Russia is deploying more military in the vital southern city of Kherson and may be preparing to defend it. The following announcement has been made by the spy chief of Ukraine.
Ukraine had earlier suggested some Russian units might be leaving. Russia took Kherson in the initial days of the battle, but has recently come under pressure as Ukrainian military advance along the Dnipro River.
The authorities of Russia in the city have ordered thousands of civilians to evacuate.
The Ukrainian intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, dismissed this as an “information operation,” telling the Ukrayinska Pravda website Moscow was “trying to create the illusion that everything is lost.”
The Russian army is sending in more army and preparing the streets for defence, he said, adding that the removal of citizens is a front to save face in case the city falls to Ukraine.
This is a departure from Kyiv’s earlier comments that the invading forces were leaving the city. “They are not preparing to exit now,” he said.
Ukraine has been advancing on Kherson since the beginning of October. It has reclaimed around 90 villages in the region, with a population totalling 12,000, as per its military.
On Monday, the Russian-appointed officials in Kherson announced the creation of militia units, saying that men would have the “opportunity” to join them.
But Serhiy Bratchuk, a Ukrainian military spokesman in Odesa, said this was a disguise to conscript male residents into the Russian army.
A defeat in Kherson would be a major setback for Russia.
It is the capital of one of the four regions President Putin attempted to annex after self-described referendums.