This month, Russian forces in Ukraine suffered their most significant defeat of the war when they were forced out of the southern city of Kherson, the only provincial capital they held.
On November 11, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov portrayed the retreat as orderly, claiming that not a single serviceman, piece of military equipment or weapon was left on the right bank of the Dnipro River.
“On November 11, by 05:00 Moscow time, an operation was completed in the Kherson direction to transfer a group of Russian troops to the left bank of the Dnipro River. All personnel, weapons and military equipment of the group have been withdrawn to the left bank.”
It didn’t take long for videos, photos and news reports from Kherson to contradict Konashenkov.
Before the Russian invasion, Kherson’s population was 280,000. The city, located on the western (right) bank of the Dnipro River, was taken early March, along with nearby areas. Only about 80,000 are believed to live there now.
As Ukraine began receiving longer-range U.S. HIMARS rocket systems this summer, its military was able to damage many of the bridges that served Russian supply routes. That cut off Russian troops in Kherson from arms, ammunition and reinforcements.
“The Russians were left at the end with barges ferrying supplies, equipment, and reinforcements from the east to the west bank. … but the ferry system was in any case insufficient to supply the 20,000-some Russian mechanized troops trying to hold their lodgment on the western bank of the river,” the Institute of War, a Washington, D.C., think tank, said on November 13.
Ukraine’s enhanced weaponry also complicated the Russian pullout.
On November 11, Reuters released video showing a warehouse full of mortar shells and ammunition boxes left behind by Russian troops in the village of Blagodatnoye, 12 miles north of Kherson.
According to the villagers, the Russians withdrew in trucks without a fight on November 9. Ukrainian troops entered the next day to find the abandoned weapons and ammunition.
Russian servicemen in civilian clothes were seen in different districts of Kherson, the National Resistance Center (NRC) of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported on November 11
The Center said these soldiers were left behind; some hid their uniforms and identifying gear in trash cans but kept their weapons. The Center suggested that these stragglers might try to create the false impression that the local population was resisting Ukraine's liberation of Kherson.
The Moscow Times, an independent Russian news outlet operating from Amsterdam, listed some of the weaponry that Russian forces left in Kherson.
“According to Russian Z-publics [communities in social media, publishing anonymous messages of participants in the invasion of Ukraine], Russia left Ukraine a Typhoon armored vehicle, two BMP-1s [infantry fighting vehicles], a Grad MRLS [rocket launcher] and two tanks. This caused massive indignation of supporters of the war,” The Moscow Times reported on November 11.
The Times considered the reports of abandoned equipment reliable because Ukrainian military communities in social media also provided video showing that Russian troops left behind a modernized T-90M Proryv battle tank, a Grad rocket launcher and many other weapons.
The Ukrainian website Dialog.ua posted a photo of a BMP-1 "Basurmanin" abandoned by the Russian army near Kherson.
“The Russian attackers flee, leaving much equipment behind. Now a rare modification of the Russian assault infantry fighting vehicle BMP-1 was discovered and will be transferred to be used in defense of Ukraine,” Dialog.ua reported on November 11.
The military blog Oryx, which has been compiling a comprehensive list of weapons and equipment lost by both sides, also reported that two infantry fighting vehicles were left behind.
On November 12, Britain’s Sky News TV channel showed a warehouse containing abandoned Russian ammunition.
"This is where the Russians were. They've left an enormous amount of ammunition. Crate after crate just dumped. They left here about 24 hours ago; they just simply vanished from this place. But you can see all the bombs down here that they've left," Sky TV's reporter said. "It's been taken over now by Ukrainian soldiers."
Britain’s Sun newspaper showed the same warehouse in a video report.
On November 13, Reuters published a video report showing Ukrainian soldiers inspecting military equipment, mostly in need of repair, that had been abandoned by Russian troops.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry published a series of posts on social media claiming to have seized tanks, armored personnel carriers, howitzers, jeeps, portable rocket launchers and dozens of ammunition boxes.
“It will take at least a few weeks to unwrap all the generous gifts that the Russian occupiers thoughtfully left for the #UAarmy in the Kherson region,” the ministry said in a Twitter post.