Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday said the southern city of Kherson was “ours” after Russia announced its withdrawal was complete.
“Our people. Our. Kherson,” Zelenskyy wrote in Telegram. “Today is a historic day. We will take back Kherson.”
He said that special units of the armed forces were in Kherson and that other Ukrainian troops were approaching from the outskirts.
“The people of Kherson waited. They never gave up on Ukraine,” Zelenskyy added later in a video address. “It will be the same in the cities that are still waiting for us to take them back.”
His announcement came as videos posted on social media showed jubilant crowds of locals celebrating in the streets and waving to Ukrainian soldiers as they marched into town.
Ukrainian and European Union flags could also be seen above a monument in Kherson’s main square.
Earlier, Ukrainian intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov told The Associated Press that “an operation to liberate Kherson” and the surrounding region of the same name was underway.
The withdrawal of Russian forces marks a significant setback for Moscow, as the city of Kherson was the only major Ukrainian regional capital to fall into Russian hands since the start of the war. The region is also a strategic gateway to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
“Ukraine won another important victory now and it proves that whatever Russia says or does, Ukraine will win,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
The White House called the city’s recovery a “remarkable thing” for Ukraine.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that “It looks like the Ukrainians have just won an extraordinary victory where the only regional capital that Russia had taken in this war is now back under a Ukrainian flag.”
Here are other top headlines from the war in Ukraine on Friday, November 11:
Conflicting reports on Russian withdrawal
Faced with Ukrainian forces entering the city of Kherson, Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced that all its troops had withdrawn. He said 30,000 troops were transferred to the left bank of the Dnipro River without losing a single soldier and leaving “not a single piece of military equipment.”
But Ukraine’s defense intelligence unit disputed this, saying in a tweet that more than half of the Russian forces stationed on the right bank of the river were still there.
Moscow announced earlier this week that it planned to withdraw its forces from the right bank of the Dnipro, where the city of Kherson is located.
Ukrainian officials expressed skepticism at the announcement and said it would take days, if not weeks, for Russian troops to fully withdraw from Kherson.
Germany to send more air defense aid to Ukraine: Scholz
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says that Berlin’s priority to help Ukraine should be strengthening the air raid defense in the cities and rebuilding the infrastructure.
“Russia is bombing Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Russia wants to make sure that people in Ukraine cannot survive the winter cold,” he said in an interview on the scene with RND newspapers.
“We are currently discussing with several German companies what they can do to counter this destruction.”
Scholz added that the air defense systems that Germany has provided so far had played an important role, and that Berlin would work with its partners to send more.
Earlier, the German Chancellor agreed in a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that more air defense systems will be provided.
Scholz also told the audience that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin had long planned to invade Ukraine.
“I am convinced that Putin decided on this war two years ago,” he said. “We saw the troop build-up… We hoped it was just threatening gestures, but it wasn’t: it was a war long in the planning.”
Russia bars entry to 200 US citizens, including Biden’s relatives
Moscow says it has banned entry to 200 US citizens, including the brothers of President Joe Biden and a number of senators.
The measure is a response to Washington’s sanctions over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the list of individuals included officials, their close relatives, company heads and experts “involved in promoting the Russophobic campaign and supporting the regime in Kyiv”.
Among those blacklisted are Biden’s sister Valerie and brothers James and Francis, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, and senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
They join the more than 1,000 US citizens who are already barred from entering the country.
Russian attack kills 5 in Mykolaiv, governor says
A regional governor said at least five people were killed after a Russian strike hit a residential building in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv.
“A strike on a five-story residential building. Destroyed from the 5th to the 1st floor,” Mykolaiv regional governor Vitaliy Kim wrote on social media.
Russian forces have repeatedly shelled the city for months. Zelenskyy said the latest strike was a “cynical response to our successes on the front”, in an apparent reference to Ukraine’s advances in the Kherson region.
The strategic bridge near Kherson collapses: reports
Ukraine’s public broadcaster reported that the already damaged Antonivskiy bridge had collapsed.
The strategic bridge was the only route from Kherson to the Russian-controlled eastern bank of the Dnipro River.
The state of the bridge, and the timing of its reported collapse, could help determine whether Russian forces have withdrawn from the city of Kherson or not.
Russian media reports suggest the bridge was bombed after Russian troops withdrew.
But a Russian official stationed in the Kherson region told Interfax that the bridge had not been blown up and was “in the same condition”.
UN and Russian officials discuss extending grain deal
UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said talks between Russian officials and UN leaders were underway in Geneva in an attempt to extend an agreement on wheat exports.
“It is hoped that the discussions will advance the progress made to facilitate the unhindered export of food and fertilizers originating in the Russian Federation to world markets,” Vellucci said.
The UN is seeking to renew a Black Sea agreement on grain exports from Ukraine that expires on November 19.
Moscow has complained that another agreement exempting Russian fertilizers from sanctions “is not respected”. The agreement lasts for three years.
EU, partners agree 1 billion euros to improve export routes in Ukraine
The European Union has pledged a 1 billion euro ($1.04 billion) boost to efforts to export Ukraine’s wheat harvest via alternative shipping routes to Black Sea ports.
The European Commission, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank will invest the funds to improve and expand the so-called “Solidarity Lanes”.
The investments will expand land and sea transport between Ukraine and the neighboring countries of Poland, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia and Hungary.
They also allow Kiev to bring fuel or humanitarian aid to the country.
Before the war, Ukraine had trade mainly through its large Black Sea ports, but they were blockaded by Moscow’s forces when the invasion began.
In July, an agreement between the UN and Turkey helped restart the flow of grain shipments. However, the necessary security guarantees are not in place for other goods.
“Where Russia sowed destruction, Europe restored hope,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, announcing the additional funding on social media.
mm, fb/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)