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Military think tank: Russia withdraws its officers from Kherson

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia’s military leadership has withdrawn its officers from the Russian-annexed city of Kherson along the Dnieper River in anticipation of the advance of Ukrainian troops, the Institute for War Studies think tank said on Sunday.

To delay the Ukrainian counteroffensive as the Russians retreat, Moscow added that it is leaving newly mobilized, inexperienced forces on the other side of the wide river.

The troop movements came after the Ukrainian army said its forces were continuing their counterattack in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

On Saturday, Russian authorities in Ukraine told all Kherson residents to leave just before the expected action of Ukrainian troops to retake the city.

Kherson has been in Russian hands since the first days of the eight-month war in Ukraine. The city is the capital of a region of the same name, one of four regions that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month and subjected to Russian martial law on Thursday.

On Friday, Ukrainian forces bombarded Russian positions across the province, targeting pro-Kremlin forces’ supply routes along the Dnieper River, and preparing for a final push to retake the city.

The ISW think tank also said on Sunday that Russia’s latest war strategy, which has targeted power plants in recent days, is aimed at reducing Ukrainians’ will to fight and forcing the Ukrainian government to spend additional resources to protect civilians and energy infrastructure. The effort is unlikely to hurt Ukraine’s morale, but will have a significant economic impact, the statement said.

Russian forces are currently mostly on the defensive, but continue their offensive offensive against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and several towns in the eastern Donbas region, the Ukrainian military said on Sunday.

The Ukrainian general staff said attacks targeting re-energy and other critical infrastructures were seen in nine regions across Ukraine in the past day, from Odessa in the southwest to Kharkiv in the northeast. It reported a total of 25 Russian airstrikes and more than 100 missile and artillery strikes around Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian counterattack forces in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions specifically targeted Russian-held facilities in the town of Nova Kakhovka and carried out 17 airstrikes in the general operation, according to the Ukrainian general staff.

In a Telegram post on Sunday, the Ukrainian military claimed it destroyed 14 Iranian-made Russian drones in the past day.

According to the southern command of the Ukrainian army, Russian S-300 missile attacks hit a residential area in the city of Mykolaiv overnight, injuring three people. In a Facebook post, two apartment buildings, a playground and a warehouse were damaged or destroyed. The reports could not be immediately verified.

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s security service said on Sunday it had detained the longtime chief of a major aircraft engine factory, accusing it of collaborating with Russia by supplying military equipment to Russian attack aircraft.

Viacheslav Bohuslaiev, head of the Motor Sich plant in Zaporizhzhia, and another senior factory official were accused of collaborating and “aiding the aggressor state”.

The Ukrainian security service SBU said in a statement that the two were accused of colluding with a Russian arms manufacturer close to the Kremlin to supply the Russian forces with Ukrainian-made engines and spare parts. The SBU has unveiled a complex plan that uses intermediaries in the three countries to evade sanctions against Russia.

Motor Sich is one of Ukraine’s leading manufacturers and has been a major aircraft engine manufacturer since Soviet times. Its facilities were repeatedly the target of Russian attacks during the war. Engines made by Motor Sich were used to equip Russian helicopters before supply was stopped after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

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