U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Nov. 3 that he believes Ukraine can liberate Russian-occupied Kherson. In late August, Ukraine began a southern counteroffensive liberating over 400 square kilometers in Kherson Oblast.
"On the issue of whether the Ukrainians can take the remaining territory on the west side of the Dnipro river and Kherson, I certainly believe that they have the capability to do that," Austin said during a press conference.
Russian forces stepped up the deportation of local residents from Kherson Oblast on Nov. 1 amid Ukraine's counteroffensive. Russia ordered up to 70,000 residents within a 15-kilometer zone east of the Dnipro River to be displaced deeper into the region.
On Oct. 24, Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's intelligence chief, told Ukrainska Pravda that Russian troops were creating the illusion that they were leaving Khersoninstead, they were bringing new military units there to prepare for defense.