Malta Independent

After Kherson success, Kyiv vows to keep driving out Russia


Ukraine’s president vowed to keep 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 retreat from Kherson marked a triumphant milestone in Ukraine’s pushback against Moscow’s invasion almost nine months ago. Kherson residents hugged and kissed the arriving Ukrainian troops in rapturous scenes.

“We will see many more such greetings” of Ukrainian soldiers liberating Russian-held territory,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Saturday.

He pledged to the people in Ukrainian cities and villages that are still under occupation: “We don’t forget anyone; we won’t leave anyone.”

Ukraine’s retaking of Kherson was a significan­t setback for the Kremlin and the latest in a series of battlefiel­d embarrassm­ents. It came some six weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the Kherson region and three other provinces in southern and eastern Ukraine — in breach of internatio­nal law — and declared them Russian territory.

Driving toward Kherson from the Mykolaiv region, AP reporters saw downed electrical lines, used projectile casings and the decomposed carcass of a cow. Several destroyed tanks lined the muddy road.

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

One Ukrainian official described the situation in Kherson as “a humanitari­an catastroph­e.” The remaining residents in the city are said to lack water, medicine and food. There are shortages of key basics such as bread because of a lack of electricit­y.

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

The national police chief of Ukraine, Ihor Klymenko, said Saturday on Facebook that about 200 officers were at work in the city, setting up checkpoint­s and documentin­g evi- * dence of possible war crimes.

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

“Today, the administra­tion is the number one target for Ukrainian attacks,” said the Moscow-installed leader of Kakhovka, 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 lead the district,” he wrote on Telegram.

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

The deputy head of Ukraine’s presidenti­al office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said six people died on Saturday as a result of Russian shelling.

Writing on Telegram on Sunday, he said four people were killed and one wounded in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, two were killed in the Kherson region, and two wounded in the central Dnipropetr­ovsk region.

In Kherson, photos on social media Saturday showed Ukrainian activists removing memorial plaques put up by the occupation authoritie­s. A Telegram post by Yellow Ribbon, the Ukrainian resistance movement in the occupied regions, showed two people in a park taking down plaques picturing Sovietera 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 stepped-up Ukrainian counteroff­ensive in the country’s south. In the past two months, Ukraine’s military claimed to have retaken dozens of towns and villages north of the city of Kherson, and the military said that’s where stabilizat­ion activities were taking place.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba sought to temper the excitement over the Russian retreat from Kherson.

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

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalist­s Sunday that a joint statement on the results of the summit was not adopted, since “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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