Ukraine to stabilize Kherson after Russia’s withdrawal

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MYKOLAIV, Ukraine (TBEN) — The Ukrainian army carried out “stabilization measures” near the southern city of Kherson on Saturday, following the end of an eight-month occupation by Russian troops, a withdrawal that jeopardized President Vladimir Putin’s plans to overthrow the major take over parts of Ukraine.

Residents of Kherson, the only regional capital captured by the Russian army during the ongoing invasion, awoke to a night of cheers that erupted in the city and surrounding areas after the Kremlin announced its troops had withdrawn to the other side of the Dnieper River.

In a regular social media update on Saturday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said the Russians were reinforcing their battle lines on the east bank of the river after leaving the capital. About 70% of the Kherson region remains under Russian control.

Ukrainian officials of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that although special military units had reached the city of Kherson, a full deployment to bolster the advancing forces was still underway. On Friday, Ukrainian intelligence said it thought some Russian soldiers were left behind, trading their uniforms for civilian clothes to avoid detection.

“Even if the city is not yet completely cleared of the enemy’s presence, the inhabitants of Kherson are already removing Russian symbols and all traces of the residence of the occupiers in Kherson from the streets and buildings,” Zelenskyy said late in his late night. video speech late. Friday.

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Photos circulating on social media on Saturday showed Ukrainian activists removing memorial plaques prepared by the occupation authorities that the Kremlin had installed to rule the Kherson region. A Telegram post on the channel of Yellow Ribbon, a self-proclaimed Ukrainian “public resistance movement,” showed two people in a park tearing down plaques depicting what appeared to be Soviet-era military figures.

Moscow’s announcement that Russian troops planned to withdraw across the Dnieper River, which separates both the Kherson region and Ukraine, followed an intensified Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south of the country.

In the past two months, the Ukrainian army claimed to have captured dozens of towns and villages north of the city of Kherson, and the Ukrainian General Staff said stabilization activities were taking place there.

Russia’s withdrawal marked a significant setback for the Kremlin, about six weeks after Putin annexed the Kherson region and three other provinces in southern and eastern Ukraine, in violation of international law and despite widespread condemnation. The Russian leader unequivocally claimed the illegally claimed areas as Russian territory.

Russia’s state news agency TASS on Saturday quoted an official in the Kremlin-appointed government of Kherson as saying that Henichesk, a city on the Azov Sea, about 200 kilometers southeast of the city of Kherson, would serve as the “temporary capital” of the region. after the withdrawal across the Dnieper.

Ukrainian media mocked the announcement, with the daily Ukrainskaya Pravda saying that Russia had “made up a new capital” for the region.

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Like Zelenskyy, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tried to dampen excitement over the invaded nation’s latest morale boost. “We are winning battles on the ground, but the war continues,” he said from Cambodia, where he attended a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Kuleba also raised the prospect that the Ukrainian military would find evidence of possible Russian war crimes in Kherson, just as it did after the Russian Defense Ministry previously withdrew its forces to the Kiev and Kharkov regions.

“Every time we liberate a piece of our territory, when we enter a city liberated from the Russian army, we find torture chambers and mass graves with civilians tortured and killed by the Russian army during the occupation of these areas,” he said. the top Ukrainian diplomat. said. “It’s not easy to talk to people like this. But I said that every war ends with diplomacy and that Russia should approach the talks in good faith.”

US assessments this week showed that Russia’s war in Ukraine may have already killed or injured tens of thousands of civilians and hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

While much of the focus was on southern Ukraine, Russia continued its scouring offensive in Ukraine’s industrial east, targeting the Donetsk city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, Ukraine’s general staff said.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported on Saturday that two civilians were killed and four injured in the past day as fighting flared up around Bakhmut and Avdiivka, a small town that remained in Ukrainian hands throughout the war.

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Russia’s continued pressure on Bakhmut shows the Kremlin’s desire for visible gains after weeks of apparent setbacks. Taking the city would open the way for a possible attack on other Ukrainian strongholds in the heavily disputed Donetsk region. A revived eastern offensive could also slow or derail Kiev’s continued advance in the south.

In the Dnipropetrovsk region west of Donetsk, Russia continued shelling communities near the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s regional governor said. Russia and Ukraine have long blamed the shelling in and around the factory, the largest in Europe.

Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security adviser, reiterated that the United States would delay Ukrainian authorities on whether or not to negotiate with Russia over a possible end to the conflict.

“Russia has invaded Ukraine,” Sullivan told Air Force One reporters en route to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as part of President Joe Biden’s trip to international summits in Southeast Asia.

“If Russia chose to stop fighting in Ukraine and leave, that would be the end of the war,” Sullivan said. “If Ukraine chose to stop fighting and give up, that would be the end of Ukraine.”

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