Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday said the southern city of Kherson was “ours” after Russia announced its withdrawal was complete.
“Our people. Ours. Kherson,” Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram. “Today is a historic day. We are taking back Kherson.”
He said that special units of the armed forces were inside Kherson and that other Ukrainian troops were approaching from the outskirts.
“The people of Kherson have been waiting. 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 to social media showed jubilant crowds of locals celebrating in the streets and greeting Ukrainian soldiers as they rolled into the city.
Ukrainian and European Union flags could also be seen raised over a monument in Kherson’s main square.
Earlier, Ukraine’s intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov told The Associated Press that “an operation to liberate Kherson” and the surrounding region of the same name was underway.
The retreat by Russian forces marks a significant setback for Moscow, as Kherson city 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 annexed illegally in 2014.
“Ukraine is gaining another important victory right now and proves that whatever Russia says or does, Ukraine will win,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
The White House called the recapturing of the city a “remarkable thing” for Ukraine.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that “It does look as though the Ukrainians have just won an extraordinary victory where the one regional capital that Russia had seized in this war is now back under a Ukrainian flag.”
Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Friday, November 11:
Conflicting reports about Russian retreat
Ahead of Ukraine’s forces entering the city of Kherson, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced that all its troops had pulled out. It said 30,000 troops had been transferred across 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 that had been stationed on the river’s right bank were still there.
Moscow announced earlier this week that it planned to withdraw its forces from the Dnipro’s right bank, where Kherson city is located.
Ukrainian officials had expressed skepticism at the announcement and said it would likely take days, if not weeks, for Russian troops to fully retreat from Kherson.
Germany to send more air defense help to Ukraine: Scholz
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says Berlin’s priority in helping Ukraine should be bolstering air raid defenses in cities and rebuilding infrastructure.
“Russia is bombing Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Russia wants to make sure people in Ukraine can’t survive the winter cold,” he said in an on-stage interview with RND newspapers.
“We are currently discussing with many German companies what they can do to counter this destruction.”
Scholz added that the air defense systems Germany had provided thus 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 would be supplied.
Scholz also told the audience that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin had long been planning to invade Ukraine.
“I’m convinced 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 nationals, including Biden’s relatives
Moscow says it has banned entry to 200 US citizens, including President Joe Biden’s siblings 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, heads of companies and experts “involved in the promotion of the Russophobic campaign and support for 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 already barred from entering the country.
Russian strike 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 at a five-story residential building. Destroyed from the 5th to the 1st floor,” Mykolaiv’s regional governor, Vitaliy Kim, wrote on social media.
Russian forces have repeatedly struck the city for months. Zelenskyy said the latest strike was a “cynical response to our successes at the front,” in an apparent reference to Ukraine’s advances in the Kherson region.
Strategic bridge near Kherson collapses: reports
Ukraine’s public broadcaster reported that the already damaged Antonivskiy bridge collapsed.
The strategic bridge was the only road crossing 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 did withdraw from Kherson city or not.
Russian media reports suggested that the bridge was bombed after Russian troops retreated.
But a Russian-installed official in the Kherson region told the Interfax that the bridge hadn’t been blown up and was “in the same condition.”
UN and Russian officials discuss grain deal extension
UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said talks between Russian officials and UN chiefs were underway in Geneva in a bid to extend a deal on grain exports.
“It is hoped that the discussions will advance progress made in facilitating the unimpeded export of food and fertilizers originating from the Russian Federation to the global markets,” Vellucci said.
The UN is seeking to renew a Black Sea agreement on exporting grain from Ukraine set to expire on November 19.
Moscow has complained that another agreement that exempts Russian fertilizers from sanctions is “not being respected.” That deal runs for three years.
EU, partners agree €1 billion to improve Ukraine export routes
The European Union has pledged €1 billion ($1.04 billion) boost to efforts to export Ukraine’s grain harvest via alternative freight routes to the Black Sea ports.
The European Commission, European Investment Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank will invest the funds to improve and expand so-called “Solidarity Lanes.”
The investments will expand land and inland waterway transport between Ukraine and the neighboring countries of Poland, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia and Hungary.
They also allow Kyiv to bring in fuel or humanitarian aid to the country.
Before the war, Ukraine had mainly traded via its large Black Sea ports but they were blockaded by Moscow’s forces when the invasion began.
In July, a UN- and Turkish-brokered deal helped the flow of grain shipments to restart. However, the necessary security guarantees are not in place for other goods.
“Where Russia sowed destruction, Europe restored hope,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, announcing the additional funding on social media.
mm, fb/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)