It is beginning to appear that panic might be setting in among Russian forces stuck in Kherson City as Ukrainian forces draw closer and may have already sent special operations forces into that regional capital.
Russian Telegram channels are reporting that Ukraine continues targeting the Dnipro River crossing points and that Ukrainian special operations forces have already entered Kherson City. We likely won't know the extent of what has occurred there, if anything truly has, until morning.
Some of those channels are also reporting panic among Russian troops there, which is contrary to the orderly withdrawal espoused by top Russian military officials.
Russia on Thursday announced more troops are withdrawing to the east bank of the Dnipro River as Ukrainian forces push closer to Kherson City.
The withdrawal of Russian troops “in the Mykolaiv-Krivyi-Rih direction…to the prepared positions on the [east] bank of the Dnipro River is underway, in strict accordance with the approved plan,” the Russian Defense Ministry (MOD) announced on its Telegram channel Thursday.
A day earlier, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, acting on the recommendation of the commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, Gen. Sergey Surovikin, ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson City to the east side of the Dnipro River. You can read more about that here.
Thursday’s Russian MOD announcement about the withdrawal of troops from Mykolaiv Oblast and Krivyi-Rih came as Ukrainian forces claimed the capture of Snihurivka - a key logistics hub and staging base for the Russians about 31 miles northeast of Kherson City and the last town they held in Mykolaiv Oblast. A video posted on the Ukrainian Pravda Telegram channel shows troops from the 131st Reconnaissance Battalion being cheered by residents there.
Ukrainian forces also claimed to have captured Kysylivka, a town in the Kherson Oblast about nine miles from Kherson City. One video shows troops from Ukraine's 28th Mechanized Brigade holding up their unit flag there.
It is unclear how many Russian troops were left in the Mykolaiv Oblast, Krivyi-Rih, or Kherson City.
On Oct. 28, Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of that nation's Defense Intelligence directorate (GUR), told The War Zone that there were about 40,000 Russian troops in the oblast. On Thursday, Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy military intelligence chief, estimated over half of the 20,000 Russian forces previously stationed on the west bank of the Dnipro in Kherson City were still there, according to The Guardian.
“The most recent information we have is the 4th Tactical Military Base has supposedly been transferred to the [east] bank. The rest are still there, fighting, conducting military activities with the aim of providing cover for others to leave,” added Skibitsky.
The Pentagon offered few details Thursday about the movement of Russian troops in southern Ukraine.
“We won’t be able to characterize the number of Russians that were that we're seeing [leave Kherson City],” Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told reporters, including from The War Zone, during a Thursday afternoon press briefing. “All I can really say is we're seeing some indications of movement. At least on our side it is too early to make an assessment there.”
Singh told The War Zone she could not confirm the Ukrainian capture of Snihurivka or provide further details about Russian troop movements in the Mykolaiv Oblast and Kryvri-Rih.
Skepticism about the Russian claim that it will evacuate its troops from Kherson City remains. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted on Thursday that a Russian withdrawal from Kherson "would be strong progress, but it is right to be cautious until the [Ukrainian flag] flies over the city again."
Still, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday rejoiced at what he called “good news from the south.”
“The number of Ukrainian flags returning to their rightful place within the framework of the ongoing defense operation is already dozens,” he said on his Telegram channel, adding that “41 settlements were liberated.“
The victories, he said, have been hard fought.
“But while rejoicing, we should all remember now and always what this movement means: that every step of our Defense Forces is the life of our soldiers. Lives given for freedom for Ukrainians. Everything that is happening now has been achieved by months of brutal struggle. It was achieved through courage, pain, and loss.”
Zelensky promised to keep fighting to restore Ukraine to its 1991 borders, before Russia invaded the east in 2014 and illegally annexed Crimea.
“It's not the enemy coming - it's the Ukrainians who are chasing the occupiers at great cost,” he said. “As in the east of our country - in the Kharkiv region. As before in the north - Kyiv region, Sumy region, Chernihiv region. Now - Mykolaiv Oblast, Kherson Oblast. And we have to go all the way - on the battlefield and in diplomacy - so that all over our land, along our entire internationally recognized border, there are our flags - Ukrainian flags. And no more enemy tricolors.”
Before we head into more of the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up with our previous rolling coverage of the war here.
Elsewhere on the battlefield, the fighting remains fierce, but there have been no major territorial gains reported by either side over the past 24 hours. Here are some key takeaways from the latest assessment by The Institute for the Study of War.Russian and Ukrainian sources reported continued fighting along the Svatove-Kremmina highway and Bilohorivka, Luhansk Oblast.Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and in western Donetsk Oblast.Russian federal subjects are struggling to pay mobilized personnel, and the Russian military is struggling to provision them.Relatives of mobilized personnel continue to protest the lack of payment and poor conditions.Occupation authorities in rear areas are likely increasing law enforcement crackdowns and filtration measures amid fears of Ukrainian counteroffensives after the November 9 withdrawal announcement.
In a confidential arms deal, South Korea will sell the U.S. about 100,000 rounds of 155mm howitzer ammunition, which will then be shipped to Ukraine, allowing Seoul to get around its commitment not to provide lethal aid to Kyiv, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday in an exclusive story.
The deal, which will provide Ukraine with at least several weeks' worth of howitzer ammunition, reflects a global scramble for munitions after months of war with Russia. We detailed this unique, very high-stakes situation and the unlikely players in it in this previous feature. The South Korean-provided howitzer rounds "will enable the U.S. to supply the Ukrainians without digging deeper into the American inventory of artillery stocks, which U.S. officials have acknowledged are dwindling quickly," The Wall Street Journal reported. "In August, the stockpile of U.S. 155 mm artillery rounds had fallen to levels that concerned the Pentagon as Ukraine engaged in fierce artillery duels with the Russian forces, and U.S. officials say the situation is considerably worse today."
So far, the U.S. has provided more than one million 155 mm rounds to Ukraine, something we reported here.
Russia too has been obtaining artillery rounds from the Korean Peninsula but from the government of North Korea.
The Pentagon on Thursday announced another $400 million in Presidential Drawdown authorization to provide military aid to Ukraine from U.S. stocks, which includes the following items:
• Four Avenger air defense systems and Stinger missiles. This marks the first time those systems were provided. You can read our reporting on the news here.
• An undisclosed number of missiles for HAWK air defense systems (additional funds were authorized last week under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) arms package to refurbish the missiles. This package is to actually draw down the missiles, no longer used, from U.S. stocks.
• An undisclosed additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).
• 21,000 155 mm artillery rounds.
• 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds.
• 10,000 120 mm mortar rounds.
• 100 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs).
• 400 grenade launchers.
• Small arms, optics, and more than 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition.
• Demolition equipment for obstacle clearing.
• Cold weather protective gear.
While the 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition represent about a 30% increase over the previous total of about 64 million rounds as of Nov. 4, Singh could not say what specifically drove that requirement or say how many rounds the Ukrainians have used.
"I don't have an update in terms of what they've gone through," she said. "And I certainly wouldn't want to broadcast that. I think that's something that the Ukrainians could answer for or would choose to answer for. This is a changing war. It's a changing battlefield. It is dynamic. And, of course, these rounds are being used. This is something that the Ukrainians expressed that they need, so we want to fulfill that requirement."
This was the 25th Presidential Drawdown package of aid to Ukraine. In total, the U.S. has committed more than $19.3 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $21.4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine and more than $18.6 billion since the beginning of Russia's all-out war.
As Russia pulls back in the Kherson and Mykolaiv oblasts, it is also preparing defensive lines in Luhansk Oblast as well. This video shows Russian troops testing some of those cement "dragon's teeth" fortifications designed to slow down advancing armor.
Contact the author: Howard@thewarzone.com