Russian soldiers in Kherson, early September.Image ANP / EPA

    He was somewhat cryptic, but the criticism of the Russian-appointed director Kirill Stremooesov was strong. “A lot of people say that if they were defense ministers and let something like this happen, they would have shot themselves,” he said in a video message on Thursday.

    Stremooesov’s statements are at odds with the Telegram message he distributed Thursday morning, in which he announced that the Russian defense had complete control over Kherson. But after the Russian army in Kherson again suffered heavy losses on Thursday, he decided to no longer keep his criticism to himself.

    The Ukrainian army claims to have conquered more than 400 square kilometers in recent days in Kherson, one of the four Ukrainian provinces that Russia has annexed. “Our successes are convincing and we will continue to advance,” said an army spokesman.

    The British Ministry of Defense acknowledges, on the basis of intelligence, without citing numbers, that Ukraine is gaining ground in Kherson. The Ukrainian army is mainly successful along the east bank of the Inhulets and the west bank of the Dnipro, according to the British.

    It presents the Russians with the dilemma of whether or not to retreat across the Dnipro, in order to better defend the rest of the province. It would be the logical choice, but it would also mean painful loss of face. According to British intelligence, Russia plans to send the recently mobilized reservists to Kherson so as not to suffer this loss of face.

    Students

    Russian students will not have to travel to Kherson. After internal turmoil and the flight of many young men, Putin was forced to prevent a total brain drain. The partial mobilization decree has been amended to exclude students from private universities recognized by Russia, students in their second phase of their studies and part-time students. Men who want to become priests or who are training for another religious profession are no longer recruited either.

    It is rare that Putin, who turns 70 on Friday, has to backtrack on his own policies. Last week, a part-time administrator stated that the mobilization of students is based on a misunderstanding.

    Although there are no concrete figures, at least hundreds of thousands of Russian men have fled the country. Images show that these are mostly young men. Putin may fear that he will lose too many highly trained specialists. So far, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, 200 thousand men have been called up. Russia wants to mobilize a total of 300 thousand men.

    Missile attack Zaporizhzhya

    Russia was able to cause damage in the city of Zaporizhzhya on Thursday morning. The Russians fired seven rockets at an apartment building. The attack killed at least three civilians and injured twelve. Little is left of the building and its surroundings.

    Zaporizhzhya is also the name of one of the four provinces that Russia claims to have annexed. Also in this province is the nuclear power plant that Russia conquered at the beginning of the war and still holds. Rafael Grossi, chief of the UN Atomic Energy Agency, is currently in Ukraine to discuss with Ukrainian officials how to ensure safety around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

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