Remember when Russia walked into an obvious trap in Kherson Oblast and everyone knew it except Russia? Well, they finally caught on.
Rumors about this have swirled for the past several days, with reports of entire units abandoning their positions or of Russian forces collapsing their lines closer to Kherson city, so that artillery on the other side of the Dnipro River can help support them. But this isn’t a rumor. It’s sourced to the Ukrainian military itself. So several things might be happening:
1) It’s psyops. It’s all fiction, meant to pressure Russian units in the area into quitting. If they believe their fellow countrymen are negotiating a way out, they might not want to be left holding the bag.
2) It’s true, but it’s some units negotiating. There’s no single command for this axis—there’s Rosgvardia (Putin’s personal national guard), VDV airborne, Russian naval infantry, regular Russian army, proxy forces from Luhansk and Donetsk, and who knows what else, and all answer to different commands.
3) It’s true, and somehow, Ukraine is negotiating with that entire mishmash of an occupying force.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych thinks it’s the second option.
Assuming it’s the second or third option, Ukraine’s negotiating position should be simple: Russian forces can happily withdraw into a POW camp after handing their equipment over. Seriously, “We’re out of ammo, please let us out with all our gear” is not a particularly well-leveraged negotiating position. There’s no plausible “or else...” that is even remotely compelling to Ukraine. The only one that applies here is “or else the occupiers die.”
So yeah, this:
Aretovych says that “In places where Russian forces demonstrate resistance, Ukrainians are firing shells with leaflets calling for surrender. An unofficial report says there are 5,000 Russian POWs in Ukrainian hands.” This pause to rest, refit, refuel, and repair forces used in the Kharkiv offensive is a great time to coax Russian and proxy forces to surrender.
We’ve seen Russians overrun, and we’ve seen them run. We hadn’t seen them play dead though:
This is pretty:
That chunk of red in the northeastern corner of the country will soon be blue.
As for the current situation on the ground, it’s mostly mopping up in Kharkiv right now. Lots of rumors on other fronts, but I’m not sure most are believable. What better way to sow panic in Russian soldiers than to tell them that all the fronts are collapsing? Ukrainian forces will need a week or two to catch their breaths after that Kharkiv sprint.
The one rumor I’ll mention, because it’s all over Russian Telegram, is that Ukraine is massing forces around Vuledar, presumably for a push toward Mariupol. If true, and not saying it is, why would anyone assume that Ukraine would do the obvious thing? Hasn’t Kherson-Kharkiv taught us that Ukraine thrives on misdirection, and is quite capable of pulling it off? If Ukraine is genuinely massing forces around Vuledar, nothing guarantees that’s where Ukraine will launch a major attack.
Satellite imagery proves some retreats in Kherson.
Meanwhile, Russia got two trucks across the Antonovsky Bridge connecting Kherson city to the south. Today, it announced that the bridge was once again impassable. HIMARS keeps pounding bridges down here, ensuring the trap remains shut.
Remember the video of the American gunner on a Humvee storming a village? That was Ternovy Pod, and it was declared Ukrainian liberated. Just a couple of hours ago, Ukraine’s Southern Command (Kherson area) released its operational update, which included this:
During the battle day by storming in the directions from Ternovy Pod to Lyubomirivku and from Chkalovoy to Bezimenne, the opponent tried to improve the tactical position of forces from two platitudes to the mouth supported by tanks. In both cases, he didn't succeed, took losses and fell back.
It’s hard to believe that units are started of ammunition and negotiating surrender if they are on the offensive in multiple locations in Kherson. And given that Russian forces attacked from Ternovy Pod, looks like Russia has clawed back some of its earlier losses. If some units are trying to surrender, they are isolated instances, and not a general trend.
Voice of America journalist:
It is reported that Russian border guards do not allow holders of Russian passports issued in Ukraine to enter the Russian Federation.
I’m old enough to remember when Russia invaded Ukraine to “protect Russian speakers.”
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