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Russia's new Ukraine commander signals removal of civilians from 'tense' Kherson | Ukraine

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The new commander of the Moscow army in Ukraine described the military situation as “tense”, announcing the “deployment” of civilians from the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson.

“The enemy is constantly trying to attack the positions of Russian troops,” Sergei Surovikin said in his first television interview since his appointment earlier this month, adding that the situation is especially difficult around the occupied southern city of Kherson.

Surovikin’s remarks on Tuesday came amid repeated military failures for Russian forces that have led to Moscow’s dependence on Iran, which sends missiles and drones.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that military advisers from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were on Ukrainian soil at a Russian military base in occupied Crimea. The Iranians were reportedly deployed to assist Russian troops in dealing with problems with the Tehran-supplied squadron of Shahed-136 aircraft, renamed Geran-2 by the attackers.

Russian forces are trying to thwart a violent Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson, a region in southern Ukraine that Moscow claims to have annexed after holding a fake referendum last month.

Surovikin admitted that the situation in Kherson was “not easy”.

“Other actions and plans regarding the city of Kherson will depend on the developing military-tactical situation, which is not easy. We will act consciously and in a timely manner, without excluding difficult decisions.”

The comments seemed to mark a rare acknowledgment of the difficulties faced by Russian forces. But it was not immediately clear whether the ruthless general Surovikin, now in charge of the war, was implying the oncoming Russian withdrawal from Kherson or a new air strike.

Located on the west bank near the mouth of the Dnipro, Kherson was one of the first cities to fall into Russia after the February 24 invasion and is a crucial strategic and symbolic target for the Ukrainian government.

It has been reported that since the counter-offensive launched by Ukraine at the end of summer, heavy clashes have taken place in the region and both sides have suffered heavy losses.

The Ukrainian army tried to squeeze the Russian supply lines into Kherson, destroying the two main road bridges over the Dnipro. Kyiv recently launched a news blackout in the south of the country, which has prompted speculation that it is preparing a new major attack on Kherson.

“When Ukrainians have a news blackout, something is going on. They’ve always done this before when there was massive attack pressure, Michael Clarke, former managing director of the Royal United Services Institute, told Sky News.

“I’m guessing they’ll be able to tell us what’s going on in the next 48-72 hours,” he said.

Shortly after Surovikin’s remarks, Kherson’s head in Russia, Vladimir Saldo, said in a video address that people in four towns in the Kherson region had moved in anticipation of a “large-scale attack.”

Kirill Stremousov, the Russian-appointed deputy administrator of the Kherson region, repeated the message on Telegram late Tuesday. “The war for Kherson will begin in the very near future. “Civilian populations are advised, if possible, to leave the area of ​​imminent violent hostilities,” he said.

Since Surovikin’s appointment on October 8, Moscow has launched a hail of cruise missiles and “kamikaze” drones targeting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and civilian population.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Moscow’s use of Iranian-made drones was a symbol of the Kremlin’s “military and political bankruptcy”.

“Russia’s call for such assistance to Iran is recognition of the military and political bankruptcy of the Kremlin,” Zelenskiy said in a daily speech on Tuesday.

“They spent billions of dollars on their own military-industrial complex over the decades. And in the end they succumbed to Tehran to secure fairly basic drones and missiles.”

Zelensky, however, “will not help them in any way strategically. It is proving once again to the world that Russia is on the road to defeat and is trying to lure someone else into its terrorist accomplices.”

The bombing is often wrong, and civilians were killed in residential buildings in Kyiv and other major cities. But enough to cause problems for an already endangered power grid once the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is shut down.

About a third of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed by Russian attacks since Monday last week, prompting the NATO secretary general to announce that new counter-drones will be delivered in a few days.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the presidential office, said that the energy infrastructure and electricity supply were targeted overnight in the eastern district of Kiev in the cities of Dnipro and Zhytomyr, where two people were killed.

“The situation is critical throughout the country right now, as our regions are interdependent,” Tymoshenko told Ukrainian television. “The whole country needs to be prepared for cuts in electricity, water and heating.”

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said member states would “take steps” to stabilize the situation and provide more air defense. “NATO will deliver drone systems in the coming days to counter specific drone threats, including those from Iran,” he said.

Despite signs that Moscow is short of guided missiles, according to Ukraine, up to 2,400 Iranian drones have purchased and are using them as cheaper substitutes to strike energy targets and intimidate civilians.

Iran has refused to supply the drones to Russia, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had no knowledge of their origin. “Russian equipment with Russian names is used,” Peskov said.

Ukraine, experts and western governments believe the Gerans are rebranded Shahed drones, which can be identified by their distinctive delta wing shapes and examination of parts collected from the ground.

Speaking on condition of anonymity at a briefing Tuesday, a western official said they believed Russia was “following a deliberate strategy of destroying Ukraine’s electricity grid”.

Citing two top Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats, Reuters reported that Iran had promised to provide Russia with surface-to-surface missiles in addition to more drones.

UK defense secretary Ben Wallace and foreign secretary James Cleverly flew to Washington on Tuesday to discuss how to respond to Iran’s intervention after officials reported that a new air defense package for Ukraine was being prepared.

Last week, Germany delivered the first of four Iris-T air defense systems it promised to supply to Ukraine, but the United States has been cautious about strengthening Ukraine’s air force and defenses, fearing it would be seen as an escalation.

Republican leader in the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy warned on Tuesday that Congress would “not write a blank check to Ukraine” if his party won the midterm elections next month.

Hours later, however, another veteran Republican, Michael McCaul, said he thought the Ukrainians needed to “get what they needed” — including longer-range missiles than the Biden administration was ever prepared to procure.

Analysts say the mixed messages reflect an internal debate between traditional national security conservatives and the Trumpist wing of the party, where pro-Russian sentiment is much stronger.