Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

Ukraine’s president has vowed to continue pushing Russian forces out of his country after they withdrew from Kherson, leaving behind devastation, hunger and traps in the southern Ukrainian city.

Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson marked a triumphant turning point in Ukraine’s resistance to Moscow’s invasion nearly nine months ago. Residents of Kherson hugged and kissed the arriving Ukrainian troops in enthusiastic scenes.

“We will see many more such salutes” from Ukrainian soldiers liberating Russian-controlled territory, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a late-night video address on Saturday.

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Ukrainian troops enter Kherson, greeted with joy as Russia leaves the city

He promised the people in Ukrainian towns and villages still under occupation: “We are not forgetting anyone; we will not leave anyone behind.”

Ukraine’s recapture of Kherson was a significant step back for the Kremlin and the latest in a series of battlefield embarrassments. It happened some six weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the Kherson region and three other provinces in southern and eastern Ukraine – in violation of international law – and declared them Russian territory.

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The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv released comments Sunday from National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who described the Kherson turnaround as a “remarkable victory” for Ukraine and a “pretty remarkable thing.”

The reversal came despite Putin’s recent partial mobilization of reservists, increasing the number of available troops by some 300,000. This was difficult for the Russian army to digest.

Click to play video: 'Ukrainian troops retake Kherson, Russian forces withdraw'

Ukrainian troops take back Kherson, Russian forces retreat

“The Russian military leadership is trying, but largely failing, to integrate combat forces made up of many different organizations and many different types and levels of skills and equipment into a more cohesive fighting force in Ukraine,” according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, a think tank that monitors conflict, he commented.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the Kremlin would be “concerned” by the loss of Kherson, but warned against underestimating Moscow. “If they need more cannon fodder, they will,” he said.

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Driving towards Kherson from the Mykolaiv region, AP reporters saw downed power lines, spent missile casings and a decomposed cow carcass. Several destroyed tanks were lined up along the muddy road.

READ MORE: Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson will last days, Kyiv says, as Ukraine retakes cities

As Ukrainian forces consolidated control of Kherson on Sunday, authorities contemplated the daunting task of removing explosive devices and re-establishing basic public services in the city.

One Ukrainian official described the situation in Kherson as a “humanitarian disaster.” The remaining residents in the city lack water, medicine and food. Due to the lack of electricity, there is a shortage of basic foodstuffs such as bread.

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

Ukraine’s national police chief Ihor Klymenko said on Facebook on Saturday that about 200 police officers were working in the city, setting up checkpoints and documenting evidence of possible war crimes.

Click to play video: 'Actor Sean Penn lends his Oscar to Ukrainian President Zelensky'

Actor Sean Penn lends his Oscar to Ukrainian President Zelensky

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

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“Today, the administration is the number one target for Ukrainian attacks,” said the head of the Kakhovka stationed in Moscow, Pavel Filipchuk.

“Therefore, by order of the government of the Kherson region, we, as the government, are moving to a safer territory, from where we will lead the district,” he wrote on Telegram.

Kahovka is located on the left bank of the Dnieper River, upstream of the Kahovka hydroelectric power plant.

The deputy of the presidential office of Ukraine Kyrylo Timoshenko said that six people died on Saturday as a result of Russian shelling.

READ MORE: Ukrainian officials wary as Russia says it is withdrawing from Kherson

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 were wounded in the central Dnipropetrovsk region.

In Kherson, photos on social media on Saturday showed Ukrainian activists removing memorial plaques erected by the occupation authorities. A Telegram post by the Yellow Ribbon, a Ukrainian resistance movement in the occupied regions, shows two people in a park removing plaques depicting Soviet-era military figures.

Moscow’s announcement that Russian forces were withdrawing across the Dnieper River, which divides the Kherson region from Ukraine as a whole, followed a stepped-up Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south of the country. In the past two months, the Ukrainian military has claimed to have recaptured dozens of towns and villages north of the city of Kherson, and the military has said stabilization activities are underway there.

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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tried to temper excitement over Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson.

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

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Sunday that the joint statement on the results of the summit was not adopted because “the American side and its partners insisted on an unacceptable assessment of the situation in and around Ukraine.”

The Kremlin is angry about the support Ukraine receives from its Western allies, including the United States.