KYIV, Ukraine – There was a celebratory “victory” feeling in Kyiv. A small but boisterous crowd, singing songs, waving flags and chanting slogans. It all follows the entry of Ukrainian troops into the key southern city of Kherson after more than eight months of Russian occupation.
The excited residents of Kherson wasted no time in coming out, waving flags and hugging their saviors…Ukrainian soldiers.
In a television address, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy called the moment “historic”.
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Earlier, Russian troops had been seen loitering over a makeshift pontoon bridge to reach the opposite bank of the river, still occupied by the Russians.
“No loss of military personnel has been allowed to occur,” a Russian military spokesman said.
Still, it is believed that some soldiers may have been left behind and are switching to “civvies” to try to blend in with the crowd.
Ukraine will make quick work of them, we were told in a Zoom call with the mayor of the neighboring city of Mykolaiv.
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“We are ready to move forward and clear our land of all occupants,” Oleksander Senkevych said.
The events in Kherson are not good news for Russian President Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. He’s been decidedly low-key for the past week.
However, as we saw, it was fantastic news for a country that was looking for some kind of rest after being battered by months of fighting.
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And feeling especially battered as winter approaches when Russian attacks hit the power grid here.
We asked a young woman at the impromptu rally in Kyiv how she was feeling. “Unbelievable,” she replied. “Kherson?” I asked. “Ukraine!” She answered.
I asked another gentleman why he was so happy, to which he replied: “Because Kherson is free!”
And then there was a lady who normally lives in Kherson and has been staying in Kyiv for five months to get away from the Russians. She told me that she didn’t think this turn of events would happen.
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“Feel the weather,” he said. In fact, it was seasonally hot that night. “Just like my house in Kherson,” she explained.
The thing is, many fear that this is probably just a brief respite from the cold winds of war, which continue to batter Ukraine.