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‘We are Ukraine’: locals hail Russian retreat from Kherson

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Ukrainians on Saturday hailed Russia’s retreat from Kherson as Kyiv said it was working to de-mine the strategic southern city, record Russian crimes and restore power across the region.

Kherson was one of four regions in Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed in September. 

In the formerly occupied village of Pravdyne, outside Kherson, returning locals embraced their neighbours with some unable to hold back tears, a correspondent saw.

“Thank god we’ve been liberated and everything will now fall into place,” said the 43-year-old woman who lost her eldest daughter in the war.

Several disabled anti-tank mines as well as grenades could be seen in the settlement that is home to a Polish Roman Catholic church and a number of damaged buildings.

“All of us are elated,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday after declaring the day before that the Black Sea city was back in Kyiv’s hands.

“Before fleeing from Kherson, the occupiers destroyed all critical infrastructure — communication, water supply, heat, electricity,” Zelensky said, adding that nearly 2,000 explosives had been removed. 

After an eight-month Russian occupation, Ukrainian television resumed broadcasting in the city and the region’s energy provider said it was working to restore power supplies.

He urged Kherson residents to watch out for possible landmines laid by the Russian troops, saying one policeman had been wounded while de-mining an administrative building.

In Berislav district of the Kherson region, Ukrainian police said Russian shelling left “dead and wounded,” without providing further details.

On Saturday, an increasingly isolated Putin spoke by phone with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, pledging to intensify political and trade cooperation, the Kremlin said.

“For reasons that are obvious to all reasonable people Russia has not yet used its entire arsenal of possible means of destruction,” Medvedev said on messaging app Telegram.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv and the West were on their way to “joint victory”.

Kherson’s full recapture would open a gateway for Ukraine to the entire Kherson region, with access to both the Black Sea in the west and Sea of Azov in the east.

Wrapped in flags, popping champagne corks and belting out the national anthem, residents of Kherson living in Kyiv celebrated in the central Maidan square.

“I didn’t believe it at first, I thought it was going to take weeks and months, a few hundred metres at a time, and now we see them arrive in Kherson in one day, it’s the best surprise,” said Artem Lukiv, 41, originally from Kherson.

In London, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Russia’s “strategic failure” in Kherson could prompt ordinary Russians to question the war. 

Kuleba warned, however, that Russia is still “mobilising more conscripts and bringing more weapons to Ukraine” and called for the Western world’s continued support. 

“This is a subject of the Russian Federation. There are no changes in this and there cannot be changes,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.


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