The US think tank made the assessment in its latest analysis of the war in Ukraine, published on Wednesday night, Polish state news agency PAP reported.
Russia prioritises orderly retreat and 'delaying Ukrainian forces’
The ISW noted that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) ordered Russian forces on the west bank of the Dnipro River to begin withdrawing to the east bank on November 9.
Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops across the Dnipro River “during a highly staged televised meeting" with the commander of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine, Gen. Sergey Surovikin, on Wednesday, the US experts reported.
They added that during the meeting, “Surovikin recommended the withdrawal and Shoigu accepted his decision, giving Surovikin the task of ensuring the 'safe transfer of personnel, weapons, and equipment' to the east (left) bank.”
The ISW also said that “Shoigu and Surovikin’s statements mark the beginning of a steady, fighting withdrawal by Russian troops across the Dnipro to prepared positions on the east (left) bank to preserve the combat power of Russian units, including elements of the 76th and 106th Airborne Assault Divisions and 22nd Army Corps.”
According to the US experts, “Surovikin notably stated that half of the troops withdrawn from the west bank of the Dnipro will be redeployed to other areas of Ukraine.”
The Washington-based think tank said: “The entire Russian contingent will take some time to withdraw across the Dnipro River and it is still unclear if Russian forces will be able to conduct the withdrawal in relatively good order under Ukrainian pressure. The battle of Kherson is not over, but Russian forces have entered a new phase—prioritising withdrawing their forces across the river in good order and delaying Ukrainian forces, rather than seeking to halt the Ukrainian counteroffensive entirely.”
Ukrainian counteroffensive 'has likely succeeded’
According to the ISW, “the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kherson direction since August—a coordinated interdiction campaign to force Russian forces to withdraw across the Dnipro without necessitating major Ukrainian ground offensives—has likely succeeded.”
The US experts reiterated their previous assessments that “Ukrainian forces engaged in a purposeful and well-executed campaign to target Russian concentration areas, military assets, and logistics nodes throughout Kherson Oblast to make continued Russian positions on the west bank untenable without having to conduct large-scale and costly ground manoeuvres to liberate territory.”
The ISW further reported that “Ukrainian troops launched constant attacks on bridges across the Dnipro River and targeted supply centres and ammunition depots on the east bank of the Dnipro that degraded the ability of Russian forces to supply the grouping on the west bank; Ukrainian forces combined these strikes with prudent and successful ground attacks on key locations such as Davydiv Brid.”
“This campaign has come to fruition,” the US think tank said.
Russian withdrawal ‘unlikely to be a trap’
The ISW also assessed that the Russian withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro “is unlikely to be a trap meant to lure Ukrainian troops into costly combat near Kherson City, as some Ukrainian and Western sources have suggested.”
The US experts said there had been “many indicators that Russian forces, military and economic assets, and occupation elements have steadily withdrawn from the west bank across the Dnipro River, and Russian officials have been anticipating and preparing for withdrawal in a way that is incompatible with a campaign to deceive and trap Ukrainian troops.”
The ISW noted that “the Russian information space predictably reacted to the announcement of the withdrawal with varying degrees of ire and concern.”
However, many prominent Russian war bloggers “sided with Surovikin and lauded the decision as a necessary one, indicating that Russian leadership has learned from the information effects of the disastrous Russian withdrawal from Kharkiv Oblast in mid-September,” according to the US experts.
Over 100,000 Russian soldiers killed and wounded in Ukraine: top US general
Meanwhile, Mark Milley, America’s top general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated that Russia’s army had seen more than 100,000 of its soldiers killed and wounded in Ukraine, the PAP news agency reported.
Milley added that Kyiv’s armed forces “probably” suffered a similar level of casualties in the war, according to PAP.
Fighting continues in Luhansk province
In key developments on the frontlines, Russian and Ukrainian sources reported continued fighting along the Svatove-Kremmina highway and Bilohorivka, in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, the ISW reported.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces “made territorial gains northeast of Kherson City and continued their successful interdiction campaign,” the US experts added.
At the same time, Russian forces "continued offensive operations around Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and in western Donetsk Oblast” in eastern Ukraine, according to the ISW.
Russia, Belarus continue to form joint military unit
In other developments, Belarus and Russia were continuing to form a joint military unit, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.
Moreover, Belarus was "continuing to aid and support Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, including by accommodating Russian forces on its territory and offering Belarusian military training grounds for their training,” Ukraine’s military command said on Thursday, as cited by the Ukrainska Pravda website.
The ISW said that Russia's National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev met with senior Iranian officials in Tehran on Wednesday, “likely to discuss the sale of Iranian ballistic missiles to Russia and other forms of cooperation."
The ISW noted that Patrushev met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Iranian Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Ali Shamkhani.
Meanwhile, the PAP news agency cited Indonesian government officials as saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending next week’s summit of the G20 group of the world’s largest economies,
The G20 leaders are scheduled to meet on the Indonesian island of Bali on November 15 and 16.
Thursday is day 260 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Source: PAP, understandingwar.org, pravda.com.ua