Russian TV Compares Kherson Retreat to Worst Military Defeats in History

Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov referenced historical Russian military defeats during a discussion about Moscow's withdrawal from Ukraine's Kherson.

The host of Evening with Vladimir Solovyov on Russia 1 struck a somber tone when he started Wednesday's show by saying he had intended to discuss the U.S. midterm elections before Russia's retreat from the southern Ukrainian city had overtaken events.

He then introduced a clip of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announcing the withdrawal of Russia's forces from the west bank of the Dnieper River.

Ukrainian soldiers
Ukrainian soldiers of an artillery unit prepare to fire towards Russian positions outside Bakhmut on November 8, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia announced on November 10, 2022, it was withdrawing its forces from the west bank of the Dnieper river by Kherson. BULENT KILIC/Getty Images

In another setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Shoigu said the decision was made with the recommendation of Russian forces commander, General Sergei Surovikin, because it would "save the lives of our military personnel and the combat capability of our forces."

"This is a very difficult decision," which could only be taken by a "very courageous man," Solovyov said in the clip tweeted by Russian analyst Julia Davis as he took aim at the West's role in the war referred to previous conflicts Russia was involved in.

"We lost the Russo-Japanese war," he said, referring to the humiliating defeat for imperial Russia in 1905. "We lost World War I. It turned out that our social structure by any means did not prevent a revolution. There was a long war between 1914 and 1918 we lost."

This sparked a lively exchange among the panelists, which he interrupted by saying, "Didn't we lose Finland?"—in reference to the Winter War in which Moscow's troops were defeated after invading Finland in 1939.

"We are at war with NATO," he said. "Obviously we didn't count on NATO fighting us on this scale."

In his view, it was important "not to succumb to emotions" as well as "respect the decision of the military" given how "painful and frightening it is."

"But war has its own laws. We are confronted by 50 percent of the world's economy which produces weapons," he said.

However, he defended the wisdom of Russia's decision and did not criticize Putin directly or his commander: "Victory in war happens when an army is destroyed. It is crucially important not to allow for our army to be destroyed."

One pundit noted that there had been speculation about the Russian withdrawal from Kherson for days, which spurred Solovyov to say that leaving before November 8 would have helped the Democrats in the U.S. and been a "gift to [President Joe] Biden."

"That is precisely why we announced it after the eighth, on the ninth when it can't influence the U.S. elections," he said.

Panelists on Russian state media have been boasting about Moscow's ability to influence the American electoral process.

With some Republicans voicing concerns about the cost of U.S. military support for Kyiv, GOP gains in the midterms may have served Putin's interests more.

Former British intelligence officer Philip Ingram told Newsweek that the withdrawal from Kherson was an admission that Russia cannot sustain operations across the river and is in danger of losing its forces there.

"It is a recognition that withdrawal is the only option but given the defense planning that has been going on East of the Dnieper for weeks, it is clear that Russia is resetting its defensive line, utilizing a massive natural barrier to allow it to stop further Ukrainian advances."