Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky today called the Russian withdrawal from Kherson ‘the beginning of the end of the war’ as he met soldiers and locals in the newly liberated city.

A jubilant crowd cheered as an emotional Zelensky, who has remained in Ukraine throughout the war, watched the nation’s flag being raised once again in Kherson.

The liberation of the southern city after a grinding offensive that forced Russian forces to flee it is one of Ukraine’s biggest successes in the nearly nine-month war.

Zelensky said Ukraine’s ‘strong army’ was persistently reclaiming territories taken by Russia while also acknowledging the difficulties and the heavy human toll. 

The president was greeted to a hero’s welcome on his visit today, with people cheering and waving flags as soon as they saw him. 

The leader addressed troops and residents in the city’s central square and vowed: ‘We are moving forward. We are ready for peace, peace for our country.’ 

And he became emotional as he watched the yellow and blue flag of Ukraine being raised once more in Kherson following months of Russian occupation.

Zelensky appeared to be fighting back tears as he sang the national anthem during the ceremony. 

Zelensky becomes emotional as he watches a Ukrainian flag being raised once again in the city of Kherson on Monday

Zelensky becomes emotional as he watches a Ukrainian flag being raised once again in the city of Kherson on Monday

A Ukrainian soldier raises the national flag in the central square of Kherson today

A Ukrainian soldier raises the national flag in the central square of Kherson today

Residents, draped in the Ukrainian flag, cried with happiness as they saw Zelensky during his visit to Kherson today

Residents, draped in the Ukrainian flag, cried with happiness as they saw Zelensky during his visit to Kherson today

Local residents waved to the Ukrainian president during his visit to the city

Local residents waved to the Ukrainian president during his visit to the city 

Volodymyr Zelensky was greeted to a hero's welcome as he visited the newly liberated city of Kherson today, with a jubilant crowd cheering the Ukrainian President as he waved to them

Volodymyr Zelensky was greeted to a hero’s welcome as he visited the newly liberated city of Kherson today, with a jubilant crowd cheering the Ukrainian President as he waved to them

Residents gather during a visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kherson, southern Ukraine, as the Ukrainian flag is seen raised in the background

Residents gather during a visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kherson, southern Ukraine, as the Ukrainian flag is seen raised in the background

Zelensky said Russian soldiers who were left behind when their military commanders abandoned the city last week are being detained. He added, without details, of the ‘neutralisation of saboteurs’.

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

Zelensky thanked NATO and other allies for their support in the war against Russia and said the delivery of high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) from the United States had made a big difference for Kyiv. 

Zelensky was greeted by the jubilant cheers of Ukrainians who had spent months under Russian occupation in Kherson.

The crowd, including parents with children, clapped and waved as soon as they saw Zelensky enter the city’s main square.

Some waved Ukrainian flags and others had the flag draped over their shoulders. Others were overcome with emotion at Zelensky’s visit, with some crying with happiness.  

‘I’m really happy, you can tell by the reaction of the people, their reaction is not staged,’ Zelensky said in a comments witnessed by a Reuters correspondent in Kherson.

Asked where Ukrainian forces might advance next, he said: ‘Not Moscow…We’re not interested in the territories of another country.’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Kherson and addressed troops there on Monday, days after Russian forces were forced to retreat from the southern city after months of occupation

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Kherson and addressed troops there on Monday, days after Russian forces were forced to retreat from the southern city after months of occupation

A woman wipes away tears during Zelenky's visit to Kherson on Monday

A woman wipes away tears during Zelenky’s visit to Kherson on Monday

Ukrainian soldiers pose for a photo with President Volodymyr Zelensky, centre top, during his visit to Kherson, Ukraine, on Monday

Ukrainian soldiers pose for a photo with President Volodymyr Zelensky, centre top, during his visit to Kherson, Ukraine, on Monday

Surrounded by his guards, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky walks in the central square during his visit to Kherson on Monday

Surrounded by his guards, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky walks in the central square during his visit to Kherson on Monday

Minutes before he arrived, nearby shelling could be heard by people in the centre of Kherson. After Zelensky finished speaking, several more of blasts artillery gunfire echoed over the city.

Ukrainian troops arrived in the centre of Kherson on Friday after Russia abandoned the only regional capital it had captured since Moscow launched its invasion.

Weeping locals sang, danced, hugged, kissed and chanted victory slogans as Kyiv’s soldiers arrived to take back the city – with parties going on into the night on Friday.

The end of Russia’s eight-month occupation of Kherson also exposed a humanitarian emergency, with residents living without power and water and short of food and medicines. Russia still controls about 70 per cent of the wider Kherson region. 

Today, Zelensky 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.’

He also promised that essential services will be restored in the city.

‘We are doing everything to restore normal technical capabilities for electricity and water supply as soon as possible,’ Zelensky 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.’

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’.

Zelensky was surrounded by Ukrainian soldiers as he walked through Kherson

Zelensky was surrounded by Ukrainian soldiers as he walked through Kherson 

Ukrainians smile and cheer in Kherson on Monday during Zelensky's visit to the city

Ukrainians smile and cheer in Kherson on Monday during Zelensky’s visit to the city 

Ukrainian soldiers take a selfie with President Volodymyr Zelensky, during his visit to Kherson

Ukrainian soldiers take a selfie with President Volodymyr Zelensky, during his visit to Kherson

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

Meanwhile, Zelensky said late on Sunday that Ukrainian forces who retook Kherson city found evidence of hundreds of new ‘war crimes’ carried out by Russian occupiers.

The Russian retreat from the city of Kherson 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 Putin annexed the Kherson region and three other provinces in southern and eastern Ukraine – in breach of international law – and declared them Russian territory.

The city of Kherson was the first major urban hub to fall after Russia invaded in February.

Russia claimed it had completed the retreat across the Dnipro River without losing a single soldier, but Ukrainians painted a picture of a chaotic retreat, with soldiers ditching their uniforms or drowning while trying to escape.

Russian forces who retreated across the Dnipro River continued to fire on Ukrainian troops and newly retaken settlements from new positions on the opposite bank, the Ukraine Armed Forces’ southern command said on Monday.

Regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said a curfew would be maintained from 5 p.m. to 8 am. and people would be banned from leaving or entering the city for a few days for security.

‘The enemy mined all critical infrastructure,’ he said.

The full recapture of Kharkiv opens a gateway for Ukraine to the entire Kherson region, with access to both the Black Sea in the west and the Sea of Azov in the east.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky awards a Ukrainian serviceman with a military award in Kherson on Monday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky awards a Ukrainian serviceman with a military award in Kherson on Monday

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy awards a Ukrainian serviceman in Kherson

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy awards a Ukrainian serviceman in Kherson 

Ukrainian servicemen attend a national flag raising ceremony in Kherson on Monday

Ukrainian servicemen attend a national flag raising ceremony in Kherson on Monday

The region was one of four that the Kremlin announced in September were annexed and part of Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to use all available means to defend them from Ukrainian forces.

Locals from formerly occupied parts of the Kherson region have described the killings and abductions of civilians in recent days.

Residents said they had tried to minimize contact with the Russians and knew of people who were arrested and abused for any discernable Ukrainian patriotism.

Russian soldiers ‘would approach you in the street and ask if you were Ukrainian or Russian. If you said Ukrainian, they would take you away,’ Natalia Papernaya, a 43-year-old clothing designer, said on Sunday.

The Russians, she said, had arrested her friend for taking a photo of a neighbour’s home to reassure the owners it had survived a nearby shell blast. 

The troops had pulled her friend’s hood over her eyes, taped it in place, put her in a cellar for a day and demanded to know for whom she was taking pictures.

‘They didn’t touch her,’ Papernaya said, but the friend heard the screams of other detainees and some who were forced to shout out praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

‘There were many people in there, women and men,’ she said.

A woman hugs a Ukrainian soldier as local residents gather to celebrate the liberation of Kherson on Sunday

A woman hugs a Ukrainian soldier as local residents gather to celebrate the liberation of Kherson on Sunday 

Yana Shaposhnikova, 36, another clothing designer, said she had buried her yellow and blue Ukrainian flag.

‘If you wore anything yellow and blue you could be shot or invited into a cellar where you would be tortured,’ she said.

A volunteer she knew who was delivering humanitarian aid to outlying areas had been taken to an underground jail, deprived of sleep and interrogated for three days about whether she was reporting on Russian positions, she said.

Residents have described other abductions and killings to Reuters, including one account of a neighbour shot dead and three of people carried off by troops in the village of Blahodatne north of Kherson. It was not possible to verify the accounts.

Meanwhile, the US will announce new sanctions on Monday against 14 individuals and 28 entities that have worked to procure military technologies for Russia’s war in Ukraine, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

Russia has managed to procure drones from Iran that have been used to attack cities and power infrastructure in Ukraine. 

Putin is not attending the summit, instead sending his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who became subject to speculation about his health after reports he was taken to an Indonesian hospital.

The governor of Bali, Wayan Koster, said Lavrov, 72, had gone to a hospital for a ‘check-up’ after arriving for the summit, but was in good health. 

Russia released a video showing Lavrov sitting outside in shorts and a T-shirt, denying he was ill and blaming the health reports on Western media.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11425375/Our-hero-Tears-smiles-cheering-crowds-welcome-President-Zelensky-liberated-Kherson.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Zelensky declares Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson ‘the beginning of the end’