Newly mobilized Russian soldiers covering the withdrawal of their forces from western Kherson could face defeat at the hands of Ukrainian troops, according to the Institute for War Studies (ISW).
The US think-tank said on Friday that Russia has begun withdrawing from the southern region and is likely to continue in the coming weeks, but Vladimir Putin’s forces could face a fight if Ukrainian forces attack.
Ukraine’s Southern Operations Command has said Moscow is ferrying ammunition, military equipment and units from the west bank of the Dnipro River to the east bank, while 2,000 Russian troops hold the front line to cover their retreat by shelling Ukrainian positions.
The ISW said that the Russian withdrawal requires a detachment that is “well trained, professional and ready to die for their countrymen” to hold the line against a Ukrainian attack.
But Deputy Chief of the Main Operations Branch of Ukraine’s General Staff, Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov, said Russia could withdraw its “most combat-ready units” from the left bank of the river, leaving mobilized soldiers to cover the retreat.
The ISW noted that if this were true, Russian forces would “create conditions for a Russian retreat to become a rout.”
“It is very unlikely that Russia’s poorly trained, newly mobilized reservists will withstand and resist a Ukrainian counterattack,” it said, which could result in a defeat “on the same scale as the defeat of Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv.”
British defense officials said on Saturday that Russian forces are strengthening crossing points across the Dnipro River near Kherson and using a barge bridge alongside the damaged Antonovsky Bridge for the first time “in decades”.
Meanwhile, fears are growing that Russian forces will attempt to blow up the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP) dam, blaming Kyiv, to cover their retreat and prevent Ukrainian forces from pursuing Russian forces deeper into the Kherson region.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the West to stop Russia from blowing up the dam holding back a huge reservoir that would flood large parts of southern Ukraine and cause a “major disaster”.
However, a Russian-appointed official in Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, said that Kiev’s claims that Moscow dismantled the dam were “false”.
It comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Friday that Washington would maintain ties with Moscow, but that any broader diplomacy would depend on Putin showing an interest in “stopping the aggression.”
“We haven’t seen any evidence of that at the moment,” Blinken said. “We’re seeing Russia doubling and tripling its aggression.”
news week has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.
https://www.newsweek.com/russia-ukraine-kherson-counteroffensive-putin-isw-mobilized-troops-1754040 Russia’s mobilized forces in Kherson could collapse if Ukraine attacks: ISW