Are Russian Troops Withdrawing From Southern Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine? – In a statement published on Facebook, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine revealed how Russian troops appear to be withdrawing from their positions in southern Zaporizhzhia.
The news comes after Russian authorities played down reports of a possible withdrawal of Russian soldiers from the famed Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine.
What is Russia Doing?
According to the update, Russian forces are also preparing to evacuate “personnel of the occupation administrations,” suggesting that Kremlin-installed officials may soon have no military protection from Russian soldiers.
If true, it would be another embarrassing withdrawal of Russian forces from a Ukrainian territory that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have “annexed” in September.
The update also suggested that Russian forces are launching missile strikes in Zaporizhzhia Oblast as they attempt to withdraw.
“During the day, the enemy launched a missile attack on the positions of our troops on the territory of the Kharkiv oblast. It carried out 16 airstrikes, in particular on the settlement of Bilohirya in the Zaporizhzhia oblast, and shelled the city of Kherson with MLRS,” the statement reads.
The update also describes how Russian units have already left several settlements in the southern part of Zaporizhzhia, including Inzhenerne, Polohy, and Mykhailivka.
“According to the available information, the Russian occupation forces are withdrawing separate units and preparing for evacuation the personnel of the occupation administrations of the settlements of the temporarily occupied territory of the Zaporizhia region,” the update continues, adding that units previously based in the local police station and a school have since let the Mykhailivka settlement.
Russian troops also reportedly left residential buildings which were commandeered by invading forces in Polohy and Inzhenerne.
While Russian forces are unlikely to withdraw from territories that its forces are confident they can maintain a firm grip over, the move could be part of an effort to redeploy troops further to the south to defend Crimea from a possible Ukrainian assault.
Ukraine Calls On Russia to Withdraw From Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant remains one of the most fiercely defended territories occupied by Russian forces, and despite repeated calls to establish a protection zone around the plant, Russian forces have so far refused to give back control of the plant to Ukraine or even to the United Nations atomic experts.
On Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Russia should withdraw its heavy weapons and personnel from the facility entirely to ensure that a United Nations plan to protect the plant can succeed.
Following a meeting with Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kuleba said that Ukraine agrees that all military hardware needs to be removed from the site.
“We both agreed that Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has to be protected and to achieve that Russia has to withdraw its heavy weapons and military personnel from the station,” Kuleba said, adding that Kyiv is “considering ways” to achieve the goal as Grossi continues to conduct “shuttle diplomacy” between Moscow and Kyiv.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor.