Kiev: Celebrations broke out across Kherson after Ukraine retook control of the strategic southern city following Russia’s decision to retreat.
Kherson was the only regional capital taken by Russia after the February 24 invasion. It was the first major city to fall to Moscow.
Following the retreat of Russian troops, seen as one of its biggest setbacks of the ongoing war, the Ukrainian armed forces entered Kherson city, located on the right bank of the Dnieper River, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Kiev’s Defence Ministry said on Friday.
“Kherson is returning under the control of Ukraine,” it said in a statement on Telegram, urging Russian soldiers who failed to leave to surrender.
Meanwhile, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told journalists in Moscow that “not a single piece of military equipment and weapons were left on the right bank”, Xinhua news agency reported.
There were no losses of personnel, weapons, military equipment and materials during the process, he added.
Konashenkov told reporters that over 30,000 Russian servicemen and nearly 5,000 pieces of equipment had been pulled back to the left bank.
Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson was announced on Wednesday by the country’s commander in Ukraine, who said it was no longer possible to supply the city.
Although there was little evidence of any Russian retreat on Thursday, Ukraine claimed advances of up to 7 km on two axes as its troops pushed forwards.
After Friday’s retreat, videos started emerging on social media of locals on the streets of Kherson, flying Ukraine’s national flag and chanting as Kiev’s troops arrived, the BBC reported.
In his nightly address to the nation, President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “Today is a historic day. We are regaining Kherson. As of now, our defenders are approaching the city. But special units are already in the city. The people of Kherson were waiting. They never gave up on Ukraine. Hope for Ukraine is always justified and Ukraine always regains its own.
“And even when the city is not yet completely cleansed of the enemy’s presence, the people of Kherson themselves are already removing Russian symbols and any traces of the occupiers’ stay in Kherson from the streets and buildings.
“It was the same in all other cities liberated by our defenders. It will be the same in those cities that are still waiting for our return.”