Russia to withdraw from Ukrainian port city of Kherson
Russian troops will withdraw from the crucial port city of Kherson, according to the commander of Russian forces in Ukraine.
Damien Henderson, USA TODAY
As many as 40,000 Ukrainian civilians and “well over” 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded since Moscow’s invasion less than nine months ago, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says.
The estimate from Army Gen. Mark Milley came shortly before the Russian Defense Ministry announced Thursday that its troops had begun withdrawing from Kherson, the crucial Ukrainian port city and only regional capital Russia had seized in the conflict.
Milley, who estimated Ukraine’s casualties also run into the six figures, said Russia had amassed up to 30,000 troops in Kherson. A full retreat, he said, could take several weeks.
“The initial indicators are they are in fact doing it,” Milley said at The Economic Club of New York. “I believe they’re doing it in order to preserve their force, to reestablish defensive lines south of the (Dnieper) river, but that remains to be seen.”
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Thursday the U.S. is keeping a close eye on whether the Russians actually pull out of Kherson, which would represent a “significant military milestone” for Kyiv’s forces.
“If this does come to pass, that will mean in the battle of Kyiv, in the battle of Kherson, in the battle of Kharkiv, the Ukrainians will have prevailed against an invading, marauding force that conducted an illegal war in their country,” Sullivan said. “But of course, it’s not the end of the war.”
►Russian forces pounded the southern city of Nikopol and nearby areas overnight, Dnipropetrovsk Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said. The neighboring Zaporizhzhia region, home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, also was shelled, according to Ukraine’s presidential office. Russia has occupied the plant for months.
►Russian and forces it controls have committed war crimes and likely crimes against humanity by unlawfully deporting civilians from occupied parts of Ukraine, Amnesty International said in a report Thursday.
►Britain has frozen assets owned by Russian oligarchs, other individuals and entities sanctioned for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine that together account for $20.5 billion, the U.K. government said.
As a counter to Russia’s pounding of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with drones and missiles, the Biden administration announced Thursday a new package of security aid that focuses on air defense, including missiles and U.S. Avenger systems.
In making the announcement at a White House briefing, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. wants to improve the Ukrainians’ chances on the battlefield so they’re in the best possible position to negotiate a peace deal when the time comes.
He also said the U.S. is not pressuring Ukraine to engage in peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Washington Post reported last week the administration has encouraged Ukrainian officials to signal they’re open to such a notion, mostly to maintain the support of other nations that may be growing wary of a protracted war.
“As the president said yesterday, we’re guided by a very simple principle: nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” Sullivan said. “It is ultimately up to Ukraine to make determinations about its diplomatic course.”
Almost 90% of Ukrainians believe that in 10 years Ukraine will be a prosperous country within the European Union, according to a survey by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology. Respondents were asked to choose an optimistic or pessimistic scenario for the future of Ukraine. Of those who chose an optimistic scenario, 63% fully share the expectation of a prosperous country within the EU, and 26% said they were less certain but still believed that was in Ukraine’s future.
The phone survey of 1,000 Ukrainians across the country drew only 5% of respondents who believed that in 10 years Ukraine will be a devastated country with an outflow of people.
“Taking into account our own observations and the experience of conducting surveys over many years, we still remain optimistic that, for the most part, respondents answer the questions sincerely,” the researchers said in their report.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia next week, an Indonesian government official said Thursday. Putin’s decision will avoid a possible confrontation with the United States and its allies over the war. Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, chief of support for G-20 events, said Putin’s decision was “the best for all of us.”
President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders are to attend the two-day summit, which starts Tuesday. Biden and Xi have announced they plan to meet privately at the event to “discuss efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication between the United States and the PRC, responsibly manage competition, and work together where our interests align, especially on transnational challenges that affect the international community.”
The Biden administration will not provide Ukraine with advanced Gray Eagle MQ-1C drones because of concerns about escalating the war, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials and other people familiar with the matter. Russia has been pounding Ukraine energy facilities with explosive, Iranian-built drones for weeks. But U.S. officials are hesitant to provide Ukraine with weapons that could hit targets in Russia.
Contributing: The Associated Press