The Ukrainian military quickly retracted its claim that Russian forces had withdrawn from a strategic town in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region Thursday, as Moscow-backed leaders mocked Kyiv over the report.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces initially said in an update Thursday that all Russian military units had pulled out of the town of Nova Kakhovka on the east bank of the Dnipro River.
It would have marked a significant development, as the first east bank settlement of any size seized by Ukraine since forcing Russia’s troops out of Kherson and seizing the west bank last November.
But the General Staff retracted the claim a short time later, writing in a statement on Facebook: “The occupiers are still temporarily located in Nova Kakhovka. The information about the enemy’s alleged withdrawal from this settlement was made public as a result of incorrect use of available data.”
Russia slammed the report: By the time of Ukraine’s retraction, Russian-appointed officials and military bloggers had already loudly denied Ukraine’s claims of a military withdrawal from Nova Kakhovka.
Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed head in the occupied Kherson region, said “all Russian military personnel in Nova Kakhovka, as well as in other locations on the east bank of the Dnipro river, remain in their positions.”
Saldo theorized the claim was tied to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s recent visit to the region, which he said had a “weak PR effect.”
Vladimir Leontyev, the Russia-backed leader in Nova Kakhovka, also said the claim was false, calling it “misinformation” and the work of propagandists.
Russian military correspondent Aleksandr Kots mocked the report on Telegram.
Recent developments in the area: While Russia has fortified many settlements on the east bank of the river near Kherson, those nearest the Dnipro have been subjected to frequent attacks by Ukraine, including special forces assaults.
Nova Kakhovka is a notable territory to monitor in the fighting, because it’s the site of a major hydroelectric project and the entrance to a canal that feeds fresh water to Crimea from the Dnipro River.
According to unofficial social media accounts, explosions rocked the town last weekend, and a fire broke out close to or in the town’s grain elevator.
Some Telegram channels said a fuel dump had been set on fire, along with Russian military equipment. Those accounts could not be verified.
In mid-March, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported Ukrainian troops had launched a massive artillery strike on the neighborhood of Sokol in Nova Kakhovka, killing a woman and damaging houses, stores and power lines.