DEFEAT: Russia’s Embarrassing Retreat From Kherson

Written By Daniel Bordman, Posted on November 11, 2022

In mid-October 2022, Vladimir Putin declared the southern Ukraine city of Kherson annexed and officially part of permanent Russia. In less than a month his army is in full retreat across the Dnipro river under heavy bombardment from Ukrainian troops.

The illegal annexation, followed by a “vote” at gunpoint was the justification that Putin relied on to justify his territorial expansion to the world. Many Russian talking points are crumbling as Ukrainian soldiers are entering the city to the jubilation of the people who clearly see this as a liberation. 

This is a highly significant victory for the Ukrainian forces on many fronts. First, this is a military victory, Kherson has huge logistical significance, and losing it will deeply undermine the Russian war effort.

Second, this is a massive domestic blow to Putin’s perception as a brilliant leader. Putin rules primarily through strength, more accurately the perception of strength. The loss of Kherson is a massive egg-on-the-face moment for Putin. Russian papers are turning themselves in knots to avoid saying the phrase retreat, instead, it is being played off as the “Kherson maneuver”. In reality, this is a route, Russian troops are being scattered and abandoned by the high command.

The absurd justification that Putin has offered, that they are leaving Kherson for humanitarian concerns for civilians is beyond laughable. Putin has made a reputation for himself for being willing to rack up very high civilian body counts to achieve a goal. The people of Chechnya, Syria, and Georgia were made examples of. No reasonable or informed person inside or outside of Russia will believe this.

Russia is a massive country and this is a big story, eventually, the truth of what happened in Kherson will precipitate through Russia and create a massive crack in Putin’s veil of invincibility. 

On an international level, there is another massive double-pronged blow to the Russian war effort. Two Russian narratives died with the loss of Kherson. One the pro-Russian sentiment of the people in the annexed territories, those people are clearly Ukrainian. The more important message is that the narrative that the Ukrainian army could not possibly defeat the massive Russian army has died. The total victory of the Ukrainian forces and the expulsion of the Russian invaders from their land is a very real possibility. 

As winter sets in, and the armies dig in to deal with the cold, the momentum is squarely in the court of the defenders. Winter warfare brings a new phase. Massive operations become more difficult and less likely, winter conditions tend to amplify home-field advantage, and problems with morale are exasperated by the cold. All of this benefits the Ukrainians.

Although the war is nowhere near over, the Ukrainian victory in Kherson has the potential to set off a ripple effect that could turn into a political earthquake inside Russia.

Daniel Bordman

Daniel is the host of political satire show Uninterrupted, runs multiple podcasts and has written for a variety of publications. Daniel is also the communications coordinator of the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation. You can find him on Twitter here. Uninterrupted on YouTube

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