Ukraine's defense minister said on Thursday it would take Russia at least a week to withdraw its troops from the southern city of Kherson and that winter would slow down operations on the battlefield, giving both sides a chance to recuperate.
In an interview in Kyiv, Oleksii Reznikov told Reuters Russia had a contingent of 40,000 troops in Kherson region and that intelligence showed its forces remained in the city, around the city and on the right bank of the vast Dnipro River.
"It's not that easy to withdraw these troops from Kherson in one day or two days. As a minimum, (it will take) one week," he said.
Russian withdrawal would 'free up' forces
Russia said on Wednesday that its forces would retreat from the west bank of the Dnipro River, which includes Kherson, the only regional capital Moscow had captured since invading Ukraine in February.
Reznikov said that such an exit would free up forces from both sides to fight elsewhere. Ukraine, he said, had a security and defense force of 1 million personnel to guard a "non-friendly" 2,500-km border with Belarus, Russia and occupied Ukrainian areas.
He dismissed as "crazy" the idea that Russia might blow up the Kakhovka dam as it withdraws, saying it would flood areas controlled by Moscow.
"If you check the landscape in this district, you will find that the western bank is higher terrain and the east bank is lower terrain," he said.
"This means the water will flow east of this bank and they will have a risk for their troops," he said.
Both sides in the conflict have accused the other of planning to destroy the dam.