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Kherson, further and further away from the southern front line

The Ukrainian military authorities announce the withdrawal of Russian troops from the towns opposite Kherson on the southern bank of the Dnieper River
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REUTERS/VIACHESLAV RATYNSKYI  -   Ukrainian servicemen fire a 2S7 Pion self-propelled gun on a frontline in the Kherson region, Ukraine, in November 2022

More than nine months after its occupation, and only a few weeks after being abandoned by Russian troops, Kherson may cease to be - in the next few days - part of the main southern front line in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. According to the Reuters news agency, the Kiev military authorities have revealed the withdrawal of Russian troops from several towns on the south bank of the Dnieper river, opposite the city of Kherson, capital of the homonymous oblast.

This could be a major blow to the Russian offensive - since among the few major cities it has managed to control since the start of the war only Kherson stood out - but it does not come without resistance from Moscow. Although the Eurasian giant has decided to start sizing up its forces and picking its battles, its departure from Kherson and the surrounding cities does not come without some - it is hoped - final bombardment of the territory. 

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AFP/AFP - Map showing Russian attacks in Ukraine as of 9 November, as well as the control of Ukrainian national territory by Moscow's troops

Hundreds of missiles have hit the Kherson oblast in recent weeks, since 11 November, denounced Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky. In fact, according to The Kyiv Independent, according to statements by the territory's governor, Yaroslav Yanushevych, in the last 24 hours alone, Russian troops have hit civilian, military and administrative infrastructures 42 times, killing three people and injuring seven. This has been compounded by a further disruption of electricity and other services in Kherson and other Ukrainian territories - such as Lviv and Kiev, where a large part of the population is still suffering from power and water cuts. This only heightens fears that cold and hunger will be used as a weapon of war in the winter. 

"We survived the occupation, we live much better now. But we have no water, no electricity, although we don't [have] Russians either", the online media El Debate quoted a Ukrainian woman and her daughter as saying, while many of her neighbours, unable to bear the living conditions in the city, are fleeing by train to a safer place. 

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PHOTO/FILE - Kherson administrative building without the Russian flag

The Ukrainian report, which could not be independently confirmed by Reuters, claims that "a decrease in the number of Russian soldiers and military equipment has been observed in the settlement of Oleshky. [...] Enemy troops withdrew from hundreds of settlements in Kherson oblast and dispersed in buffer strips along the section of the Oleshky road", a stretch of road about 25 kilometres long that runs through several villages on the banks of the Dnieper River. 

In addition, the statement specified that most of the troops still in the territory were reservists believed to have been called up during the recent mobilisation of 300,000 troops, suggesting that Moscow's better-trained professional troops had already left the area days earlier. 

Now the threat of a new general attack on Ukraine has prompted the country's border services to issue, via Telegram, "a general air raid alert", instructing Ukrainians to "immediately go to air shelters". 

Against this backdrop, Russia continues to prepare militarily, as confirmed by a Defence Ministry statement that noted the success of the Russian Aerospace Forces in testing a new missile for an air defence system at the Sary Shagan test range in Kazakhstan. "A combat team of the Air and Missile Defence Forces of the Russian Aerospace Forces successfully completed the test launch [...] and fulfilled the task of hitting a target with the desired accuracy," the document said.

However, in the context of all these military activities, Russian authorities have made public through the Ria Novosti news agency the crash of a MiG31 fighter in the Nadejdinsky region of Primorye province, near the border with China and North Korea. In the east of the Eurasian country. 

Ukraine, for its part, has continued to call for international cooperation. In particular, it is sending the 'Patriot' missile defence system, which has sparked controversy among NATO allies and members. "We have to separate the discussion about the offer made to Poland from aid to Ukraine," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a joint appearance with German leader Olaf Scholz. "We are in dialogue with Poland [about sending such weapons]," Scholz said, noting that Germany had "no extension of the offer" to Ukraine. 

"This is a purely defensive system", was the argument of the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, in an attempt to convince the German representative. He claimed that the deployment of Patriot missiles in western Ukraine - to protect the country's electricity grid - would not lead to an escalation of the conflict due to the entry of a NATO member. This, however, did not seem to convince Alliance members.

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PHOTO/AP - US Patriot missile defence system

The two-day summit of OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Foreign Ministers, held in the Polish city of Lodz and deeply marked by the war in Ukraine, also served as an arena for discussing the next moves against Russia. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was unable to attend the meeting because he is on the list of people banned from entering the EU. 

"If accountability for the crime of aggression against Ukraine is not ensured, there will be no lasting peace and security in the OSCE. That is why a special court must be set up to deal with the crime of aggression," was Dmytro Kuleba's diplomatic and legal plea to those present.