The General Staff of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense had some great news to announce on Thursday – Russian forces had withdrawn from the southern city of Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region.

Only they hadn’t.

I’m confused

So were a lot of people. The news was initially met with cautious joy as people celebrated the de-occupation of Ukrainian territory in an area where there hadn’t even been reports of an increase in fighting.

What did Ukraine say initially?

A General Staff statement said: “As of March 22, 2023, all units of the occupying army that were stationed in the settlement of Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region left the town.”

It added that the Russians had looted valuable belongings from residents prior to their pullout, including “large quantities of household and electronic appliances.”

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This would have been massive news – most of the Kherson region fell to Russian forces early in the invasion launched last February, but Kyiv’s army wrested back control of the regional capital last November.

Prior to the liberation of Kherson city, Russian troops had carried out a strategic withdrawal to the left (southeast) bank of the Dnipro river that splits the region, and were still in control of Nova Kakhovka.

The city grew around the huge Kakhovka hydroelectric dam, captured by Russia at the start of the invasion as a strategic facility. The dam, built in 1956, created the Kakhovka Reservoir, which feeds into the North Crimean Canal in the neighboring town of Tavriisk to supply the Crimea Peninsula with most of its water.

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In 2014 Ukraine shut the canal down in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. Russia reopened the canal last year after it took control of the Kherson region.

Ukraine has continued to conduct raids into the area of the port city, including one in January which destroyed a Russian command post.

Did Russia comment?

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Yes. Shortly after the Ukrainian announcement, a Moscow-installed official in the Kherson region denied the withdrawal of Russian forces, saying: “I officially declare that all Russian military personnel in Nova Kakhovka, as well as in other places of deployment on the left bank of the Dnipro [River], remain in their place.”

So who was right?

In a surprise development, given the Russia’s dubious track record with the truth, the Moscow-installed official was right.

Ukraine’s army swiftly owned up to their mistake and said later on Thursday evening that it had made the announcement by mistake.

“The occupiers are still temporarily in Nova Kakhovka. Information about the alleged withdrawal of the enemy from this settlement was made public as a result of incorrect use of available data,” Ukraine’s general staff said on the Telegram messenger.

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