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Russian forces could face ‘rout’ in Kherson

Russian military leadership in the occupied city of Kherson have fled across the Dnieper River, leaving behind new Russian recruits to try and stall the Ukraine military’s push to recapture the city, a Washington-based think tank says.

“Using such inexperienced forces to conduct a delaying action could prompt a Russian rout if Ukrainian forces choose to press the attack,” the Institute for the Study of War says in its latest assessment of the war.

The institute says that at least one Russian war blogger noted the situation in Kherson is dire for frontline Russian troops who could find it ”virtually impossible” to evacuate. How to get those troops out and how to explain the flight from Kherson – which the Kremlin says it has annexed – to the Russian populace remain crucial issues for Russian leadership, the assessment says. 

The Russian Kherson Occupation Administration announced Saturday that “all citizens of Kherson must immediately leave the city.” Russia is likely trying to depopulate parts of the region that Ukraine will recapture, damaging the long-term social and economic viability of southern Ukraine, the assessment says. 

KHERSON EVACUATION ORDER: Russian-installed authorities order evacuation ahead of expected Ukraine advance

Other developments:

►Two Russian pilots died when a fighter jet crashed into a home in the Siberian city of Irkutsk during a trial flight, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said Sunday. No injuries were reported on the ground, the ministry said.

►Russian authorities said they are building defensive positions in occupied areas of Ukraine and border regions of Russia amid a powerful Ukrainian counterattack that has reclaimed hundreds of miles of territory.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Sunday was pressing his claim that Ukraine was preparing a “provocation” involving a radioactive dirty bomb. Shoigu spoke with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace and others, accusing Ukraine of planning to escalate the war. The calls came two days after Austin and Shoigu spoke for the first time in five months.

“I spoke by phone today with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu, who requested a follow up call,” Austin said in a Twitter post Sunday. “I rejected any pretext for Russian escalation & reaffirmed the value of continued communication amid Russia’s unlawful & unjustified war against Ukraine.”

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also dismissed Shoigu’s claims, likely to play well in Russia, as “absurd” and dangerous.

The end of the war must come on Ukraine’s terms and the world cannot accept Russia using its military might to dictate the result, French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday. Macron, speaking at the global Cry for Peace conference in Rome, said Moscow’s invasion was unjustified, “the fruit of exaggerated nationalism” and Russia’s isolationism.

“They were convinced that there were threats, that the rest of the world – the Western world, at least – would have tried to destroy Russia,” Macron said. But he added that “peace can’t be the consecration of the law of the strongest.”

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleaded with Ukrainians to curb energy consumption, saying in his overnight address that Russian strikes continue to target electricity infrastructure. Many districts are without power, he said, and rolling blackouts are now a daily occurrence across much of the nation. He urged his countrymen to listen to local authorities and power companies planned blackout schedules and to “plan your day” around them.

“Russian propagandists are lying when they say that this terror against our infrastructure and people can somehow slow down the active actions of our military or create some difficulties for our defense,” Zelenskyy said.

Nine regions across Ukraine saw more attacks targeting energy and other critical infrastructure over the past day, the Ukrainian army’s general staff said. It reported a total of 25 Russian airstrikes and more than 100 missile and artillery strikes around Ukraine. Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko told Reuters that up to 40% of overall national power infrastructure had been hit in recent attacks that he said were intended to destroy Ukraine’s energy system.

Wind, solar power take biggest hits

Russian missiles and drones have destroyed 90% of wind power and 50% of solar power facilities in Ukraine, Halushchenko said. The bulk of green energy is in Ukraine’s southern regions, where some of the most intensive strikes have occurred. The share of green energy in Ukraine’s energy system was about 10% before the invasion, the energy minister said. 

Contributing: The Associated Press

In this photo posted by the mayor of Mykolaiv on his Telegram channel, a residential building is seen damaged following night shelling in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022.

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