Birds fly over a damaged building in the Kherson region village of Arkhanhelske. File/AFP
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday announced Russian forces would retreat from the west bank of the Dnipro River near Kherson in what could be a turning point in the war.
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Ukraine reacted with caution, noting some Russian forces remained in Kherson and reinforcements were being sent to the region.
"They are moving out but not as much as would be taking place if it was a full pullout or regrouping," Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a video posted online on Wednesday night.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu speaks during a meeting in Ukraine.
Russian forces were destroying bridges as they left and mining roads, Arestovych said.
"For the moment, we don't know their intentions — will they engage in fighting with us and will they try to hold the city of Kherson? They are moving very slowly," he said.
Kherson city was the only regional capital Russia captured after the invasion and it has been the focus of a Ukrainian counter-offensive. The city controls the only land route to the Crimea peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014 and the mouth of the Dnipro river that bisects Ukraine.
Russian-installed officials have been evacuating tens of thousands of civilians from Kherson in recent weeks.
A Ukranian woman sits in a car with her family after they managed to flee from Kherson in Zaporizhzhia. AFP
Ukrainian military analyst Yuri Butusov said the Ukrainian army's use of US-supplied high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) had made Dnipro river crossings so dangerous that "the defence of Russian positions here has become impossible".
"But let's be clear. The Russian forces will take up defensive positions and it will be able to carry out new attacks. It will be able to maintain its positions on the east bank for a time," Butusiov said in a YouTube video.
Both sides have expended large amounts of weaponry in what has become a grinding war of attrition for the eastern region of coal mines and factories known as the Donbas, placing huge strains on their resources and stockpiles.
Kyiv said on Friday it had launched new air strikes in the captured southern region of Kherson, one of the first areas to be taken by Russia after the February 24 invasion.
Hours after the strikes, a Moscow-installed official in southern Ukraine said the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions would soon be "liberated” by Russian forces, just like the already occupied Kherson region further east.
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