Russia is planning to retreat from Kherson, Western officials claim

Russia is planning to RETREAT from Kherson and play it off as a civilian evacuation – and has already removed its flag from buildings – as Putin sacks ANOTHER top general, Western officials say

  • Russia is in advanced stages of planning retreat from Kherson, officials believe 
  • ‘Reinforcements’ are actually conscripts designed to cover the retreat, they said
  • If retreat happens, Russia will try to play it off as ‘evacuation’ to protect civilians 
  • Meanwhile Russian General Lapin has ‘probably’ been sacked, officials added 

Russia is planning to retreat from the city of Kherson and play it off as a civilian evacuation, Western officials said today.

Putin’s troops are in the advanced stages of preparing for the retreat, the officials said, having moved conscripts into the city to cover the backs of the fleeing soldiers and beefed up defences on the other side of the Dnipro River. 

While no final call has been made, officials believe the Russian command has decided that Kherson ‘is not worth defending’ and that fleeing to better positions across the Dnipro will improve their chances of holding on as winter falls. 

They spoke as footage emerged from Kherson showing that a Russian flag that has been flying over city hall for months has suddenly disappeared.

Meanwhile Colonel-General Alexander Lapin, head of Russia’s central military district now thought to be responsible for defences in Donbas, has ‘probably’ been sacked.

Russia has removed a flag from the top of city hall in Kherson as Western officials say commanders are in advanced stages of planning a retreat

If the retreat goes ahead then Russia will attempt to play it off as an evacuation to protect civilians, officials said (file image, Ukrainian HIMARS in the region) 

It comes after General Lapin came under heavy criticism from both Ramzan Kadyrov and Yevgeny Prigozhin, Putin loyalists and hardliners, for perceived failings since the start of the war.

General Lapin was the last commander who ordered Russian forces across Ukraine’s border in February who was still in post.

His departure, if confirmed, speaks to a shift of power taking place inside the Kremlin away from the Ministry of Defence and to warlords such as Kadyrov – Chechen dictator – and Prigozhin – founder of Wagner.  

News of Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson follows weeks of back-and-forth claims about the situation in Kherson with Russia hinting the city is about to fall while Ukraine insists Putin is reinforcing it. 

Complicating the situation is a near-total news blackout from Ukrainian forces on the frontlines as they try to break through Russian defences. 

Two weeks ago, there was hope the city was on the verge of being liberated as General Surovikin – head of Russian forces in Ukraine – warned of a ‘tense’ situation and began evacuating civilians.

But as the days ticked by with no sign of a Ukrainian breakthrough, Kyiv began briefing that wet weather and mud was hindering its advance.

Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, then gave an interview in which he said Russia is sending reinforcements to the city and plans to defend it.

He confidently predicted that Kyiv’s forces would push the Russians out, but said it would take until the end of this month to do so.

Vladimir Putin (right) has ‘probably’ sacked Colonel-General Alexander Lapin (left), the commander thought to be responsible for defences in the Donbas

Amidst the conflicting reports, some have suggested that Moscow is playing a disinformation game aimed at luring Ukraine into a death-trap. 

Against that backdrop, the sudden disappearance of Russia’s flag caught attention.

Another possibility is that the missing flag signals the withdrawal of Russian officials from the city, but not the military.

Vladimir Saldo, the Moscow puppet in charge of the whole Kherson region, said a fortnight ago that officials were withdrawing across the Dnipro River.

‘The entire administration is already moving today,’ he said, though denied that meant Russia is simply abandoning the city.

He added: ‘No one is going to hand over Kherson. But it is not ideal for residents to be in the city where hostilities will take place.’

Ukraine launched a much-vaunted assault to try and liberate Kherson from Russian control back in early August, and has been advancing on the city ever since.

A month ago today, Kyiv’s forces made their first major breakthrough as they smashed the first line of Russian defence and advanced 12 miles in a single day. 

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