Ukraine’s president said Friday that special military units have entered the city of Kherson.
In a video address hours after Russia said it had completed withdrawing troops from the strategically key city, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: “As of now, our defenders are approaching the city. In quite a bit, we are going to enter. But special units are already in the city”.
Russia relinquished its final foothold in the major city, one of the first to be captured in the war that began February 24.
The withdrawal could act as a springboard for further advances into occupied territory.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said its troops finished withdrawing from the western bank of the river that divides Ukraine’s Kherson region at 5am.
The area they left included the city of Kherson, the only provincial capital Russia had captured during its nearly nine-month invasion of Ukraine.
Videos and photos on social media showed residents jubilantly taking to the streets, waving Ukrainian flags and chanting in celebration.
A Ukrainian flag flew over a monument in a central Kherson square for the first time since the city was seized in early March.
Some footage showed crowds cheering on men in military uniform and tossing one man wearing combat fatigues up in the air.
Other videos showed villagers embracing troops en route to the city.
Ukrainian officials have not claimed the city was yet in Ukrainian hands.
Zelenskyy said that Russian forces placed mines in the city and that after troops enter, they will be followed by sappers, rescue workers and energy personnel.
Despite the daunting tasks ahead of them, “Medicine, communications, social services are returning. … Life is returning,” he said.
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