A portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin at a detention center in Kherson, Ukraine, November 2022
Valentyn / Reuters

Even in a war that has gone poorly for Russia, the Russian Defense Ministry’s November 9 announcement of a full retreat from the city of Kherson marked a special kind of disaster. Kherson was the first major Ukrainian city seized by Moscow after the invasion, and it was one of the four regions that Russia had illegally annexed just five weeks earlier, following sham referendums. In October, the city’s occupying authorities had plastered its streets with billboards declaring that Russia would be there “forever,” and Moscow had told Russian citizens that the city’s occupation was one of the

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