Many Russian fans of the invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday described the defense minister’s order to withdraw from the city of Kherson as a colossal defeat – the most devastating for Moscow, according to one, since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The announced withdrawal crystallized the failures of President Vladimir Putin’s war effort. It would be a humiliating loss for the largest Ukrainian city that Russia captured in its nine-month invasion, just weeks after Putin declared it an integral part of Russia in a flowery celebration on Red Square.
But analysts who follow Mr. Putin closely saw it as a reminder of Mr. Putin’s willingness to make tactical concessions in what he sees as a large-scale conflict with the West that, according to those who know him, he believes he still can. win over.
“It only underscores, in my view, how pragmatic Putin is,” Tatiana Stanovaya, an analyst who studies Mr. Putin at her political analysis firm R Politik, said in a phone interview. “He’s not as crazy as we thought.”
Mr. Putin himself was silent on the matter, and allowed his officials to speak. Instead, Mr. Putin toured a neurological hospital and spoke at an event marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of Russia’s National Institute of Public Health, praising him for fighting the coronavirus and helping to care for our “heroes” in Ukraine.
The announced withdrawal came a week after Mr. Putin agreed to join the agreement allowing Ukrainian grain to be shipped through the Black Sea, reversing course after Russia threatened to block it in response. Drone attack on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet In the Crimea it was attributed to Ukraine, but Kyiv denied this.
It comes as those close to the Kremlin are increasingly speculating about the possibility of a ceasefire agreement with Ukraine and highlighting the Reports in Western media said Washington was encouraging Kyiv to open up to talks.
“There is a certain logic here,” Andrei Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research organization close to the Russian government, said of the order to withdraw from the western bank of the Dnipro River.
By moving to the river’s more defensive east bank, Mr. Kortunov said, the Russian military was seeking to enable what he described as the Kremlin’s near-term priority: “stabilization, stabilization” of the front line.
But Konrad Muzica, a military analyst and director of Roshan Consulting, based in Gdansk, Poland, said the motives behind the announcement were baffling. “From a military point of view, such a declaration is meaningless, unless there is a second bottom to the story,” he said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
In withdrawal, the military usually seeks to maintain the appearance of a strong defense while withdrawing in secret. However, the Russian army publicly announced its withdrawal from the north of the capital Kyiv in the spring and the northeastern Kharkiv region in the late summer, after being defeated by Ukrainian forces.
“You have to give it to them,” said Mr. Muzica. “They are consistent.”
Hard-line rhetoric was emerging from Moscow just weeks ago, when the Kremlin’s annexation of only four Ukrainian regions it controls – including the Kherson region – seemed to indicate a significant escalation of the war and possibly a precursor to the use of nuclear weapons.
But since then Putin has rolled back his nuclear rhetoric, and on Wednesday, some of Russia’s most influential pro-war voices voiced support for Kherson’s withdrawal.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman ruling the Russian republic of Chechnya, described it as a “difficult but right choice between meaningless sacrifices for high-profile statements and saving the priceless lives of soldiers.”
Now it is important not to agonize, not to writh in paranoia, but to draw conclusions and work out mistakes, said Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman who runs the private army known as the Wagner Group.
Those statements were a sign that the Kremlin had carefully laid the propaganda basis for the withdrawal, trying to avoid this kind of The internal sniping that followed Russian chaos subsided earlier this fall in eastern and northern Ukraine.
However, I did Do not silence the wrath of the hawks completely. A pro-Kremlin analyst, Sergei Markov, describe it Retreat as “the biggest geopolitical defeat for Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union”
Andrew E. Cramer And the Mark Santora Contribute to the preparation of reports.
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