©Health & Fitness Journal. A view shows destroyed military vehicles after Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson in Kherson, Ukraine November 14, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
By Dan Peleschuk and Jonathan Landay
KIEV/KHERSON, Ukraine (Health & Fitness Journal) – Russia rained rockets on cities across Ukraine on Tuesday in a volley of strikes that followed its humiliating withdrawal from Kherson, despite mounting signs that its retreating forces are still retreating further retreat south from the Dnipro River in Ukraine.
Air raid sirens wailed and explosions rang out in nearly a dozen major cities after one of the largest missile salvos to date, following a pattern in recent weeks in which Moscow has struck far from the frontline after battlefield casualties.
In the capital Kyiv, flames erupted from a five-story apartment block, one of two apartment buildings where authorities said they had been hit. Health & Fitness Journal journalists who reached the scene saw residents huddled next to the smoldering ruin. The mayor said one person was killed and half of the capital was left without power.
Other strikes or explosions were reported in cities from Lviv and Zhytomyr in the west to Kryvy Rih in the south and Kharkiv in the east. Regional officials reported that some of the attacks cut power.
The widespread attacks came four days after Russian troops evacuated the southern city of Kherson, the only regional capital Moscow had captured since its invasion, six weeks after President Vladimir Putin declared it a permanent part of Russia.
Russia said last week that its troops would occupy more easily defended positions on the opposite bank of the Dnieper River. But video footage filmed in the city of Oleshki behind a collapsed Kherson bridge appeared to show that Russian forces had evacuated their bunkers there too.
Further east, administration officials deployed by Russia said they would be withdrawing officials from the region’s second-largest city, Nova Kakhovka, which sits on the riverbank next to a huge, strategic dam.
Natalya Humenyuk, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military, said Moscow appears to be moving its artillery 15 to 20 km (10 to 15 miles) further from the river to protect its guns from Ukrainian counterattacks.
“There is some activity of enemy troops on the left bank of the Dnieper, moving 15-20 km from the bank,” she said. Russia still had artillery capable of hitting Kherson from these new positions, but “we also have something to respond with,” she said.
A day after visiting Kherson to celebrate the victory, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told world leaders that Ukraine’s military campaign to expel Russian troops from his country would not let up.
“We will not allow Russia to wait and build up its armed forces and then start a new series of terror and global destabilization,” he said in an address via video link ahead of a G20 major economies summit in Indonesia.
“I am convinced that now is the time when the Russian war of destruction must and can be stopped.”
Tuesday’s airstrikes follow a pattern Russia has maintained since mid-October, launching long-range missile and drone strikes on Ukrainian cities after battlefield setbacks. Moscow has said it is attacking energy infrastructure. Kyiv says such strikes only strengthen the resolve of its citizens.
“Russia responds to Zelenskyy’s powerful speech at the G20 with a new missile strike. Does anyone seriously believe that the Kremlin really wants peace? He wants obedience.
Before withdrawing from Kherson last week, Russia said it would move its forces across the Dnipro River to better defend the territory, including approaches to the strategic Crimean Peninsula, which Russia has held since 2014.
But on the video, shot in Oleshky, across the river from Kherson on the main road a two-hour drive from Crimea, there was no sign of any Russian presence.
One driver sped for miles down the deserted main road at high speed without encountering a single Russian checkpoint or flag. Several bunkers built along the road appeared to have been abandoned. The location of the video was confirmed by Health & Fitness Journal using visible landmarks.
In Nova Kakhovka, the Russian-installed administration said on Tuesday that officers had left to avoid shelling “and been relocated to safer areas in the region.”
There have been no confirmed reports of Ukrainian troops crossing the river in pursuit of the Russians. However, some analysts said Ukraine may be looking to play to its advantage on the battlefield rather than embarking on a so-called “operational pause” after the past few days’ progress.
“Ukraine has the initiative and momentum and is dictating to the Russians where and when the next fight will take place,” said Philip Ingram, a former senior British intelligence officer.
The war was the focus of the G20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali, where Western leaders denounced Moscow. Russia is a member and Ukraine is not, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has stayed at home.
In his speech before the summit, Zelenskyy outlined a peace proposal in which Russia would withdraw all its forces, release all prisoners and reaffirm Ukraine’s territorial integrity, all longstanding demands.
He proposed extending indefinitely a program to secure Ukraine’s grain exports to help feed poor countries, expanding it to the port of Mykolaiv, which has recently been placed out of reach of Russian arms following the Kherson advance.
Western countries pushed for a summit declaration that would condemn the war, despite Russia’s resistance and lack of unanimity. Diplomats circulated a 16-page draft that said: “Most members have strongly condemned the war in Ukraine, stressing that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing vulnerabilities in the global economy.”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who headed Russia’s delegation in Putin’s absence, accused the West of trying to politicize the statement.