Zelensky arrives in Kherson amid celebrations, shelling

Published November 15, 2022
KHERSON: A handout photograph released by the Ukrainian Presidential press service on Monday shows President Volodymyr Zelensky taking part in a flag-laying ceremony during his visit to the newly liberated city, following the retreat of Russian forces from the strategic hub.—AFP
KHERSON: A handout photograph released by the Ukrainian Presidential press service on Monday shows President Volodymyr Zelensky taking part in a flag-laying ceremony during his visit to the newly liberated city, following the retreat of Russian forces from the strategic hub.—AFP

KHERSON: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday visited the newly recaptured southern city of Kherson, the biggest prize yet won by Ukrainian forces, where he has accused Russian forces of committing war crimes before they fled last week.

“We are moving forward,” he told troops standing in formation in front of the administration building in the city’s main square, where parents had also turned out with children, some pushing baby strollers, some waving Ukrainian flags or draped in them. “We are ready for peace, peace for all our country.”

Zelensky thanked Nato and other allies for their ongoing support in the war against Russia and said the delivery of rockets from the United States had made a big difference for Kyiv.

“I’m really happy, you can tell by the reaction of the people, their reaction is not staged,” the president said.

Claims over 400 war crimes by Russians ‘documented’, thanks Nato, allies for support

Minutes before he arrived, nearby shelling could be heard from the centre of Kherson, and after he finished speaking several more blasts of artillery echoed over the city.

Kherson residents have greeted arriving Ukrainian troops with joy since Friday, when Russia abandoned the only regional capital it had captured since Moscow launched its invasion.

In an overnight televised address, Zelensky said investigators had already documented more than 400 war crimes committed by the Russia’s during their eight month occupation.

“Bodies of dead civilians and servicemen have been found,” he said. “The Russian army left behind the same savagery it did in other regions of the country it entered.”

Reuters has spoken to residents in formerly occupied parts of Kherson region in recent days who have described killings and abductions of civilians, but has not verified such reports independently.

Russia denies its troops intentionally target civilians or have committed atrocities in occupied areas. Mass burial sites have been found in several other parts of Ukraine previously occupied by Russian troops, including some with civilian bodies showing signs of torture, which Kyiv blames on Moscow.

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

Russian President Vladimir 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, told Reuters 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.

Ukraine’s recapture of Kherson marked Moscow’s third major retreat of the war and the first to involve yielding such a large occupied city.

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, Ukraine’s southern command said on Monday.

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

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2022

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