The retreat of Russia from the city of Kherson and neighborhood may mean a change in Russian tactics and goals in the war in Ukraine. Due this new tactic Dnieper River may become to the dividing political line for Ukraine.
• Russian troops withdraw from the right bank of the Dnieper in the Kherson region, and the Armed Forces of Ukraine quickly liberate the region with virtually no resistance, similar to what happened in the Kharkiv region. Most likely, this decision of the Russian command is primarily due to the destruction of logistics routes and the violation of the supply system of the RF Armed Forces. Although the fact that the Russian troops were not pursued during the retreat by the armed forces of Ukraine draws attention to itself.
• In the Russian Federation, they are forced to abandon the attack on the city of Odessa and the city of Nikolaev (in order to ensure access to proRussian Transnistria). And Ukrainian troops are getting closer to the Crimea.
• But now the RF Armed Forces can concentrate their efforts exclusively on the Left-Bank Ukraine, which is now connected with the rest of the country by about 20 bridges (the most important of which are in the city of Dnieper and Kyiv). And which is already a huge foothold for Ukraine on the other "russian" bank of the river.
• The defeat in the Right-Bank Ukraine (near Kyiv and Kherson) should force the Russian Federation to change its strategic goals for the third time in the war against Ukraine. At the beginning, they planned a "blitzkrieg" with the capture of Kyiv, then the main efforts were directed to the Donbass and the southern regions of Ukraine. Now Russian troops are leaving for the left bank of the Dnieper and will not only build a line of defense there. A new tactical goal of the Russian Federation may be an attempt to capture the entire Left-Bank Ukraine.
• It is possible that the situation around the city of Kherson, as well as the general situation at the front, are also related to the course of behind-the-scenes negotiations between the US and the Russian Federation, as a result of which the suspension of active hostilities is possible. The leadership of the US and the EU may be inclined towards the idea of a truce between Ukraine and the Russian Federation - at least for the winter period.
• In particular, the statement of the Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov draws attention, in an interview with “Reuters” he noted that in winter the hostilities will not be so active and this is beneficial for all the warring parties, since there will be time for rest. This statement may act as a preparation of public opinion to freeze the conflict or, at least, suspend the counter-offensive of Ukrainian troops.
And if tacit agreements on Kherson really take place, we will hear more than one similar statement from representatives of our government, and the intensity of hostilities at the front, as well as the shelling of Ukrainian critical infrastructure, will somewhat decrease. All this can happen without any formal agreements between the parties.
• If the parties have not reached any “tacit consensus” or "secret agreements", a new round of escalation awaits us: an aggravation of hostilities in other sectors of the front is likely, so the Russian Federation will try to block the defeat in the Kherson direction with successes in other places, the intensity of shelling of critical infrastructure will increase, missile attacks on bridges across the Dnieper, as already stated by the deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation A. Lugovoi.
• In any case, the retreat of the RF Armed Forces in the Kherson region in terms of information is an important symbolic victory for Ukraine, which inflicts a significant image blow on the Russian Federation, both within the country and among the world community. Potentially, this is even fraught with undermining the confidence in the Russian leadership of a significant part of Russian society. At the same time, this is unlikely to cause any significant protests in the Russian Federation.
Ruslan Bortnik, Oksana Krasovskaya
for the Ukrainian Institute of Politics