WOn one occasion, it was someone other than President Vladimir Putin who was chosen to break bad news from Ukraine’s war zone to the Russian public. Russian state television on Wednesday evening broadcast the carefully staged meeting between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the commander of Russian troops in Ukraine.
The latter, General Sergei Surovikin, is standing at a desk in front of a map of Ukraine that has been rendered unrecognizable. He keeps his eyes down and reports, apparently reading from a piece of paper, about the situation of the Russian armed forces on various sectors of the front. Using a pointer, he lists towns in eastern Ukraine where there is heavy fighting or where Russian troops are advancing. He also lists the alleged Ukrainian losses of soldiers and material.
Only after a minute-long speech by Surovikin did Defense Minister Shoygu ask the crucial question about the situation on the southern front in the Kherson region. First, Surovikin once again lists alleged Ukrainian losses, reports on the “successful repulsion” of Ukrainian offensive attempts or the work of Russian air defenses. Even after military defeats in the past, Russia had never spoken of retreat, but only of strategic regrouping and tactical adjustments.
Defense of Cherson “no prospects”
However, Surovikin reports to Shoygu that Cherson can no longer be “fully supplied” and that a defense “has no prospects”. Therefore he proposed to take positions on the left bank of the Dnipro in the direction of flow. Again, Surovikin tried to use the formula of a “difficult decision”. With these words, in his first appearance after his appointment as commander weeks earlier, Surovikin had already prepared the Russian public for a possible withdrawal of the occupying forces. Shoygu immediately agrees to Surovikin’s suggestion and stresses that protecting the life and health of the soldiers is a priority. In fact, reports of Russian soldiers who were sent to the front without adequate preparation and died there are piling up.
The news from Cherson had been circulating in Russian telegram groups since Wednesday morning. Telegram channels attributed to the mercenary group “Wagner” reported numerous destroyed bridges on the right, northern bank of the Dnipro River (they are small bridges that do not cross the Dnipro River itself). The channels also announced an official statement on the situation in Kherson for the same day.