In Russia, coverage has been rather subdued of the withdrawal of the country’s troops from the regional capital of Kherson and its surroundings, the latest in a string of setbacks suffered by the Russian military since it invaded Ukraine nearly nine months ago.
On a flagship news talk show on state television, “60 Minutes,” the midday newscast did not even lead with the withdrawal. The first headline was about some “exclusive footage” of Russian marines capturing a village called Pavlovka in the Donetsk region.
Then came a fairly straightforward report about the withdrawal of Russian troops across the Dnipro River, ceding the regional capital of Kherson to Ukraine.
Kherson was barely mentioned during an ensuing discussion either, but at one point well into the program, Olga Skabeeva, the anchor, said that the pullout was “the most concerning piece of news for us, and we hope we will be able to rectify this forced step in the future.”
The state-run news media — there is no other kind inside Russia — has been portraying the loss of Kherson as a temporary setback, calling it a “regrouping” or the “Kherson maneuver” rather than a retreat.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense issued a statement announcing the withdrawal of 30,000 soldiers and 5,000 pieces of equipment in what it described as an orderly manner. Various military bloggers limited their coverage to that statement, embroidered with a few disparaging asides about the Ukrainians.
Correspondents covering the story tried to put a heroic spin on the day. A post in a channel of the Telegram messaging app featuring the work of war correspondents from the official RIA Novosti news agency described the last column of paratroopers pulling out of town over the Antonivsky Bridge, the main route in and out of Kherson, before blowing it up.
“American missiles plowed the ground,” the post said. The car door of the correspondents got dented, but otherwise everyone emerged alive.
“Now you have to fight on the left bank,” the post said, referring to the area east of the Dnipro, where Russian forces have retrenched. “Nothing is finished, nothing is lost.”
In the initial burst of coverage after the Russian military announced the planned withdrawal on Wednesday, state news outlets began drawing comparisons to battles over the last several hundred years when the Russian Army was forced to retreat, only to triumph at a later date.
One of the comparisons rolled out on Friday was to the withdrawal of the White Army from Crimea on Nov. 11, 1920. In the latest twist of history, Russian troops seized the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
For some, however, the decision to pull back still rankled. In an interview, Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin analyst, ticked off negative consequences of what he called Russia’s “defeat” in Kherson: a more motivated Ukrainian Army along with reassurance for its Western backers; a drop in Russian military morale; a decline of public support for Russia in the areas it still occupies because people there might fear that Russia would abandon them, too; and even, potentially, a hit to Mr. Putin’s popularity at home.
Alina Lobzina and Anton Troianovski contributed reporting.