Ukraine’s president says communications, water, heat, electricity have been disrupted as Russians left the city.
Russian forces have destroyed critical infrastructure in the southern city of Kherson before fleeing, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said, as Kyiv’s military retook control of the southeastern city.
“Before fleeing from Kherson, the occupiers destroyed all the critical infrastructure: communications, water, heat, electricity,” Zelenskyy said in a video address on Saturday.
“[Russians] everywhere have the same goal: to humiliate people as much as possible. But we will restore everything, believe me,” he said.
Jubilant residents welcomed troops arriving in the city centre on Friday after Russia abandoned the only regional capital it had captured since the start of the war in February.
Ukrainian troops retook control of more than 60 settlements in the Kherson region, Zelenskyy said, adding that almost 2,000 mines, tripwires and unexploded shells had been dealt with so far.
Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine was “winning battles on the ground. But the war continues.”
Ukraine’s triumphant recovery of Kherson was welcomed by the United States as an “extraordinary victory”.
“It’s a big moment and it’s due to the incredible tenacity and skill of the Ukrainians, backed by the relentless and united support of the United States and our allies,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said while travelling to Cambodia with President Joe Biden for a regional summit.
‘Most decisive’ event in the war
Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from the Kherson region, said Moscow’s withdrawal was the “most decisive” event in this war so far.
“It’s boosted the morale of Ukrainian soldiers who say … they now believe they can win this war.”
Kuleba, who was attending the same summit, warned that Kyiv still sees “Russia mobilising more conscripts and bringing more weapons to Ukraine”.
Ukraine’s National Police chief, Ihor Klymenko, said some 200 officers were at work in the city, setting up checkpoints and documenting evidence of possible war crimes.
About 70 percent of the Kherson region remains under Moscow’s control, with Russian troops fortifying their battle lines on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River, according to the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces.
Russia established the Ukrainian city of Henichesk as Kherson region’s temporary administrative capital following its withdrawal from Kherson city.
While it appears to be a major Russian setback, the Kremlin insisted Kherson was still part of Russia and it did not regret annexing the entire Kherson region. Russia announced the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, including Kherson, in September – a step dubbed illegal by Kyiv.
The full Ukrainian recapture of the Kherson region would disrupt a vital land bridge for Russia between its mainland and the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.