Ukrainian military spokeswoman Natalia Khumenyuk said on Saturday that the Russians were creating the illusion of a retreat from Kherson to lure Ukrainian troops into street fighting in a key southern city.
“The Russian army is trying to convince everyone that they are retreating, but at the same time we see objective evidence that they are staying,” Khummenyuk told Ukrainian media.
“There are troops there, a lot of military equipment is there, and their fighting positions are there. The positions set up on the left bank will be used to support the positions on the right bank.”
CNN has not independently verified Humeniuk’s claims.
“We know that the Russians are trying to create an illusion of non-existence in order to lure Ukrainian troops into nearby settlements, where intense street fighting takes place,” she said.
“That’s why we know, we see and we foresee what kind of narrative they’re trying to give us, and we’re building our strategy accordingly,” Humeniuk noted.
According to Khummenyuk, the Russians are moving their elite troops and officers to the left bank of the Dnieper, leaving those on the right bank unable to escape or evacuate. “They will fight to the last breath of the troops leaving the right bank,” she said.
Some background: It was difficult to pinpoint the exact situation in Kherson this week.
A senior Moscow-appointed official said on Thursday that Russian troops were “very likely” to withdraw from their positions in the southern city. Ukrainian officials have suggested from the outset that the announcement could be a trap.
Russia has been evacuating citizens from the city. Moscow described the move as critical to public safety. Kyiv likened the evacuation to forced evictions.
Last month, a resident described the situation in Kherson as tense, with people “in low spirits”, with streets deserted from mid-afternoon and Russian soldiers often dressed in civilian clothes.