forces.

From these new positions, the Kremlin could try to escalate the conflict — which U.S. assessments showed may have already left tens of thousands of civilians and hundreds of thousands of soldiers dead or wounded.

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