The Russian army was ordered to withdraw from the Ukrainian city of Kherson, the only regional capital captured by Russian forces after the invasion began in February.
The Russian commander in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovkin, said it was no longer possible to continue supplying the city.
This means the complete withdrawal of Russian forces from the western bank of the Dnipro River.
It is also a major blow, as Russia faces a Ukrainian counterattack.
“In these circumstances, the most reasonable option would be to organize defense along a barrier line, along the Dnipro River,” General Surovkin said at a meeting of senior military commanders.
The announcement came shortly after Russian media reported that Kherson’s deputy commander, Kirill Strimosov, had died in a car accident.
As one of the main supporters of the occupation of Kherson, he warned only six days ago that it was “likely” that Russian forces would have to cross to the east bank.
Who is he Strimosov?
Strimosov, 45, was appointed to the post two months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
He was one of the most prominent supporters of the Russian occupation, and was known for his aggressive statements on social media.
Strimosov was wanted for treason by the Ukrainian police.
Several Russian-appointed officials in occupied Ukraine have been targeted in attacks.
Kherson, the only Ukrainian regional center captured by Russian forces after the February invasion, continues to be subject to Ukrainian counter-attacks.
In recent days, Strimosov has been urging civilians to leave the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in the face of Ukrainian advances, amid indications that Russian forces may abandon the city.
Ukraine accuses Russia of forcibly deporting the local population.