Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday said the southern city of Kherson “belongs to us” after Russia announced its withdrawal.
“Our people. Ours. Kherson,” Zelenskyy wrote in Telegram. “Today is a historic day. We are taking Kherson.”
He said special units of the armed forces were inside Kherson and some Ukrainian soldiers were approaching from outside.
“The people of Kherson have waited. They did not stop in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy added later in a video address. “It will be the same in the towns that are still waiting for us to restore them.”
His announcement came as videos posted on social media showed crowds of excited locals lining the streets and greeting Ukrainian soldiers as they entered the city.
Ukrainian and European Union flags can also be seen flying over the monument in Kherson’s main square.
Earlier, Ukrainian intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov told The Associated Press that “the campaign to liberate Kherson” and the surrounding region of the same name is ongoing.
The withdrawal of Russian forces marks a major setback for Moscow, as the city of Kherson was the only Ukrainian regional capital to fall into Russian hands since the war began. The region is also a gateway to the Crimean peninsula, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.
“Ukraine is getting another important victory now and it shows that whatever Russia says or does, Ukraine will win,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
The White House called the recapture of the city a “significant event” in Ukraine.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said “It looks like the people of Ukraine have won an extraordinary victory where the regional capital that was held by Russia in this war is now back under the Ukrainian flag.”
Here are some of the main topics of the war in Ukraine on Friday, November 11:
Conflicting reports about Russia’s withdrawal
Before Ukrainian forces entered the city of Kherson, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that all its forces had withdrawn. It said 30,000 troops were transferred across the Dnipro River without losing a single soldier and “not a single piece of military equipment.”
But the Ukrainian intelligence service denied 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 forces to fully withdraw from Kherson.
Germany to send more air defense aid to Ukraine: Scholz
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says Berlin’s main priority in helping Ukraine is to support air strikes on cities and build infrastructure.
“Russia is bombing the energy infrastructure of Ukraine. Russia wants to ensure that the people of Ukraine cannot survive the cold winter,” he said in an interview with the RND newspaper.
“We are currently discussing with several German companies what they can do to combat this destruction.”
Scholz added that Germany’s air defense systems have so far played an important role, and Berlin will work with its allies to deploy more.
Earlier, the German chancellor agreed on the phone with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy that more air defense systems will be provided.
Scholz told the audience that he believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been planning to invade Ukraine for a long time.
“I’m sure Putin decided on this war two years ago,” he said. “We saw the formation of an army… We hoped it was a threatening gesture, 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 denied entry to 200 US citizens, including President Joe Biden’s siblings and a senator’s entourage.
The measure is a response to Washington’s sanctions over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the list of people includes officials, their close relatives, heads of companies and experts “involved in promoting the Russian campaign and supporting the Kyiv regime.”
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 more than 1,000 US citizens already barred from entering the country.
Russian strike kills 5 in Mykolaiv, governor says
The regional governor said five people were killed after a Russian strike on a residential building in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv.
“Strike on a five-story residential building. Destruction from the 5th to the 1st floor,” the governor of Mykolaiv region, Vitaliy Kim, wrote on social media.
Russian forces have repeatedly attacked the city for months. Zelenskyy said the latest strike was a “disappointing response to our earlier successes,” referring to Ukraine’s advances in the Kherson region.
Technical bridge near Kherson collapses: reports
A Ukrainian broadcaster reported that the already damaged Antonivskiy bridge had collapsed.
This bridge was the only route from Kherson to the Russian-controlled east bank of the Dnipro River.
The condition of the bridge, and the time of its reported fall, may help determine whether Russian forces have withdrawn from the city of Kherson or not.
Russian media reports suggested that the bridge was blown up after Russian forces withdrew.
But an official stationed in Russia in the Kherson region told Interfax that the bridge did not explode and was “in the same condition.”
UN and Russian officials are discussing extending the wheat agreement
UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said talks between Russian officials and UN chiefs are continuing in Geneva with a view to expanding the grain export agreement.
“It is hoped that the talks will further the progress made in facilitating the export of food and fertilizers from the Russian Federation to world markets,” said Vellucci.
The UN wants to renew the Black Sea agreement on grain exports from Ukraine that expires on November 19.
Moscow complained that another agreement exempting Russian fertilizers from sanctions was “not respected.” This agreement lasts for three years.
The EU, partners agree € 1 billion to improve the export channels of Ukraine
The European Union has pledged $1 billion ($1.04 billion) in efforts to export Ukraine’s wheat crop via alternative transport 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 in the improvement and expansion of the so-called “Solidarity Lanes.”
This investment will increase land and waterway transport between Ukraine and neighboring countries Poland, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia and Hungary.
They also allow Kyiv to bring fuel or humanitarian aid into the country.
Before the war, Ukraine traded mainly through its main Black Sea ports, but they were closed by Moscow’s forces when the invasion began.
In July, a UN- and Turkish-brokered deal helped the flow of grain exports to resume. However, the necessary safety guarantees are not available for some 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)