After success in Kherson, Kyiv promises to keep pushing back against Russia


MYKOLAIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president has vowed to continue pushing Russian forces out of his country after they withdrew from Kherson, leaving behind devastation, hunger and booby traps in the southern Ukrainian city.

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

“We will see many more such greetings ‘from Ukrainian soldiers liberating territory under Russian control,’ President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Saturday.

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 was 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.

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.

A Ukrainian official described the situation in Kherson as “a humanitarian catastrophe”. Other townspeople are said to be short of water, medicine and food. There are shortages of basic products like bread due to the lack of electricity.

Ukrainian police have called on residents to help identify collaborators with Russian forces during the eight-month occupation. Ukrainian police returned to the city on Saturday, along with public broadcasting services, after the departure of Russian troops.

Ukraine’s national police chief Ihor Klymenko said on Facebook on Saturday that around 200 officers were at work 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.

“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,” he wrote on Telegram.

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.

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

According to Lukashuk, the town of Marhanets was also targeted by 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.

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, and the army said that is where stabilization activities were taking place.

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

“We are winning battles on the ground, but the war continues,” he said from Cambodia, where he was attending an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Sunday that a joint statement on the outcome of the summit was not adopted because “the American side and its partners insisted on an unacceptable assessment of the situation in Ukraine and around it”.

The Kremlin is angered by the support Ukraine receives from its Western allies, including the United States.

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Leicester reported from Kyiv, Ukraine.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Sam Mednick and John Leicester, Associated Press





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