Russian state media withdraw alerts on troop ‘regrouping’ in southern Ukraine
The incident suggests disarray in Russia’s military establishment and state media over how to report the battlefield situation in southern Ukraine
London — Two Russian state news agencies published alerts on Monday saying Moscow was moving troops to “more favourable positions” east of the Dnipro River in Ukraine, only to withdraw the information minutes later.
The highly unusual incident suggested disarray in Russia’s military establishment and state media over how to report the battlefield situation in southern Ukraine.
The RBC news outlet quoted the defence ministry as saying: “The sending of a false report about the ‘regrouping’ of troops in the Dnepr (Dnipro) region, allegedly on behalf of the press centre of the Russian ministry of defence, is a provocation.”
The Kremlin declined to comment, saying it was a matter for the military.
Last week, in a statement that Reuters could not independently verify, Russia’s military said it had thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to create a bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Dnipro and on nearby islands.
Russia retreated a year ago from areas it had seized on the western bank of the Dnipro, including the regional capital Kherson. If Ukrainian forces succeeded in crossing the river and establishing a secure bridgehead, it would represent a major advance.
In a series of three alerts on Monday, the RIA state news agency said the command of Russia’s Dnepr group of forces had decided to relocate troops to “more favourable positions” east of the Dnipro.
It said that, after the regrouping, the Dnepr force would release some troops to be deployed in offensives on other fronts.
RIA said the Russian military command had agreed with the Dnepr leadership’s conclusions and ordered the relocation of troops to start.
Minutes later, RIA withdrew all three alerts without explanation.
Another state agency, TASS, published just one alert on troops regrouping to more favourable positions, and then withdrew it, saying it had been released in error. It apologised to its readers.
In the past, Russia has sometimes used similar phrasing about moving troops to more advantageous positions to describe retreats.
Russian state media have privileged access to official briefings and typically report major military announcements shortly before they appear in the Telegram channel of the defence ministry.
Ukraine has said little about its military operations on the east bank of the Dnipro. TheUS-based Institute for the Study of War said last week that Ukraine appeared to have conducted assaults across the Dnipro in Kherson region in mid-October, and noted that Russian military bloggers were reporting continued Ukrainian ground operations on the east bank.
In its latest update, the ISW reported that Ukrainian forces made a “marginal gain” on the east bank on Sunday.
President Volodymyr Zelensky told Reuters in an interview last week that Ukraine’s five-month-old counteroffensive was making some gradual progress in the south and east, including what he called “good steps near Kherson region”.
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