Nato chief hails Ukraine 'liberating' territory after reports of Kherson retreat

Jens Stoltenberg insists the alliance will continue its support for Kyiv 'for as long as it takes'

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to the media, outside Number 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, November 9, 2022.  REUTERS / Henry Nicholls
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The Ukrainians have been able to “liberate” large parts of their territory following reports that the key city of Kherson was now likely to fall, the head of Nato said on Wednesday.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also emphasised that the alliance would be continue its strong military support “for as long as it takes” to defeat Russia.

He spoke less than an hour after reports emerged from Moscow that its commanders had ordered a withdrawal from Kherson, the only city that Russia was able to seize during its eight month invasion.

It is understood that the southern city, a strategic Black Sea port, could not be held by over-stretched Russian forces who want to withdraw east over the Dnipro river.

It will be a major loss for President Vladimir Putin and could undermine his power base.

Mr Stoltenberg spoke outside Downing Street in London following a meeting with the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“We have seen the announcement but we will of course wait and see what actually happens on the ground,” Mr Stoltenberg said in reference to Kherson. “What we do know is that Russia has been pushed back first from the north around Kharkiv, then in the eastern conclave.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks outside Number 10 Downing Street in London. Reuters

“We see slowly how the Ukrainians are able to push back the Russian forces also in the south. It is encouraging to see how the brave Ukrainian forces are able to liberate Ukrainian territory.”

Mr Stoltenberg has also spent the day visiting Ukrainian troops being trained in Britain by the UK, Canada and other Nato allies.

“The message is that we need to continue to support Ukraine because if President Putin wins in Ukraine, it will be disastrous for Ukrainians, but it will also make us more vulnerable,” he said. “They cannot get away with achieving their goals by using military force.”

Despite three changes of prime minister in Britain in the last two months he insisted that Ukraine could “continue to count on United Kingdom as a leading Nato ally”.

He was asked by the media outside Downing Street if he was concerned by the risk of Ukraine fatigue.

“We have seen Nato allies and partners provide unprecedented support to Ukraine,” he said.

“The political messages from different Nato allied countries is that we are ready to continue to provide the support for as long as it takes.

“Of course, there are always some voices that have different opinions. And that's always the case in democratic societies. But the clear message from Nato allies is that we will continue to support Ukraine.”

He said that despite the possibility of Republicans taking over both the House and Senate in the US midterm elections there was still “strong bipartisan support in the United States” for Ukraine.

He said that more allies were now following Britain’s example of spending two per cent of GDP on defence “because in a more dangerous world we need to invest more in our defence”.

Updated: November 09, 2022, 5:18 PM