President Zelenskyy makes historic visit to newly liberated Kherson
Zelenskyy took pictures with soldiers near the famous arch with columns at the entrance to Kherson (Photo:Office of the President of Ukraine)
Just two months after his historic visit to the newly liberated town of Izyum in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelesnkyy again ventured into territory freshly recaptured from Russian invasion forces, this time arriving in the southern city of Kharkiv on Nov. 14.
On Sept. 14, when Zelenskyy visited the liberated Izyum after a successful counter-offensive by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the world media highlighted the contrast between the increasingly deep isolation of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and photos of the Ukrainian president less than 15 kilometers from the front line.
Two months later, Ukrainian leader repeated this step in Kherson, but the contrast was even more pronounced – Kherson is separated from Russian forces only by the Dnipro River, the width of which in Kherson Oblast ranges from 500 meters to one kilometer.
Zelenskyy’s visit to Kherson took place on a day when Putin’s isolation and Russia’s crimes are being discussed by the whole world: the dictator has opted out of going to the G20 summit in Bali, at which the most influential world leaders will gather from Nov. 15.
According to the New York Times, Zelenskyy in Kherson celebrated “perhaps the most significant success by his country’s forces since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February.” The newspaper called the president’s visit “a tangible sign of Ukraine’s soaring morale and its growing boldness in the nearly nine-month war,” despite the fact that “Russian forces remained nearby, across the Dnipro River, within striking distance.”
Zelenskyy was surrounded by dozens of soldiers and police officers carrying rifles, underscoring the “daring nature of the visit,” the NYT said.
Today, liberated Kherson, in the presence of Zelenskyi, solemnly raised the Ukrainian flag next to Kherson Regional State Administration, which was until recently controlled by the Russians. The ceremony was held to the sounds of the national anthem and attended by the soldiers who liberated Kherson Oblast, as well as the officials of the President’s Office, the government and the command of the Armed Forces.
All those present honored the memory of those who died for the liberation of Kherson Oblast during a minute of silence.
Zelenskyy also spent some time in the central square of Kherson before the ceremony. He responded to the greetings of hundreds of people and the shouts of “Glory to Ukraine!” that came even from the balconies of the buildings across the street. The president talked to the residents of Kherson, who for more than eight months showed incredible resilience and retained faith that Ukraine would regain control of the city.
Foreign media noted in particular that among the people on the square there were many parents with children and people wrapped in Ukrainian flags.
“This is what liberation looks like. This is what courage looks like,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in comments on the president’s visit.
In total, Zelenskyy spent about half an hour on the square, according to UK newspaper the Guardian. In a short briefing for the media, he thanked NATO and the countries of the world for their support of Ukraine, recalling that the HIMARS rocket artillery system played a major role in the liberation of southern Ukraine.
In addition, the president called on foreign journalists to tell the whole world about how the people of Kherson lived under occupation and about the crimes the Russian army committed here.
When asked by reporters about where Ukrainian forces might advance next, Zelenskyy answered: “Not Moscow... We’re not interested in the territories of another country.”
Asked why he had decided to visit Kherson, Zelenskyy said: “It is important to be here. Everyone takes risks – the military takes risks every day, journalists take risks. It seems to me that we should speak here and support the Kherson people, support the people so that they feel: we not only promise, we actually do return our flag. And it's also important, it's also motivating in a human way, I really want to get such emotion, energy from the people.”
Speaking in English with foreign reporters, Zelenskyy expressed his hope that the liberation of Kherson is “the beginning of the end of the war – the war which took away the best heroes of our country.”
The Ukrainian leader also noted that Russian troops left behind a large number of destroyed houses and other structures, damaged communications, and shot up cars in Kherson Oblast.
“This is what the Russian Federation did in our country, it showed the whole world that it can kill. But all of us, our Armed Forces, our National Guard, our intelligence have shown that it is impossible to kill Ukraine,” the head of state said.
Zelenskyy also took pictures with soldiers near the famous arch with columns at the entrance to Kherson and presented medals to Ukrainian soldiers.
However, Zelenskyy warned the residents of the liberated territories that strict safety measures have to be observed in populated areas of the region, as the Russians had mined many objects.
“Right now, the relevant services are still working, demining is underway, (but) you need to be careful,” the president urged, noting that “there are already several cases of injuries and deaths.”
Zelenskyy also emphasized that work on restoring electricity supplies and communication lines is ongoing in Kherson. As of now, all of the lines that supplied power to the area are down.
In his evening address on the eve of his visit to Kherson, the president said that Ukrainian investigators have already documented more than 400 Russian war crimes in Kherson Oblast.
“The bodies of the victims — both civilians and military — are being found. The Russian army left behind the same atrocities in Kherson Oblast as in other regions of our country, which it was able to enter. Without a doubt, we will find and bring to justice every murderer,” the head of state said.
In the meantime, the Kremlin refused to comment on Zelenskyy’s visit to Kherson. “We leave it without comment,” said the spokesman for the Russian dictator, Dmitry Peskov, in response to a request from journalists.
At the same time, he told journalists that Kherson remains “the territory of the Russian Federation.”
The Kremlin arranged sham referendums in September and then claimed to have annexed four oblasts of Ukraine.
Only a handful of rogue and pariah states recognized the Kremlin’s claims.
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