KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia’s military leadership has withdrawn its officers from the Russian-linked city of Kherson across the Dnieper River in anticipation of an advance by Ukrainian troops, the Institute for Combat Research said Sunday.
Moscow has left newly mobilized, inexperienced forces on the other side of the vast river to delay a Ukrainian counteroffensive to complete the Russian retreat.
The troop moves come after the Ukrainian military said it continued its counteroffensives in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.
On Saturday, Russian-installed authorities in Ukraine told all Kherson residents to leave immediately, ahead of an expected move by Ukrainian troops to retake the city.
Kherson has been in Russian hands since the early days of the eight-month war in Ukraine. It is the capital of a region of the same name, one of four that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month and brought under Russian martial law on Thursday.
On Friday, Ukrainian forces began shelling Russian positions across the province and targeting pro-Kremlin forces’ resupply routes across the Dnieper River, preparing for a final push to retake the city.
Russia’s latest war strategy targeting power plants in recent days appears aimed at reducing Ukrainians’ will to fight back and forcing Ukraine’s government to devote more resources to protecting civilians and energy infrastructure, the ISW think tank said on Sunday. It said the move was unlikely to damage Ukrainian morale, but would have a significant economic impact.
The Ukrainian military said on Sunday that Russian forces were largely on the defensive, but continued attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and several towns in the eastern Donbass region.
Nine regions across Ukraine, from Odesa in the southwest to Kharkiv in the northeast, saw attacks targeting energy and other critical infrastructure again in the past day, Ukrainian civil servants said. It reported a total of 25 Russian airstrikes and more than 100 missile and artillery strikes around Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian counterattack forces in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions conducted 17 airstrikes in the entire campaign, targeting Russian-controlled facilities, particularly in the city of Nova Khakovka, Ukrainian civil servants said.
In a Telegram post on Sunday, the Ukrainian military said it had destroyed 14 Iranian-made Russian drones in the past day.
Russian S-300 missile strikes hit a residential area in the city of Mykolaiv overnight, injuring three people, according to the Southern Command of the Ukrainian military. Two apartment buildings, a playground and a warehouse were damaged or destroyed, it said in a Facebook post. Reports could not be immediately verified.
Elsewhere, Ukraine’s security service detained the longtime head of a major aircraft engine factory on Sunday, accusing it of collaborating with Russia by supplying military equipment to Russian attack aircraft.
Vyacheslav Bohuslev, the head of the Motor Sich plant in Zaporizhzhya, and another high-ranking factory official were charged with collaboration and “aiding the occupation government.”
In a statement, the Ukrainian security service SBU accused the two of colluding with a Russian arms manufacturer close to the Kremlin to supply Russian forces with Ukrainian-made machinery and spare parts. The SBU described a complex scheme using intermediaries in three countries to circumvent sanctions against Russia.
Motor Sich is one of Ukraine’s leading manufacturers and has been a major producer of aircraft engines since the Soviet era. Its facilities have been repeatedly targeted by Russian strikes during the war. Engines made by Motor Sich were used to power Russian helicopters before supplies were halted following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.
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