A top Russian official said on state television Wednesday the country was retreating its forces from Kherson, a key port city in Southern Ukraine.

The decision came after Gen. Sergei Surovikin, Russia's top military official in Ukraine told defense minister Sergei K. Shoigu that the "difficult" move could help "preserve lives of servicemen and combat readiness of forces."

The move represents a blow for President Vladimir Putin's war push and a major win for Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine had previously warned of a Russian retreat as a distraction to pull more Ukraine soldiers into combat on urban terrain. The Ukrainian military had been following Russian movements closely Wednesday hinting at a retreat but remained skeptical of a full-scale withdrawal from Kherson and the surrounding area on the Dnipro River's western bank.

By late Wednesday morning, the situation had changed.

"We have signs they are pulling out," Roman Kostenko, a Ukrainian army colonel and top intelligence officer told the New York Times.

"They blew up bridges that would have allowed our forces to advance. We see them leaving population centers, but in some they leave soldiers behind to cover their movements."

Ukrainian officials remain on guard for Russian misdirection.

"We see no signs that Russia is leaving Kherson without a fight," Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote in a tweet. He added the country was drawing up plans to free territories "based on intelligence data, not staged TV statements."

The Western bank of the Dnipro River is a key battleground, being the sole regional capital captured by Russia since the invasion began in February. A retreat in the region would be another humbling blow for Putin, who previously denied commanders' requests to pull out from Kherson.

Kherson is also one of the four regions Putin had claimed as Russian territory in an illegal annexation in late September.