Ukrainian President Zelenskyy hails Kherson liberation as 'beginning of the end of the war'

Watch as a Ukrainian flag is raised in Kherson after Russia's withdrawal (Credit: EBU).

Volodymr Zelenskyy said Russia's withdrawal from Kherson marks the "beginning of the end of the war", as he met soldiers in the liberated city.

The Ukrainian President gave medals to his country's soldiers in a central square of the southern city on Monday and posed for selfies with them.

Russia was forced to pull back its forces from the city last week in what was one of Ukraine's biggest successes so far of the nearly nine-month invasion.

In his nightly video address on Sunday, Zelenskyy said without details that “investigators have already documented more than 400 Russian war crimes, and the bodies of both civilians and military personnel have been found.”

“In the Kherson region, the Russian army left behind the same atrocities as in other regions of our country," he said.

“We will find and bring to justice every murderer. Without a doubt.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy listens to the national anthem during his visit to Kherson. Credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office

Video footage showed Zelenskyy waving to residents in Kherson on Monday who waved back and yelled “Glory to Ukraine!”

“Glory to the heroes!”, replied Zelenskyy’s group, made up of soldiers and others.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on Zelenskyy’s visit to Kherson, saying only that “you know that it is the territory of the Russian Federation.”

The end of Russia's eight-month occupation of the city of Kherson has sparked days of celebration, but also exposed a humanitarian emergency, with residents living without power and water and short of food and medicines.

Residents gather during Zelenskyy's visit in Kherson. Credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office

Russia still controls about 70% of the wider Kherson region.

Zelenskyy said Russian soldiers who were left behind when their military commanders abandoned the city last week are being detained.

He 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 would be restored.

“We are doing everything to restore normal technical capabilities for electricity and water supply as soon as possible," he 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.”

The Russian withdrawal marked a milestone in Ukraine’s pushback against the invasion almost nine months ago.

It came six weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the Kherson region and three other provinces in southern and eastern Ukraine - in breach of international law - and declared them Russian territory.

In the past two months, Ukraine’s military claimed to have retaken dozens of towns and villages north of the city of Kherson.

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