Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians to “show restraint” and caution following the Russian order to withdraw troops from the key southern city of Kherson.
In his overnight address, Ukraine’s president warned that ‘the enemy does not bring us gifts’ and suggested Moscow’s withdrawal from Kherson could be a ruse to induce Ukrainian forces to advance in a battle in the strategically located city. important.
On Wednesday, Russia’s Commander-in-Chief in Ukraine said the troops had been ordered to withdraw from Kherson because it was no longer possible to maintain the city’s supply.
Mr Zelenskyy said: “There is a lot of joy in the media space today, and it is understandable why. But our emotions have to be contained – always during war.
“But you have to understand: no one gets away with it if they don’t feel the strength. The enemy doesn’t bring us gifts, doesn’t make ‘goodwill gestures’. We push our way through.”
The regional capital was seized by Russia at the start of the war and, if confirmed, the withdrawal from Kherson will mark one of Moscow’s most significant retreats.
However, other Ukrainian and Western allied officials have also questioned the intentions behind Moscow’s announcement and what it might mean.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Kyiv saw “no signs that Russia is leaving the city altogether” and said the statements “could be misinformation”.
Kherson is a prime target for Moscow and Kyiv due to its important river and seaport – it is also a gateway to the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula.
Lord Dannatt, the former British army chief, said Kherson should be watched “very closely”, adding that the withdrawal could be part of a genuine desire to regroup – or a ruse to encourage the Ukrainians to advance.
The Russians are “masters of deception and camouflage”, he added.
The NATO chief also warned that Moscow cannot be underestimated. Jens Stoltenberg called the withdrawal “encouraging”, but added it was too early to draw conclusions.
The Russian army seemed to have been preparing for months for an orderly withdrawal from Kherson or an ambush.
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Russian-installed authorities in the city last month ordered an “immediate” evacuation of residents, amid warnings of an impending Ukrainian counteroffensive.
More than 70,000 residents were evacuated in late October, according to Moscow-appointed officials, though Ukrainian officials have questioned that claim.
Mr Zelensky called “theatre” attempts to convince civilians to move deeper into Russian-held territory.