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Press Association President Zelenskyy during his visit to Kherson today
# kherson
Zelenskyy calls liberation of Kherson the 'beginning of the end’ of the war
The liberation of Kherson is one of Ukraine’s biggest success so far of the nearly nine-month invasion.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 14th 2022, 9:43 PM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR Zelenskyy has called the Russian withdrawal from Kherson “the beginning of the end of the war” as he met soldiers today in the southern city.

The liberation of Kherson after a grinding offensive that forced Russia to pull back its forces from the city is one of Ukraine’s biggest success so far of the nearly nine-month invasion and a stinging blow for the Kremlin.

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg nonetheless cautioned that Ukraine was facing difficult months ahead and said that Russia’s military capability should not be underestimated.

And US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping – a key ally of Vladimir Putin – agreed in talks today that nuclear weapons should never be used, including in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian presidency distributed images of Zelensky singing the national anthem with his hand over his chest as the country’s blue and yellow flag was hoisted next to Kherson’s main administrative building.

“This is the beginning of the end of the war,” Zelensky said.

“It is a long way, difficult way, because the war took the best heroes of our country. We are ready for peace but our peace, for our country it’s all our country, all our territory,” he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman denied that the Ukrainian leader’s visit had any impact on the status of the Kherson region, which Moscow formally annexed last month.

In Kherson, Zelenskyy said that “the price of this war is high”.

“People are injured. A large number of dead. There were fierce battles, and the result is — today we are in Kherson region.”

Zelenskyy is accusing Russian forces of having committed “the same atrocities as in other regions of our country” before they were forced to pull out from the strategic southern city.

In his nightly video address yesterday, Zelenskyy said that “investigators have already documented more than 400 Russian war crimes, and the bodies of both civilians and military personnel have been found”.

“In the Kherson region, the Russian army left behind the same atrocities as in other regions of our country,” he said. “We will find and bring to justice every murderer. Without a doubt.”

Zelenskyy visited the newly liberated city today. He was photographed posing with troops in a central Kherson square.

2.69774395 Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP / PA Ukrainian soldiers photos with Zelenskyy during his visit to Kherson Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP / PA / PA

NATO’s Stoltenberg said that “the coming months will be difficult” and cautioned that: “We should not make the mistake of underestimating Russia”.

“Putin’s aim is to leave Ukraine cold and dark this winter,” he told a press conference in The Hague.

Russia has repeatedly targeted Ukrainian infrastructure, and the country’s national energy company said Moscow’s forces destroyed a key energy facility before retreating from the western bank of the Dnipro river.

A senior US military official also told journalists that initial indications are that Russian forces caused “significant damage to civilian infrastructure,” including “water and utility systems”, prior to their departure.

The end of Russia’s eight-month occupation of Kherson city has sparked days of celebration but also exposed a humanitarian emergency, with residents living without power and water and short of food and medicines. Russia still controls about 70% of the wider Kherson region.

Zelenskyy said Russian soldiers who were left behind when their military commanders abandoned the city last week are being detained. He also spoke, again without details, of the “neutralisation of saboteurs”.

Ukrainian police have called on residents to help identify people who collaborated with Russian forces.

2.69765052 Bernat Armangue / AP/PA Elena Skalskya enters her village of Tsentralne for the first time since Russian troops withdrew from the Kherson region Bernat Armangue / AP/PA / AP/PA

Zelenskyy urged people in the liberated zone to also be alert for booby traps, saying: “Please, do not forget that the situation in the Kherson region is still very dangerous. First of all, there are mines. Unfortunately, one of our sappers was killed, and four others were injured while clearing mines.”

And he promised that essential services will be restored.

“We are doing everything to restore normal technical capabilities for electricity and water supply as soon as possible,” he said.

“We will bring back transport and post. Let’s bring back an ambulance and normal medicine. Of course, the restoration of the work of authorities, the police, and some private companies are already beginning.”

2.69764001 Bernat Armangue / AP/PA Ukrainian family members reunite the Russian withdrawal from the Kherson region Bernat Armangue / AP/PA / AP/PA

Residents said departing Russian troops plundered the city, carting away loot as they withdrew last week. They also wrecked key infrastructure before retreating across the wide Dnieper River to its east bank.

One Ukrainian official described the situation in Kherson as “a humanitarian catastrophe”.

Reconnecting the electricity supply is the priority, with gas supplies already assured, Kherson regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said.

The Russian pullout marked a triumphant milestone in Ukraine’s pushback against Moscow’s invasion almost nine months ago. In the past two months, Ukraine’s military claimed to have retaken dozens of towns and villages north of the city of Kherson.

Ukraine’s retaking of Kherson was the latest in a series of battlefield embarrassments for the Kremlin.

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.

Press Association
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