A jubilant crowd cheered as an emotional Volodymyr Zelensky watched the Ukrainian flag being raised once again in the newly liberated city of Kherson.
Zelensky, who has remained in Ukraine throughout the war, was greeted to a hero’s welcome as he visited Kherson today, with locals waving and cheering as the Ukrainian President waved at them.
The leader addressed troops and local residents in Kherson’s central square and vowed: ‘We are moving forward. We are ready for peace, peace for our country.’
During the visit, Zelensky became visibly emotional as he watched the Ukrainian flag 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.
His visit to Kherson comes days after Russian forces were forced to retreat from the southern city after months of occupation.
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 once again in the central square of Kherson today
Local residents, draped in the Ukrainian flag, cried with happiness as they saw Zelensky during his visit to Kherson today
Local residents clapped and waved to Zelensky in Kherson 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
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 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
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
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.
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.
Ukrainians in the liberated city expressed relief at the end of months of occupation.
The city of Kherson was the first major urban hub to fall after Russia invaded in February.
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
Ukrainian soldiers take a selfie with President Volodymyr Zelensky, during his visit to Kherson
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.
Zelensky also warned Kherson residents about Russian mines. ‘I am asking you please not to forget that the situation in Kherson region remains very dangerous,’ 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.
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
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.