A Ukrainian attack to retake the city of Kherson could be imminent, Russian state media has suggested – as new footage reveals Kyiv‘s troops fighting for their lives on the front line.
Heart-stopping video captured on an unknown battlefield in recent weeks shows Ukrainian soldiers opening fire on their Russian counterparts using rifles, machine guns and rocket launchers as they battle for control of territory.
The footage shows one Ukrainian going down wounded, with blood pouring from his leg, as a comrade rushes to apply a tourniquet.
It is unclear exactly where the video was filmed. But it emerged as Russian state media warned the city of Kherson may soon come under attack.
Heart-stopping footage taken from an unknown battlefield somewhere in Ukraine shows Kyiv’s men attacking Russian troops with machine guns (left) and rifles (right)
The gritty footage also shows wounded Ukrainian troops – one of whom requires a tourniquet after being hit in the leg (left) and another of whom is shown lying against a wall (right)
‘Today is the last day of the [civilian] evacuation,’ one Russian official told a state TV channel early Tuesday.
‘People who did not leave are realising the seriousness of the situation and my warnings.’
Kherson has been the focus of Ukraine’s war effort for months but Russian activity in the city has increased in recent weeks.
The Kremlin’s occupation administration has now withdrawn from the city across the Dnipro River, taking down a flag that flew above its headquarters until last week.
Much of the Russian police force has also fled, according to local sources, leaving those who remain free to loot and commit crime.
The Kremlin’s troops have also been looting, taking the remains of Prince Grigory Potemkin – a Russian military leader and favourite of Catherine the Great – from a local cathedral, along with busts of Soviet generals, a collection of zoo animals, museum artefacts and a children’s fairground train.
That has given the impression that Russian troops do not expect to be occupying the city for much longer, and may cede control to Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers, marked by their yellow tape, take position in fox holes and trenches
Ukrainian soldiers are also shown clearing a building (left) and firing rocket launchers at Putin’s men as heavy fighting takes place around the country
Ukrainian troops fighting near the city of Bakhmut, in eastern Donetsk Oblast, fire a mortar at attacking Russian troops on November 6
A Ukrainian HIMARS system opens fire on Russian positions near the city of Kherson, amid heavy fighting to re-take the region from Putin’s men
However, Moscow is also moving reinforcements into Kherson – leading to conflicting reports on exactly what Putin’s commanders are up to.
Western officials, briefing journalists last week, said those reinforcements are actually conscripts designed to cover the retreat of Russian regular troops.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they have a ‘high’ level of confidence that Russia is planning to flee Kherson after deciding the city is ‘not worth defending’.
Putin’s men will retreat under the guise of the civilian evacuation, they added, before taking up better defensive positions on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River where they will hope to outlast the winter.
But the Ukrainian military, in a report released Monday, said Russia could be trying to bait its troops into a deadly trap.
Removing Russian flags and dismantling checkpoints on roads around the city ‘could be a provocation’ aimed at drawing Kyiv’s troops into killing zones, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said.
Russian troops, dressed as civilians, are actually still inside houses in Kherson and are reinforcing them for street fighting, the general staff added.
Should Kherson fall, then it would be a major propaganda win for Kyiv and the most-humiliating loss yet for Putin’s armed forces.
The city is the only regional capital captured by Russian troops during this invasion, and the capital of a province that Putin now claims as part of Russia.
Firefighters work at the scene of a damaged residential building after Russian shelling in the liberated city of Lyman, in the Donetsk region
A damaged vehicle is seen on a road in the Kherson Oblast, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine grinds into its ninth month
It is also strategically significant because it straddles the Dnipro River which divides Ukraine in two and provides Russia with its only easy access to the western half of the country.
Should Kherson fall, it would make a Russian assault on the port city of Odesa – a key aim for Putin’s generals – almost impossible.
It would also open the door for Ukraine to mount an offensive towards Crimea, which President Volodymyr Zelensky has held up as the ultimate goal of the war.
Heavy fighting is also under way in the east of Ukraine, where Kyiv’s troops are said to be pushing hard to capture the town of Svatove, in northern Luhansk oblast.
Russia is said to be pouring newly conscripted men into the city in an attempt to hold it, and suffering heavy casualties in the process.
Svatove is a key waypoint on the road to Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, two cities that Russia expended huge amounts of time, blood and resources to capture over the summer. Losing them would wreck Putin’s claim to be in control of the Donbas.
In response to the slow but steady advance, Russian troops – led by Wagner mercenaries – have spent recent weeks constructing a series of defensive trenches and tank traps in the region.
One line is believed to run north of the city of Luhansk, up through Lysychansk and towards the town of Bakhmut, which has also been the scene of heavy fighting in recent weeks.
Reports have now emerged that Russia has begun constructing a second series of defences around Mariupol, in the south of Ukraine.
The city is deep behind Russian lines, but fears have been growing in recent weeks that Ukraine could launch a third counter-attack in this region soon.
Western officials have also briefed journalists that Russia is reinforcing defensive positions on the east bank of the Dnipro River.