Russia is faking withdrawal from Kherson to lure Kiev forces into battle, Ukrainian military officials say


A Ukrainian artillery battery attached to the 59th Mechanized Brigade opened fire on Russian forces in Kherson Oblast on Saturday. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Russians are creating the illusion of withdrawing from Kherson to draw Ukrainian forces into street fighting in the main southern city, Ukrainian army spokeswoman Natalia Humeniuk said on Saturday.

“Russian troops are trying hard to convince everyone that they are retreating, but at the same time we are seeing objective evidence that they are staying,” Humeniuk said in an interview with Ukrainian media.

“There are military units that were based there, and a lot of military equipment is located there, and their battle positions are also established there. The battle positions that were established on the left bank will be used to support the battle positions on the right bank.’

CNN has not independently verified Humeniuk’s claims.

“We understand that they are trying to create the illusion that the Russians are not there to attract Ukrainian forces to the nearby settlements, and the settlements are usually the scene of heavy street fighting,” he said.

“That’s why we know, we see and we anticipate what kind of narrative they try to feed, and we are building our strategy accordingly,” said Humeniuk.

According to Humeniuk, the Russians are moving their elite units and officers to the left bank of the Dnieper, leaving those on the right bank no way to escape or evacuate. “The units on the right bank are leaving to fight to their last breath,” he said.

Some background: It has been difficult to determine the exact situation on the ground in Kherson this week.

A senior Moscow-appointed official said on Thursday that Russian troops would “probably” withdraw from their positions in the southern city. Ukrainian officials have suggested from the start that the statement may be a hoax.

Russia is evacuating citizens from the city. Moscow considers the move essential for public security. Kyiv equated the evacuations with forced displacement.

Last month, one resident described the situation in Kherson as tense, with people “emotionally exhausted”, streets empty after mid-afternoon and Russian soldiers often seen in civilian clothes.