War in Ukraine: The first Ukrainian soldiers enter Kherson as Russia ends its withdrawal | International

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The Ukrainian flag is already flying at the headquarters of the Kherson Regional Administration. The withdrawal of the Russian troops has taken place just a day and a half after it was announced by its high command. "At five in the morning, Moscow time, the transfer of Russian troops to the left bank of the Dnieper River was completed," the Russian Defense Ministry has reported, assuring that "not a single unit or military piece was left behind. ”. A few hours after the last Russian soldiers crossed on foot to their new defense line, the city was filled with Ukrainian flags and some of the European Union, according to the images that began to circulate on social networks. The first Ukrainian soldiers soon paraded through the streets of the city, to the cheers of its inhabitants, according to Serhi Bratchuk, spokesman for the military government of Odessa.

In parallel, the Russian Telegram channels showed the blowing up of bridges over the river and images of the withdrawal during these days, such as the slow passage on a pontoon of a column that crossed the Dnieper through the morning fog. The count of victims of the withdrawal, produced between intense exchanges of artillery by both sides, is not clear, although the Russian high command affirms that its planning, which planted mines throughout the area, "prevented the loss of personnel, weapons and supplies of the military group.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced the withdrawal on Wednesday afternoon. In the recording of the meeting where the generals made this unpopular decision, the supreme commander-in-chief of the Russian armed forces and the country's president, Vladimir Putin, did not appear. When asked if this withdrawal has been humiliating for the president, his spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, has limited himself to answering "no" to the Russian press.

For weeks there were signs of a possible departure from the city. The military authorities imposed on the area by the Kremlin insisted that the inhabitants of the city must leave, and the Russian flag stopped flying from several public buildings days ago. However, the Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksi Reznikov, estimated that an organized withdrawal of the Russians would last at least a week.

The withdrawal was not easy. The Russian Defense Ministry stated: “The enemy tried to disrupt the transport of civilians and troops overnight. The Dnieper river crossings were hit five times by missiles from the US Himars multiple launch system. The Russian military authorities added that their artillery fire, air strikes and mines managed to “stop units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine at a distance of 30-40 kilometers from the crossing over the river”.

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The withdrawal was completed with the detonation of the Antonov Bridge and its auxiliary bridge, the only passes left standing on the Dnieper River as it passed through the province of Kherson. The other, which remains functional, is the bridge in the city of Nova Kajovka, where the invading troops are also retreating.

Three soldiers from Russian elite units, Alexander Kharchenko, Sergei Shilov and Evgueni Malesnikov, recounted their last moments in Kherson on Telegram. According to their testimonies, a parachute brigade secured the perimeter under constant artillery fire and Ukrainian missiles, especially Himars precision ammunition, according to their words, which would have been repelled by the anti-aircraft systems.

The first Ukrainian soldiers arrive

The Ukrainian tactical infantry outposts liberated the last villages of the Mikolaiv province in 24 hours and were located 10 kilometers from Kherson before the Russian withdrawal; At noon this Friday, some inhabitants of the city center shared images of the arrival of the first Ukrainian soldiers.

Serhi Bratchuk, spokesman for the military government of Odessa, assured that the Ukrainian troops have liberated Kherson and have taken control of the city. In a message broadcast by Telegram, Bratchuk offered images of the Ukrainian infantry advance guard parading through the center of the municipality to the cheers of the population. The video has been filmed on an avenue near the Dnieper River. On the other shore, just over a kilometer away, Russian defenses have been reinforced in what is already the new war front.

Sources from the kyiv high command for the southern front assured the day before that they expected Russia to hit Kherson with an intense bombardment at the same moment that the Ukrainian troops entered. In any case, the Russian attacks have not stopped in the region: on Thursday night, a Russian missile destroyed a residential building in Mikolaiv and killed seven civilians. The weapons used were an S-300 missile, air defense ammunition that Russia has converted to hit ground targets. The Ukrainian intelligence services assure that the new use of these rockets shows that Moscow's missile arsenal is at the limit.

The abandonment of Kherson has also caused concern among the Russian military administration imposed on the province of Zaporizhia, northeast of Kherson. "The evacuation of civilians is not contemplated at the moment, but in case of risk the population can be relocated," warned the governor imposed by the Kremlin in the area, Yevgueni Balitski. “If there is shelling on the front line and it is associated with a greater threat to human lives, action will be taken”, he has indicated as a signal for the eviction of the Ukrainian population.

In any case, the Kremlin stresses that it will not give up the Kherson region despite its withdrawal. Putin's spokesman stressed this Friday: “The province is a subject of the Russian Federation. This is fixed and defined by law, and there is not and cannot be any change.”

However, both Dmitri Peskov and the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergey Riabkov, once again insisted that Moscow wants to at least sit down at the negotiating table. "I can confirm our position: we are open to dialogue, without preconditions," said the diplomat.

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