Putin to lose 15,000 troops as army forced into humiliating retreat
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There are “no good options for Russia” as tens of thousands of their soldiers appear stranded in the south without any means of crossing back into safe territory, an expert has claimed. Ed Arnold, former British Army and NATO officer, told Sky News that Russia desperately needs to “move to the east of the [Dnipro] river”, into a Russian stronghold, as Ukraine advances on Kherson but that such a move, given the number of troops stranded, is going to be a “real issue”.
He reported that roughly 15,000 soldiers are currently stuck on the western side of the river and look likely to “be forced into a surrender”.
Mr Arnold said: “The issue that the Russians have is that when militaries have to withdraw under this type of pressure, they need good commanders to rally, which they do not have.
“And also the ground has no natural barriers to reset their front lines as it were.
“So, Ukraine is really trying to push and there are no good options for the Russians. They can either collapse back to Kherson and use the safety that the city will provide.
“But, ultimately, they need to move to the east of the river – I mean, it is roughly 15,000 Russian soldiers that are on the western side – and that is going to be a real issue. It is likely that they are going to be forced into a surrender to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”
Ukraine has been carrying out a huge number of rapid counter-offensives over the last six weeks, forcing Russian forces to retreat towards the border.
Putin’s soldiers had been enjoying a reasonable degree of success, surrounding cities such as Severodonetsk and advancing on Luhansk in the Donetsk region.
Putin last week formally annexed four areas that had partially succumbed to Russia’s invasion in a bid to use legal measures to secure those territories.
Experts warned that such measures would allow Putin, in his own mind, to use “nuclear blackmail”, whereby if he believed these Ukrainian territories now belonged to Russia, he would feel authorised to use weapons of mass destruction to protect them.
But Ukrainians have not heeded this warning and have swiftly advanced in several areas in the four regions.
In the last week, the towns of Novovoskresenske, Novohryhorivka and Petropavlivka to the northeast of Kherson city have been “liberated”.
Ukraine is now moving further into the annexed areas and surrounding Russian forces, who appear unable to retreat, let alone fight back.
The UN General Assembly is also set to vote on discrediting the legitimacy of the annexations, further damaging Russian strongholds, although such a move would have been expected by Putin.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed pro-Moscow forces in the annexed regions on Wednesday night, telling them they had already lost.
Switching mid-speech from Ukrainian to Russian, Mr Zelensky suggested that “more citizens of Russia are now realising they must die” in the face of the counter-offensives if Putin does not cede territory.
He said: “Ukrainians know what they are fighting for. And more and more citizens of Russia are realising that they must die simply because one person does not want to end the war.”
The next few weeks could prove costly for Russian forces if they are unable to evacuate the stranded troops; the loss of Kherson, in addition, as a strategic crossing point for Russian soldiers, will also make it harder to replace those that surrender.
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