Russian state media withdraw alerts on troop ‘regrouping’ in southern Ukraine
LONDON, Nov 13 (Reuters) – Two Russian state news agencies published alerts on Monday saying Moscow was moving troops to “more favourable positions” east of the Dnipro River in Ukraine, only to withdraw the information minutes later.
The highly unusual incident suggested disarray in Russia’s military establishment and state media over how to report the battlefield situation in southern Ukraine.
The RBC news outlet quoted the defence ministry as saying: “The sending of a false report about the ‘regrouping’ of troops in the Dnieper (Dnipro) region, allegedly on behalf of the press centre of the Russian Ministry of Defence, is a provocation.”
Russia’s military last week said its forces had thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to forge a bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Dnipro and on nearby islands.
In a series of three alerts on Monday, the RIA state news agency said that the command of Russia’s Dnepr group of forces had decided to relocate troops to “more favourable positions” east of the Dnipro.
It said that, after the regrouping, the Dnepr force would release some troops to be deployed in offensives on other fronts.
RIA said the Russian military command had agreed with the Dnepr leadership’s conclusions and ordered the relocation of troops to start.
Minutes later, RIA withdrew all three alerts without explanation.
Another state agency, TASS, published just one alert on troops regrouping to more favourable positions, and then withdrew it, saying it had been released in error. It apologised to its readers.
The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War said last week that Ukraine appeared to have conducted assaults across the Dnipro in Kherson region in mid-October, and noted that Russian military bloggers were reporting continued Ukrainian ground operations on the eastern bank.
Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Mark Trevelyan and Alexander Marrow; Editing by Kevin Liffey