A Russian ultranationalist on Sunday walked back sharp criticism of President Vladimir Putin after issuing a dark warning for the Kremlin’s decision to withdraw troops from Kherson.
Political analyst Alexander Dugin, a vigorous supporter of Russia’s invasion, in recent days had openly criticized Putin for failing to defend “Russian cities” such as Kherson, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. The think tank quoted Dugin as saying Putin has a responsibility to preserve Russia or face the fate of “king of the rains.”
In “The Golden Bough” by Sir James Frazer, a king is killed for failing to provide rain during a drought.
“The authorities in Russia cannot surrender anything else… the limit has been reached,” Dugin reportedly said.
But on Sunday, Dugin was pledging support for Putin on Telegram.
“The West (has) started to imply that I and Russian patriots have turned against Putin after the Kherson surrender, allegedly demanding his resignation,” Dugin wrote. “No one has turned their back on Putin, I and all Russian patriots support him unconditionally.”
Dugin’s daughter, TV commentator Daria Dugina, 29, was killed in a Moscow car explosion in August. Russian authorities blamed the attack on Ukrainian operatives and suggested her father was the target.
►Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba sought to temper the excitement over Kherson. “We are winning battles on the ground, but the war continues,” he said.
►Aides to Putin have tried to distance him from the Kherson retreat. “The defense minister (made) the decision, I have nothing to say about this,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
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In Kherson, a third day of jubilation amid devastation
Ukrainians waved flags and danced in the streets of the liberated port city of Kherson for the third consecutive day Sunday, elated residents shrugging off air-raid sirens that blared across their city and most of the country. The government urged residents to take cover in shelters during the alert, which came as regional officials worked to restore power and water to Kherson and scores of nearby villages abandoned by retreating Russian forces.
Military personnel worked to clear the region of mines the Russians left behind. Almost 2,000 trip wires, mines and unexploded ammunition had already been removed late Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
“Please, dear citizens of Kherson, be careful and inform the police or rescuers about any suspicious objects you see,” Zelenskyy said in a national address. “Please remain vigilant of your own safety.”
Kremlin cedes Kherson, but heats up battle for Donbas
The Kremlin may have given up control of the crucial port city of Kherson, but the battle for the industrial Donbas region of eastern Ukraine remained unrelenting and brutal Sunday. The region is comprised of two “oblasts” – Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. Russia had assumed almost entire control of Luhansk and about half of Donetsk prior to the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive 2½ months ago. Ukrainian forces have since liberated a small area in Luhansk while Russia continues to push forward in Donetsk.
Russia’s defense ministry said its forces were advancing into multiple villages southwest of Donetsk city.
“It’s just hell there,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said of Donetsk. “There are extremely brutal battles there every day. But our units defend themselves bravely, withstand the terrible pressure of the occupiers, and maintain our defense lines.”
Zelenskyy pledged that more occupied cities would soon be retaken. Ultimately even Crimea, held by the Russians since 2014, will fall, he said.
“We will definitely see how people with Ukrainian flags, which they keep there, will meet the Ukrainian forces,” he said. “There will be hundreds of them on the streets on the day of liberation.”
Contributing: The Associated Press