Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russian soldiers of war crimes and killing civilians in Kherson, parts of which the Ukrainian army seized last week after Russia withdrew.
“Investigators have already documented more than 400 Russian war crimes, and the bodies of both civilians and military personnel have been found,” Zelenskyy said in his overnight video address on Sunday.
“The Russian army left behind the same savagery that it did in other regions of the country it entered,” he continued. “We will find and bring to justice every murderer. Without a doubt.”
His allegations have not been independently verified. Russia denies that its troops are deliberately targeting civilians.
Ukrainian troops arrived in the center of the southern Kherson region on Friday after Russia abandoned the only regional capital it has seized since Moscow launched its invasion.
Russian shelling continues
The Southern Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Monday that Russian forces continued “to inflict fire damage on our troops and de-occupied settlements along the right bank of the Dnieper”.
The governor of Kherson region, Yaroslav Yanushevych, said the authorities decided to maintain a curfew from 5pm to 8am and ban people from leaving or entering the city as a security measure.
“The enemy has mined all critical infrastructure,” Yanushevich told Ukrainian TV. “We’re trying to meet within a few days and (then) open up the city,” he said.
In an online post, Januševič warned people about reports of humanitarian aid arriving at Freedom Square in Kherson and urged people to stay away from the city center as demining operations should continue there.
Zelenskyy also warned the residents of Kherson about the presence of Russian mines. “Please do not forget that the situation in the Kherson region remains very dangerous,” he said.
On Sunday, artillery exchanges echoing over Kherson failed to discourage crowds of jubilant, flag-waving residents wrapped against the cold from gathering in the city’s main square.
A day earlier, peasants with flowers waited on the road to Kherson to greet Ukrainian soldiers pouring in to secure control of the right bank of the Dnipro River.
The recapture of Kherson marks Moscow’s third major retreat of the war and the first to involve the surrender of such a large occupied city in the face of a major Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Mass graves have been found in several locations across Ukraine since the invasion began in February, including bodies of civilians showing evidence of torture discovered in the Kharkiv region and in Bucha, near Kiev. Ukraine has accused Russian troops of committing crimes.
A United Nations commission said in October that war crimes had been committed in Ukraine and that Russian forces were responsible for the “vast majority” of human rights abuses in the first weeks of the war.