Russian authorities have ordered troops to withdraw from Kherson, Ukraine, the only regional capital that they had captured since the start of its invasion in February.
Russian minister of defense Sergei Shoigu made the televised announcement on Wednesday Nov. 9 and explained Russia could no longer supply troops in Kherson.
President Vladimir Putin was not seen during the public announcement.
Kherson had been one of the four partly occupied areas of Ukraine that Putin had announced Russia would annexed in September after holding sham referendums in the regions.
Before the announcement, Ukrainians reported the main bridge out of Kherson had been blown up, speculating that Russian forces would retreat, according to Al Jazeera.
Russian troops will pull back and defend along the river Dnipro, according to the announcement by Shoigu and Sergei Surovikin, the commander of the Russian forces in Ukraine.
However, Ukrainian officials are treating all Russian announcements with caution.
“The enemy does not give us gifts, does not make ‘goodwill gestures’, we win it all,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an evening address following the announcement.
Zelensky said they are “moving very carefully” and “without unnecessary risk” to avoid casualties.
Despite this, the news of the withdrawal has been celebrated as a win for Ukraine.
Meanwhile, in the city, civilians say little has changed.
“Visually, nothing has changed. On the right bank [western bank] in Kherson, they are almost invisible, and it has been [like that] for several days. They have already taken everything they could,” a civilian told the BBC.
A retreat in Kherson would create a major setback to Russia’s war effort and would increase criticism in Russia’s leadership.