Kyiv vows to keep pushing back Russians after success in Kherson


Ukraine’s president pledged to continue pushing Russian forces out of his country after they withdrew from Kherson, leaving behind devastation, hunger and booby traps.

The Russian withdrawal from the city marked a triumphant step in Ukraine’s resistance to the invasion of Moscow nearly nine months ago. Residents of Kherson hugged and kissed the arriving Ukrainian troops in delightful scenes.

In his Saturday night video address, President Volodymyr Zelensky promised there would be “many more such greetings” from Ukrainian soldiers liberating territory from Russian control.

A woman hugs a Ukrainian soldier as they celebrate the recapture of Kherson (Yevhenii Zavhorodnii/AP)

He promised the inhabitants of Ukrainian towns and villages still under occupation: “We do not forget anyone; we won’t leave anyone.

Ukraine’s recapture of Kherson is a major setback for the Kremlin and the latest in a series of battlefield embarrassments.

It came about six weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the Kherson region and three other southern and eastern provinces of Ukraine in violation of international law and declared them Russian territory.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv tweeted the comments from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who described the turnaround in Kherson as “an extraordinary victory” for Ukraine and “a truly remarkable thing.”

Ukrainians gather in Kherson to celebrate the city's recovery
Ukraine’s takeover of Kherson is a major setback for the Kremlin (Yevhenii Zavhorodnii/AP)

The reversal came despite Mr Putin’s recent partial mobilization of reserves, boosting the number of available troops by around 300,000.

“Russia’s military leadership is largely trying and failing to integrate combat forces from many different organizations and many different types and levels of skills and equipment into a more cohesive combat force in Ukraine,” the Institute for the study of war, based in Washington. a think tank that follows the conflict, commented.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the Kremlin would be “worried” about the loss of Kherson, but warned against underestimating Moscow.

“If they need more cannon fodder, that’s what they’ll do,” he said.

As Ukrainian forces consolidated their grip on Kherson on Sunday, authorities faced the daunting task of clearing explosive devices and restoring basic public services in the city.

Ukrainians gather in Kherson to celebrate the city's recovery
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the Kremlin would be ‘worried’ about the loss of Kherson (Yevhenii Zavhorodnii/AP)

A Ukrainian official described the situation in Kherson as “a humanitarian catastrophe”. Other townspeople are said to be short of water, medicine and food, and the electricity supply is poor.

Ukrainian police, who returned to the city on Saturday, called on residents to help identify collaborators with Russian forces during the eight-month occupation.

Ukrainian National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko said on Facebook that around 200 officers are currently working in the city, setting up checkpoints and documenting evidence of possible war crimes.

In what could be the next district to fall in Ukraine’s march on territory illegally annexed by Moscow, the Russian administration of Kakhovka district, east of the city of Kherson, announced on Saturday that it evacuated its employees.

A woman leans on a Ukrainian lawmaker and officer as they celebrate the recapture of Kherson
A woman leans on a Ukrainian lawmaker and officer as they celebrate the recapture of Kherson (Yevhenii Zavhorodnii/AP)

“Today the administration is the number one target of Ukrainian attacks,” said Moscow-based Kakhovka chief Pavel Filipchuk.

“Therefore, by order of the government of the Kherson region, we, as an authority, are moving to a safer territory, from where we will rule the district.”

Kakhovka is located on the left bank of the Dnieper River, upstream from the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station.

Meanwhile, the town of Nikopol, further upstream, was heavily shelled overnight, Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council Chairman Mykola Lukashuk reported on Sunday.

Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the recapture of Kherson by his forces (Peter Dejong/AP)

Writing on Telegram, he said two women were injured but were in stable condition in hospital. A private house and two agricultural buildings were destroyed, while more than 40 residential buildings, 24 commercial buildings, a college, a registry office and electrical networks were damaged.

According to Mr. Lukashuk, the town of Marhanets was also the target of fire. Two private homes were damaged, but no injuries were reported.

Nikopol and Marhanets are across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe.

In Kherson, photos circulating on social media on Saturday showed Ukrainian activists removing commemorative plaques put up by the occupation authorities. A Telegram article from Yellow Ribbon, the Ukrainian resistance movement in the occupied territories, showed two people in a park removing plaques depicting Soviet-era military figures.

Kherson recovery celebrated
A man with a poster reading ‘Kherson was waiting for the Ukrainian army’ joins the celebrations in the liberated city (Yevhenii Zavhorodnii/AP)

Moscow’s announcement that Russian forces were withdrawing across the Dnieper River, which divides both the Kherson region and Ukraine as a whole, followed a reinforced Ukrainian counteroffensive in southern country.

Over the past two months, the Ukrainian army claimed to have taken over dozens of towns and villages north of the city of Kherson.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, however, sought to temper the excitement over Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson.

“We are winning battles on the ground, but the war continues,” he said.


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