Russia and Ukraine: Celebrations in Kherson, but “the end of the war is still far away”
Ukrainian officials have warned that “the war is not over” after Russia pulled out of Kherson, although celebrations continued over the weekend.
On Friday, crowds cheered Ukrainian soldiers returning to the city — the only regional capital once occupied by Russia.
These scenes of joy were repeated in other regions of Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv and the city of Odessa.
But despite the setback to Moscow’s aspirations, Ukrainian officials remain cautious.
In an interview with the BBC, Yury Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, warned that “it’s too early for us to feel relaxed”.
“We have always been sure that we will liberate Kherson… and we are confident that the Russians are beginning to realize that they will never win this war. We see panic in their ranks. We see terror in their machine,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Propaganda.
“Of course, this is a very important moment, but … we are still far from the end of the war.”
Kherson suffers from a shortage of running water, medicine and food, but relief supplies are beginning to arrive from the nearby town of Mykolaiv, said Roman Golovnia, an adviser to the city’s mayor.
Golovnia noted that 70–80,000 people currently live in Kherson, compared to the city’s pre-war population of 320,000.
It is not clear if power will return to the city, but it is expected to return to the areas near Kherson in the next few days. A power outage in the city had caused bakeries to shut down bread production.
Mr Sak warned of the danger of continued rocket attacks – as did Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the military administration of the Kyiv region. It is well known that in recent weeks Russia has been bombing Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, causing major damage.
“In the past month … we have seen extensive bombing of civilian facilities in Ukraine. Now I want to say that the threat of missile attacks on Kyiv remains high,” Kuleba told the BBC.
Meanwhile, former head of Ukraine’s National Security Council Oleksandr Danilyuk warned that Russian forces that had withdrawn from Kherson may have crossed the Dnipro River to “achieve a strong defensive position on the left bank of the river,” adding that this would put them in a good position.
Moscow announced that it had withdrawn 30,000 soldiers and 5,000 pieces of military equipment and weapons from the region.
As Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s international affairs correspondent, explains, “the decision to withdraw the soldiers who would have died fighting a battle they couldn’t win sold” and allowed them to move them to other parts of the country relocate.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday it was “very likely” that Russian forces destroyed the road and railway bridge over the River Dnipro during their withdrawal. Pictures were released on Friday of the main crossing of the river – the Antonevsky Bridge – which has partially collapsed. How this came about is not yet clear.
More images emerged on Saturday morning showing the damage to the Nova Kakhovka dam. The dam is 58 km northeast of Kherson.
US satellite imaging company Maxar tweeted that “portions of the dam and water flow control gates” had been destroyed. There is a road and railroad across the dam, and Maksar’s photos show that they are severed. It is not clear how the damage came about, which the BBC has not independently assessed.
A new video clip, confirmed by the BBC, shows the moment a huge explosion took place on one of the sides of the dam.
Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of firing explosives at the dam, which has increased the risk of flooding the Kherson region.
The withdrawal – which the UK Ministry of Defense has said may have started as early as October 22 under the guise of evacuating civilians – means Russia has lost the administrative capital of one of the four regions it illegally annexed in September.
Moscow announced Saturday that the capital that will temporarily replace Kherson is the city of Hinchisk, more than 200 kilometers southeast of Kherson near the Russian-held Crimea region.
Russia’s Interfax news agency said the authorities had evacuated all regional offices and “historical statues and monuments” from the west bank of the Dnipro River – that is, from the city of Kherson and its surroundings. She added that more than 115,000 people have been evacuated from the area.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the withdrawal from Kherson was “another strategic failure” for Moscow.
“In February, Russia failed to achieve any of its major goals, except for Kherson,” he added in a statement.
Even now with the retreat, ordinary Russians must ask themselves, ‘What was the point of all this?’
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