Ukraine, the Latest, Podcast by The Telegraph (11/10/22) Notes

Day 260

  • Televised briefings on the war against Ukraine are regular.  They almost always include Putin telling the military something.  After the decision to evacuate Kherson, however, the televised briefing between the Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu and Sergey Surovkin (overall commander of Russia’s war operations)  announcing the withdrawal was conducted without Putin.  The obvious message is that these two will be hung out to dry to take responsibility for the withdrawal.  The withdrawal was presented as a sad, but necessary move to preserve the combat capability of the army. 
  • Defense Minister Shoigu said to allow civilians who want to leave, passage.
  • This is a major development.  The Russians have been in trouble in Kherson for a long time, but they haven’t made it easy for the Ukrainians.  In the long term the Russian situation was untenable.
  • The two military men (Shoigu and Surovikin) will clearly being made the scapegoats for the withdrawal. 
  • This is the third major withdrawal for the Russians.  Kherson, Kyiv and Kharkiv. 
  • Mercenary leaders Prigozhin and Kadyrov have been critical of the Defense Ministry’s conduct of the war, but have now evidently gotten on the same hymn sheet about the withdrawal.  They as well are presenting it as regrettable but necessary.  
  • It’s going to be a difficult withdrawal for the Russians and take weeks. 
  • The Ukrainians don’t want to celebrate or build up the withdrawal as a turning point.  There is operational secrecy in effect. There’s also a reluctance to believe the Russians about the withdrawal. 
  • (Note: This morning there is video of Ukrainian troops retaking villages).
  • Months ago, there was a ceremony in Moscow with Putin posing for photos and shaking hands with the four men put in charge of the regions declared to be part of Russia.  One of those men has apparently been assassinated.
  • On television, Russian commentators are comparing this withdrawal to the military abandoning Moscow when fighting  against Napoleon.  They are “selling it” because it is a “humiliation to the Russian state.”
  • The International community is watching.  This is a crucial moment, not least because the US recently was pushing the Ukrainians to make a statement about peace for the benefit of countries whose commitment was weakening.  The push was for the Ukrainians to admit that they would talk about peace.  The Ukrainians announced they would talk peace with Russia but not with Putin. 
  • There are reported to be some 30,000 troops in Kherson. 
  • There is a possibility that this retreat is a deception.  Zelensky said on Wednesday, the Russians don’t “give us gifts.” 
  • The withdrawal probably is going to happen.  The Russian position is “long term untenable.”  They are trying to get ahead of the narrative and if they can spin it as a Dunkirk, they will. 
  • Russians booby trap everything when they retreat.  The Wagner group is famous for this (for example, in Tripoli).  They tied grenades to children’s toys, beehives. 

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