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Kherson residents celebrates Russian exit; still faces huge rebuilding

KHERSON (Ukraine) — Kherson residents celebrated the end to Russia’s eight-month occupation Sunday. They also took stock of the massive damage that was left in the city of southern Ukraine by the Kremlin’s retreating forces.

The crowd was jubilant in Kherson’s main square despite the distant sounds of artillery fire as Ukrainian forces continued to push for Moscow’s expulsion.

Karina Zaikina (24), said that “it’s a new Year for us now.” She wore a yellow-and blue ribbon in Ukraine’s national colours on her coat. “For the first-time in many months, it was not scary to enter the city.

“Finally, freedom!” Tetiana Hitina, a 61-year old resident, said it. “The city was dead.”

However, even though locals were happy, there was evidence of Russia’s brutal occupation everywhere. Russian forces still hold 70% of the Kherson region.

Zaikina was among the many who gathered to make use of a satellite phone connection that was available for everyone in the square. This allowed them to share news with their families and friends for the first times in several weeks.

The shuttering of downtown stores was a common occurrence. Many people had fled the city in the Russian occupation. The streets of the city were sparsely populated. Many people who ventured out on Sunday carried yellow or blue flags. People lined up to thank soldiers for autographing their flags on the square. Some people wept.

Kherson also has no electricity or running water. Food and medical supplies are scarce. Residents claim that Russian troops took over the city and stole loot before they left last week. They destroyed key infrastructure and fled across the Dnieper River to their east bank. According to one Ukrainian official, the Kherson situation was a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

“I don’t know what kind of people these are. Yevhen Teliezhenko (resident), was draped in a Ukrainian flag.

He said that it was still easier to breathe after the Russians left.

He declared, “There’s no better holiday than the one that’s happening right now.”

According to Ukrainian authorities, the demining and destruction of vital infrastructure in the city is underway. Yaroslav Yanushevych, Kherson regional governor, stated that the priority is to reconnect the electricity supply. Gas supplies are already guaranteed.

The Russian pullout was a major milestone in Ukraine’s fight against Moscow’s invasion nearly nine months ago. The Ukrainian military claimed that it had retaken many villages and towns north of Kherson in the last two months.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, promised to maintain pressure on Russian forces and reassure people living in villages and cities that are still under Russian occupation.

He said, “We don’t forget anyone; and we won’t leave anyone.”

The Kremlin’s defeat at Kherson was a major setback and it was the latest in a string of battlefield embarrassments. Six weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Kherson and three other Ukrainian provinces in eastern and southern Ukraine. This was in violation of international law and made them Russian territory.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv tweeted Sunday comments by Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser. He described the turnaround at Kherson as an “extraordinary victory” for Ukraine and “quite a miracle.”

Despite Putin’s recent partial mobilization, which saw the troop numbers rise by around 300,000. This was difficult for the Russian military.

“Russian military leadership is trying to and largely failing in integrating combat forces drawn from many different organisations and of many different types of skill and equipment into one more cohesive fighting force for Ukraine,” said the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. This think tank tracks the conflict.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace stated that the Kremlin would be “worried” about Kherson’s loss, but cautioned against underestimating Moscow. He said, “If they have to use more cannon fodder that’s what they’ll do.”

Ukrainian police asked residents to identify Russian collaborators. Police officers from Ukraine returned to the city on Saturday along with representatives of public broadcasting services. Ihor Klymenko (the chief of the national police of Ukraine), said that about 200 officers were working in the city to set up checkpoints and record evidence of war crimes.

The Russian-appointed administration of Kakhovka, east of Kherson, announced Saturday that it was moving its employees to safety.

“Today, today, the administration is No. Pavel Filipchuk, the Moscow-installed leader in Kakhovka said that today’s administration is the No. 1 target for Ukrainian attacks. “We, as an authority are moving to a safer terrain, from which we will lead this district.”

Kakhovka lies on the east bank the Dnieper River and is upstream from the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station.

Copyright (c), 2022 by The Associated Press All Rights Reserved.

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