Ukraine: Locals celebrate after Russian withdrawal in Kherson
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On Saturday evening, President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke in his daily war update about the future of the war and promised to liberate more occupied land. It comes as Ukraine has secured a major victory as Russian troops have withdrawn from Kherson, the only regional capital city Russia had managed to capture after the invasion began in February 2022.
Speaking to the Ukrainians in his nightly update, President Zelensky said: “The world sees it now. It sees what it means when Ukrainians meet their own people.
“It sees what the unity of Ukrainians means. And it sees why we should liberate our entire land from the invaders.”
The Ukrainian leader added: “We will see many more such greetings. In those cities and villages that are still under occupation. We don’t forget anyone, we won’t leave anyone.
“Thanks to our defence operations and diplomacy, we will definitely reach our state border – all sections of the internationally recognized border of Ukraine.”
President Zelensky has vowed to liberate all of Ukraine in his nightly update (Image: Getty Images)
People in Kherson have celebrated as the Ukrainian military continues to liberate more settlements (Image: Getty Images)
This weekend, Ukrainian soldiers arrived in Kherson after Russia had announced it has fully retreated, and the Ukrainian national flag was seen flying on the street.
Locals were seen celebrating and chanting as the troops arrived and one local resident, Alexei Sandakov, told the BBC that “Everyone is crying since this morning”.
Sky’s international correspondent, Alex Rossi, described “scenes of celebration” as he walked the streets of Kherson, as one of the first foreign journalists to arrive in the city since its liberation.
He said soldiers were being given “a hero’s welcome” and that locals were “very grateful to see something they didn’t think they would see for perhaps a long time, if ever at all”.
One resident gives the soldiers flowers as they approach Kherson city (Image: Getty Images)
Officials are searching for explosives left behind by Russians in the Kherson region (Image: Getty Images)
However, Kherson has faced issues due to the Russian occupation of the city, and Ukrainian adviser Roman Holovnya has described the current state of Kherson as a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
The national police chief of Ukraine, Ihor Klymenko said that 200 officers were on duty on Saturday to document evidence of possible war crimes that had been committed in the city.
Police teams were also working to identify and dismantle any unexploded ordnance.
The Ukrainian leader said “the occupiers left a lot of mines and explosives” and noted that up to 2,000 mines, trip wires and unexploded shells have been dealt with so far.
President Zelensky has said Ukrainian troops have liberated over 60 settlements in the Kherson region, and that “stabilisation measures” were being put in place by police forces in those areas as well as Kherson.
Russia continues to control around 70 percent of the Kherson region, and Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Vladimir Putin, has said Russia still views that area as part of their country.
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Ukraine’s intelligence agency has also said they believe some Russian soldiers have stayed behind in Kherson and are currently in civilian clothing to avoid detection.
President Zelensky has warned that any Russian soldiers left behind must turn themselves in and said: “The only chance for salvation is for you to surrender to Ukrainian captivity. We guarantee that you will be treated in accordance with the law and international standards.”
However, despite the remaining issues, President Zelensky has remained optimistic and praised the people of Kherson for never giving up hope.
He added: “I am happy to see how people, despite all the threats, despite the repression and abuse of the occupiers, cherished the Ukrainian flags, believed in Ukraine.”
The Ukrainian President has also vowed to “restore all conditions of normal life, as much as possible”.
He said: “Our defenders are immediately followed by policemen, sappers, rescuers, energy workers…medicine, communications, social services are returning… life is returning.”