In a major setback to the Russian military campaign in southern Ukraine, Moscow has ordered its troops to withdraw from the recently annexed region of Kherson in the face of a spirited counterattack by Ukrainian forces.
The Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu gave the order to pull back during a televised meeting with Russia's commander in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin.
Surovkin had proposed the "difficult decision" of pulling back from Kherson and setting up defences on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River.
Kherson city was the first urban hub captured by Russia during its "special military operation" and remained the sole regional capital captured by the Russians since the offensive began on 24 February.
Ukraine's forces have for weeks been re-taking control of villages en route to the city near the Black Sea. Large numbers of civilians have been evacuated from Kherson by the Kremlin-installed authorities.
Ukraine remains cautious
Ukraine has responded cautiously to the Russian announcement of the withdrawal.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said some Russian troops remained in the city.
"We see no signs that Russia is leaving Kherson without a fight," he said on Twitter.
"Ukraine is liberating territories based on intelligence data, not staged TV statements."
If Russia loses the Kherson region, Ukraine will regain access to the Sea of Azov. Russian President Vladimir Putin will have little to show from a campaign that has turned him into a pariah in the eyes of the West.
The retreat will put pressure on Russian control of the rest of the Kherson region, which forms a land bridge from Russia to Crimea, the peninsula which Moscow annexed in 2014.
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