KHERSON, Ukraine: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday (Nov 13) accused Russian soldiers of committing war crimes and killing civilians in Kherson, parts of which were retaken by Ukraine’s army last week after Russia pulled out.
“Investigators have already documented more than 400 Russian war crimes. Bodies of dead civilians and servicemen have been found,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.
“The Russian army left behind the same savagery it did in other regions of the country it entered,” he said.
Reuters was unable immediately to verify his allegations. Russia denies its troops intentionally target civilians.
Utility companies in southern Kherson region were working to restore critical infrastructure damaged and mined by fleeing Russian forces, with most homes in the southern Ukrainian city still without electricity and water, regional officials said.
Ukrainian troops arrived in the centre of Kherson on Friday after Russia abandoned the only regional capital it had captured since Moscow launched its invasion in February.
The withdrawal marked the third major Russian retreat of the war and the first to involve yielding such a large occupied city in the face of a major Ukrainian counter-offensive that has retaken parts of the east and south.
On Sunday, artillery exchanges echoing over the city failed to discourage crowds of jubilant, flag-waving residents bundled up against the cold from gathering on Kherson’s main square. The crowds tried to catch mobile phone signals from Starlink ground stations carried on Ukrainian military vehicles.
“We are happy now, but all of us are afraid of the bombing from the left bank,” said Yana Smyrnova, 35, a singer, referring to Russian guns on the east side of the Dnipro River that runs close to the city.
Smyrnova said she and her friends had to get water from the river for bathing and flushing their toilets, and only a few residents were lucky enough to have generators that power pumps to get water from wells.
The governor of Kherson region, Yaroslav Yanushevych, said the authorities had decided to maintain a curfew from 5pm to 8am and ban people from leaving or entering the city as a security measure.
“The enemy mined all critical infrastructure,” Yanushevych told Ukrainian TV. “We are trying to meet within a few days and (then) open the city,” he said.
Local authorities said most of the city lacked electricity or water. Yuriy Sobolevskiy, first deputy chairman of Kherson regional council, told Ukrainian TV that even as the authorities were working to restore critical services, the humanitarian situation remained “very difficult”.
“OUR BOYS AND GIRLS”
Some of those celebrating at Kherson’s main square, however, said the difficulties paled compared with the joy of seeing Ukrainian troops entering the city.
“When we saw our army, all of the problems with water and electricity disappeared,” said Yana Shaposhnikova, 36, a clothing designer. “The explosions are not so scary. Our boys and girls (troops) are here. So it’s not so scary.”