BBC Newsnight: Ex-CIA chief claims Ukraine aims to ‘cut off Russian forces’ in Kherson

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David Petraeus, who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2011 to 2012, appeared on BBC Newsnight to discuss the battle between Ukrainian and Russian troops in the occupied region of Kherson. Ukraine and Russia have been fighting in Kherson for some time after the southern region fell to Vladimir Putin’s troops shortly after the Kremlin launched its invasion on February 24.

Speaking to the BBC’s Kirsty Wark, Mr Petraeus said: “I think they’re going about this in a very careful manner.

“They’re positioning their own assets, they’re gradually taking back the outlying villages and again – having once cut off the Russian forces from the logistical resupply and so forth – they could actually hold that area, fix them there and even bypass them if they choose and just wait until they surrender.”

Petraeus also claimed it would be unlikely to see Russian troops adopt a scorched earth policy in the region given they already “have enough problems” to deal with.

Putin suffered a major blow in Kherson earlier this week after a huge explosion reportedly lit up the vital supply link of Antonovsky Bridge.

Experts pondered whether the Ukrainian strike had destroyed the bridge or merely damaged it.

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However, ex-Tory MP Louise Mensch said: “[It is] very important to note that it does not matter if the bridge is destroyed or not.

“It only matters if Ukraine can render it functionally inoperable for Russian military vehicles to flee across it.

“If Ukraine has damaged the Antonovsky that much, it is all that counts.”

Despite reports about the attack, the Kremlin was quick to dismiss such claims.

RIA Novosti, a Russian-state-owned news agency, took to the social media platform Telegram to deny the bridge had been destroyed.

They said: “Ukrainian troops tried to strike at Kherson for the third time in a day, the air defence intercepted all the missiles, the administration of the Kherson region told RIA Novosti.

“The authorities denied the information about the destruction of the Antonovsky Bridge across the Dnieper.”

Mr Petraeus’ intervention came just hours after the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed Kyiv’s counter-offensive in Kherson had been gaining momentum.

In an intelligence update, the MoD said: “Ukraine’s counter-offensive in Kherson is gathering momentum.

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“Their forces have highly likely established a bridgehead south of the Ingulets River, which forms the northern boundary of Russian-occupied Kherson.

“Ukraine has used its new long-range artillery to damage at least three of the bridges across the Dnipro River which Russia relies upon to supply the areas under its control.”

They added: “Similarly, Kherson city, the most politically significant population centre occupied by Russia, is now virtually cut off from the other occupied territories.

“Its loss would severely undermine Russia’s attempts to paint the occupation as a success.”

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