A Russian-installed official in Ukraine's southern Kherson region said on Thursday that Russia's armed forces were likely to quit the western bank of the Dnipro river, where Moscow has been evacuating citizens in recent weeks.
"Most likely our units, our soldiers, will leave for the left (eastern) bank," Kirill Stremousov, the Russian-installed deputy civilian administrator of the Kherson region, said in an interview with Solovyov Live, a pro-Kremlin online media outlet.
The city of Kherson, the only major Ukrainian city that Russian forces have captured intact, is located on the western bank of the Dnipro. Damage to the main river crossings means Russian units are at risk of being pinned against the river by the advancing Ukrainian army.
Stremousov urged civilians remaining in the city to leave immediately, saying they were putting their lives in danger. Russia has ferried thousands across the river in recent weeks, in what Kyiv says amounts to forced deportation.
However, Ukrainian troops on the front line last week said they saw no evidence that Russian forces were withdrawing and said they were, in fact, reinforcing their positions.
Moscow last month declared it had annexed Ukraine's Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzia regions after staging so-called referendums that were rejected as bogus and illegal by Kyiv and the West.
This week, Russian-backed officials also began evacuating civilians from a 15-km (nine-mile) deep strip along the eastern bank of the Dnipro, saying Ukrainian forces were preparing to blow up the Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro and flood towns and villages across southern Ukraine.
Kyiv rejects those accusations. Ukrainian forces have been advancing for weeks in the south and northeast, recapturing a significant part of the territory Moscow seized in the first weeks of the war.