Russia-Ukraine War: Zelensky Hails ‘Historic Day’ as Ukrainian Troops Enter Kherson (Published 2022) (2024)

Ukrainian forces sweep into Kherson as Russia says its retreat is complete.


Russia-Ukraine War: Zelensky Hails ‘Historic Day’ as Ukrainian Troops Enter Kherson (Published 2022) (1)

BLAHODATNE, Ukraine — Ukraine’s troops swept into the key southern city of Kherson on Friday, its military said, greeted by jubilant residents waving Ukrainian flags after a major Russian retreat.

The move puts Kyiv on the cusp of achieving one of its most significant victories of the war and deals a bitter blow to President Vladimir V. Putin, who just a month ago declared the Kherson region a part of Russia forever.

“Today is a historic day,” the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a message posted on the Telegram messaging app. “We are returning to Kherson. As of now, our defenders are on the approaches of the city. But special units are already in the city.”

Videos shared by Ukrainian government officials on social media showed scenes of civilians who had endured nearly nine months of occupation cheering the arrival of a contingent of Ukrainian troops.

Other videos showed cars driving in the city center beeping horns as people on the sidewalks shouted “Glory to Ukraine!” In one, Ukrainian soldiers drove slowly past a crowd as people reached out to touch the soldiers through the open windows.

Hours earlier, the Kremlin had issued a statement saying that the withdrawal of its forces across the Dnipro River was complete, though residents reported that there were still Russian soldiers in the city, some wearing civilian clothes.

The Ukrainian military later warned that Russia was preparing to strike the city from new positions across the river. A major bridge connecting the city of Kherson to the eastern bank was blown up in a massive explosion early Friday, residents said, severing the main transit route for Russian supplies coming in from Crimea and for Russians seeking to leave Kherson city.

The loss of Kherson would be Russia’s third major setback of the war, following retreats from Kyiv, the capital, last spring, and from the Kharkiv region in the northeast in September. Kherson was the only provincial capital Russia had captured since invading in February, and it was a major link in Russia’s effort to control the southern coastline along the Black Sea.

Recapturing control of Kherson would also bolster the Ukrainian government’s argument that it should press on militarily while it has Russian forces on the run, and not return to the bargaining table, as some American officials have advocated.

The relatively few residents who remain in Kherson have endured curfews, shortages of goods, partisan warfare and an intense campaign to force them to become Russian citizens and accept Moscow’s warped version of their culture and history.

The depth of their suffering has yet to come into focus. For months, residents interviewed by journalists have told stories of friends being abducted, children illegally deported, relatives tortured and killed. When Russians have pulled out elsewhere in Ukraine, evidence of human rights abuses has eventually surfaced.

The dramatic scenes in Kherson came less than 48 hours after Russia’s defense minister announced that Russian troops in the city would withdraw.

Even as its soldiers fled, the Kremlin said that it still considered Kherson — which President Putin illegally annexed in September — to be a part of Russia.

“This is a Russian region,” Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, told reporters on Friday. “It has been legally fixed and defined. There can be no changes here.”

As he spoke, Ukrainian soldiers continued to move through towns and villages in the region.

Oleh Voitsehovsky, the commander of a Ukrainian drone reconnaissance unit, said he had seen no Russian troops or equipment in his zone along the front less than four miles north of Kherson city.

“The Russians left all the villages,” he said. “We looked at dozens of villages with our drones and didn’t see a single car. We don’t see how they are leaving. They retreat quietly, at night.”

Serhiy, a retiree living in Kherson who asked that his last name not be published for security reasons, said in a series of text messages before Ukrainian soldiers swept in that conditions in the city had unraveled overnight.

“At night, a building burned in the very center, but it was not possible even to call the fire department,” he wrote. “There was no phone signal, no electricity, no heating and no water.”

“I am waiting for our army,” he said.

Anna Lukinova, Maria Varenikova and Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.

Andrew E. Kramer and Marc Santora

Jubilation greets Ukrainian soldiers sweeping into Kherson.


KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian soldiers arrived like heroes, greeted with kisses and songs. The citizens of the city of Kherson, having endured months of Russian occupation, hoisted Ukrainian and European Union flags across the city and danced and rejoiced.

On Friday, Ukrainian troops swept into Kherson, a provincial capital that had once been one of Russia’s biggest prizes of war.

But the joyous relief felt by so many people, who captured the moment on videos sent out to the world, did not erase the momentous problems that a brutal war has inflicted on them.

There was uncertainty about the future, worries about further Russian attacks, and concern about the lack of food, fuel and electricity. And there was dread that the full human cost of nine months of brutal Russian occupation would soon become clear.

But above all, in the southern city of Kherson, where Russian forces retreated on Friday, there was unbridled jubilation and a fragile sense of relief. It was a feeling echoed across the country.

“Kherson is Ukrainian!” shouted one man who was captured on video standing outside the Kherson regional government headquarters on Friday afternoon as Ukrainian soldiers cautiously made their way into the city. Everywhere Ukrainian soldiers were seen, residents said, they were mobbed by crowds wanting to touch them, kiss them, shake their hands.

In phone and text message interviews, residents said the emotional moment harked back to March 13, 1944 — the day the city was liberated from Nazi forces. But the sense of newfound freedom was also offset by uncertainty and fear.

A girl is playing Ukrainian anthem on a violin, greeting Ukrainian Warriors in Kherson region

Today's videos are heartbreaking.

— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) November 11, 2022

There was some unease. Residents and the Ukrainian military worried that Russian soldiers dressed in civilian clothes could be hiding in homes scattered around the city.

Still, people took to the streets on Friday. A video showed several climbing a ladder to reach a billboard showing a young girl holding a Russian flag, beside the words “Russia is here forever!”

They tore it apart.

To mark the Russian retreat, the Ukrainian postal service issued a new stamp featuring the prize product of the nation’s agricultural heartland: the watermelon.

“Kherson is Ukraine!” the words on the stamp proclaimed. All government agencies changed their official logos to include images of watermelons.

The sense of joy followed an intense period of suffering in the Kherson region, where Russian authorities had sought to Russify a defiant local population. Moscow introduced Russian currency, forced teachers to adopt a “Russian curriculum,” and brought in Russian businesses. It also imposed curfews and warned that those who breached them could be shot.

Moscow staged a referendum in early September, when some residents were forced to vote at gunpoint. Last month, President Vladimir V. Putin signed papers formalizing the illegal annexation of the territory.

Some residents on Friday said they were in a state of shock at what was happening around them. “It is still difficult to believe this,” said Yuriy Antoshchuk, a resident of Kherson who recently fled the city. “From the inside, I am bursting with pride for all the people of Kherson who have endured this,” he said. That was only matched by “immense, boundless gratitude to the Armed Forces, to whom I mentally bow.”

Like people all across the country, he found it difficult to concentrate on anything else and was glued to his cellphone for the latest updates flooding Telegram and other social media channels. “Today,” he said, “only sincere feelings of joy and gratitude.”

But, like others interviewed, he did not know what tomorrow — or even tonight — will bring.

In recent weeks, Kherson has been looted, the power cut off and internet connections severed. But on Friday people found a way to charge their cellphones to tape videos to document the moment, sharing the celebrations with journalists on social media channels and with government officials.

The depth of the suffering in Kherson has yet to come into focus. For months, residents have recounted stories of friends being abducted, children being illegally deported and relatives being tortured and killed.

The campaign to drive the Russians out of Kherson played out over months. But the end came swiftly. By afternoon, it started to become clear the Russians were gone.

As night fell, residents of Kherson lit a fire and sang an old Cossack folk song, “Red Kalyna,” which was banned under Russia’s occupation of Kherson and refers to a Ukrainian berry.

“In the meadow, there, a red kalyna has bent down low. For some reason, our glorious Ukraine has been worried so,” they sang. “And we’ll take that red kalyna and we will raise it up!”

Marc Santora,Anna Lukinova and Maria Varenikova



An explosion on a crucial bridge severed Kherson City’s last major crossing.


KYIV, Ukraine — The Antonivsky Bridge, the main crossing over the Dnipro River in the city of Kherson, was blown up before dawn on Friday after most Russian forces retreated and just before Ukraine’s forces entered the city.

Videos and photographs posted to social media showed the bridge to be heavily damaged. It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion. Rybar, an unofficial but influential pro-war Russian military blog, reported that retreating Russian forces had destroyed it at 5 a.m., posting footage that it said showed the strike that brought it down.

One Kherson resident, who asked to be identified by his first name Ivan for security reasons, said in a text message that he had heard an extremely powerful explosion just before dawn. It was unlike anything he had heard in months of fighting.

“It was very foggy in the morning and we couldn’t see much, but people from Antonivka say that the roofs of the houses were taken away by the explosion wave,” Ivan said, referring to the area around the bridge.

The apparent destruction of the bridge left any Russians remaining in the city with only an ad hoc network of ferries and pontoon bridges across the river.

The other major crossing is 50 miles to the north, at the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam. Significant new damage to the dam could be seen after Russia’s withdrawal from the city of Kherson, the U.S. satellite imagery company Maxar said. The roadway and rail line across the dam appeared to have been severed.

Several other crossing were also damaged, Maxar said, including a railroad bridge and a bridge at the town of Darivka.

Ukrainian troops were closing in on the dam from the north, but as of Friday afternoon it still appeared to be under the control of Russian forces.

Control of river crossings and the bridges that span them has proved a critical factor throughout the course of the war. Paramount among them has been the Antonivsky Bridge.


It had been the main transit route for Russian supplies coming in from Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, to Kherson, the only major city that Moscow managed to seize after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia launched his invasion in February.

When Ukraine began its southern counteroffensive in late August, it started by targeting the bridge as part of a broader effort to isolate Russian forces based west of the Dnipro River, which runs the length of Ukraine and bisects it into east and west.

As long-range Western weapons systems arrived en masse, Ukraine pounded Russian ammunition depots and command-and-control centers behind the front lines, weakening Russia’s hold on the region.

Throughout, it sought to keep the bridge under Ukrainian control, making it difficult and risky for the Russians to move large amounts of equipment or forces over the span. The Ukrainian military has been careful not to destroy it, apparently wanting to preserve it, in part, to pursue departing Russian forces.

Residents said that the destruction of the bridge gave a measure of confidence that Moscow’s troops would not soon be back. Russian troops could attack the city from across the river, locals said, but the occupation appeared to be at an end.

A few hours after the bridge was blown up, residents took to the streets, flags in hand, awaiting the arrival of the Ukrainian Army.

Marc Santora and Anna Lukinova

Satellite images show damage to a major dam north of Kherson city.


KYIV, Ukraine — Shelling and an explosion in recent days near a critical dam that spans the Dnipro River north of Kherson city in Ukraine have heightened concerns about the risk of possible flooding, although given the ongoing fighting in the area, it has been impossible to know the full extent of damage to the structure.

On Saturday, Kremlin-aligned Russian news outlets published a video purporting to show a large explosion in the area of the Kakhivska Hydroelectric power plant, which is a part of the dam complex. It was unclear when the blast took place, but local residents said they had heard a large explosion on Friday afternoon.

Rybar, an influential pro-war Russian military blog, posted a video that had been published by the Russian outlet and claimed that Russian forces had set off the explosion. Other Russian news outlets blamed the Ukrainians.

The road over the dam, in the town of Nova Kakhovka, was the last major crossing left to Russian forces in the area. It is also a vital piece of infrastructure that holds back a body of water the size of the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

For weeks, the Ukrainians and the Russians have each warned that the other side would try to damage the dam. Military analysts have said that it would not be in either side’s interest to destroy it, though, since doing so would have an impact on both armies, which are now on opposite banks of the Dnipro River.

Satellite images showed that the area around the dam had suffered damage from Thursday into Friday, when Russian forces retreated to the eastern side of the Dnipro, abandoning Kherson and the surrounding territory on the west bank.

An image taken by Maxar, the U.S. satellite imagery company, at 10:25 a.m. local time on Friday showed that three spans of the road and railroad at the northern end of the connecting bridge across the dam had been destroyed. Images from the previous day showed no damage.

It was not clear whether the dam could still be used for crossing the river or whether its structural integrity had suffered the kind of damage that could lead to widespread flooding. Nor could it be determined which side was responsible.

The Ukrainian military’s southern command said on Saturday that it was battling Russian forces on both sides of the dam.

Ukrainian strikes on small bridges over the dam’s spillway had already partly closed the route to vehicle traffic.

Even before the war, the dam’s importance was evident. Its reservoir is crucial to the operations of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, about 100 miles upriver, providing the water necessary for cooling functions.

As Russian positions grew more precarious recently, Moscow accused Ukraine of planning to destroy the dam — a claim that Ukraine and its Western allies dismissed as absurd.

Kyiv has said that it had no incentive to flood its own land and that the Russian accusations, made without evidence, were a sign that Moscow was preparing a “false flag” operation to blow up the dam itself, potentially flooding 80 towns, villages and cities, including Kherson.

“Russia is consciously laying the groundwork for a large-scale disaster in Ukraine’s south,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said during an address to the European Council last month.

Marc Santora and Christiaan Triebert



In battered Mykolaiv, a Russian strike kills 7.


MYKOLAIV, Ukraine —

Even as Russian troops fled the strategic city of Kherson and Ukrainian forces moved in, the Russians were still heaping misery on Mykolaiv, a Black Sea port city in Ukrainian-held territory only about 50 miles away.

On Friday, when Ukrainians were celebrating victory in Kherson, seven Ukrainians died from a Russian missile strike in Mykolaiv.

Though the Russians have never taken control of Mykolaiv, it has been relentlessly bombed by Russian forces since the first days of the conflict.

Friday’s attack fit the same pattern as countless others. In the middle of the night, a barrage of Russian missiles tore across the night sky, heading straight toward a Ukrainian city as its people were sleeping.

Nataliia Akimina, who was working a guard shift outside a large garage near Mykolaiv’s train station on Friday, said she saw the missiles streak right above her head around 3 a.m.

“I heard the shriek and all the dogs started barking. Actually, the dogs started barking right before I heard it,” she said.

One of the missiles slammed into a five-story residential apartment block on Prospekt Myru, or, in English, Peace Avenue. No known military targets were nearby.

Since the war began in February, Mykolaiv has been bombed all but 44 days, officials said. More than 150 people have been killed, and hundreds more wounded.

The dead on Friday included an electrician and his wife, whose birthday was today; several older residents who had refused to leave Mykolaiv; and one retired military man known as Uncle Hena.

Oleksandr Sviezhentsev, a crane operator who owns the apartment next door, used to talk to Uncle Hena all the time.

“We used to sit right there, on that bench,” he said as he stabbed his finger toward a green wooden bench, now surrounded by broken tables and ripped apart walls. “He was good.”

As rescue workers combed through the rubble from the missile strike, thousands of people lined up at different places throughout the city, waiting for water. Home to half a million people before the war and now maybe half that, Mykolaiv has no drinkable tap water because the Russian army blew up all freshwater pipes supplying the city in April. That has left the people here dependent on handouts.

In one shopping center parking lot, a huge crowd gathered after two truckloads of bottled water arrived. The crowd was dressed in heavy coats. Their puffs of breath were visible in the thin wintry air. They trudged forward as one.

“Don’t panic!” a soldier yelled from a megaphone, standing by the trucks. “There is enough for everyone. But don’t circle back in the line to take more.”

Viktoriia Bas waited with two children.

“It’s all misery. The schools are closed and learning is online, but we have no internet at home. My husband works at a carwash but business is bad, so each day he brings home only 200 hryvnias,” she said, about five dollars.

Oleksandra Mykolyshyn contributed reporting.

Jeffrey Gettleman

Russia’s news media, all state-controlled, offers only muted coverage of the retreat from Kherson.


In Russia, coverage has been rather subdued of the withdrawal of the country’s troops from the regional capital of Kherson and its surroundings, the latest in a string of setbacks suffered by the Russian military since it invaded Ukraine nearly nine months ago.

On a flagship news talk show on state television, “60 Minutes,” the midday newscast did not even lead with the withdrawal. The first headline was about some “exclusive footage” of Russian marines capturing a village called Pavlovka in the Donetsk region.

Then came a fairly straightforward report about the withdrawal of Russian troops across the Dnipro River, ceding the regional capital of Kherson to Ukraine.

Kherson was barely mentioned during an ensuing discussion either, but at one point well into the program, Olga Skabeeva, the anchor, said that the pullout was “the most concerning piece of news for us, and we hope we will be able to rectify this forced step in the future.”

The state-run news media — there is no other kind inside Russia — has been portraying the loss of Kherson as a temporary setback, calling it a “regrouping” or the “Kherson maneuver” rather than a retreat.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense issued a statement announcing the withdrawal of 30,000 soldiers and 5,000 pieces of equipment in what it described as an orderly manner. Various military bloggers limited their coverage to that statement, embroidered with a few disparaging asides about the Ukrainians.

Correspondents covering the story tried to put a heroic spin on the day. A post in a channel of the Telegram messaging app featuring the work of war correspondents from the official RIA Novosti news agency described the last column of paratroopers pulling out of town over the Antonivsky Bridge, the main route in and out of Kherson, before blowing it up.

“American missiles plowed the ground,” the post said. The car door of the correspondents got dented, but otherwise everyone emerged alive.

“Now you have to fight on the left bank,” the post said, referring to the area east of the Dnipro, where Russian forces have retrenched. “Nothing is finished, nothing is lost.”

In the initial burst of coverage after the Russian military announced the planned withdrawal on Wednesday, state news outlets began drawing comparisons to battles over the last several hundred years when the Russian Army was forced to retreat, only to triumph at a later date.

One of the comparisons rolled out on Friday was to the withdrawal of the White Army from Crimea on Nov. 11, 1920. In the latest twist of history, Russian troops seized the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

For some, however, the decision to pull back still rankled. In an interview, Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin analyst, ticked off negative consequences of what he called Russia’s “defeat” in Kherson: a more motivated Ukrainian Army along with reassurance for its Western backers; a drop in Russian military morale; a decline of public support for Russia in the areas it still occupies because people there might fear that Russia would abandon them, too; and even, potentially, a hit to Mr. Putin’s popularity at home.

Alina Lobzina and Anton Troianovski contributed reporting.

Neil MacFarquhar



Joy over the Russian pullout spreads in Ukrainian communities at home and abroad.




MYKOLAIV, Ukraine — The recapture of Kherson has jolted Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora with a wave of excitement, pride and pure joy unlike anything else since the war began.

Ukrainian troops on Friday retook the strategically vital Black Sea port, which was the first major city to fall to Russian control less than a week after the invasion. Their arrival in the southern Ukrainian city reverberated in Ukrainian communities across the world.

In Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, crowds flooded into the streets. In Kherson, they danced around a glowing bonfire. In Lviv and other Ukrainian cities, people popped open bottles of Champagne.

In Poland, Germany, even Georgia — places where Ukrainians driven from war have started lives in exile — friends gathered, hugged, sang national songs and poured generous drinks.

Many Ukrainians said that in nine months of war, they hadn’t felt anything like this.

“Today is a miracle,” said Olena Yuresko, a bartender in Mykolaiv. “I’ve been checking the news all day on my phone, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling — and crying.”

Jeffrey Gettleman

Outside Kherson, abandoned clothes, food and ammunition are signs of a hasty Russian withdrawal.

BLAHODATNE, Ukraine — In the villages west of Kherson, there were signs of a hasty Russian retreat and faltering efforts to slow the Ukrainian advance on Friday.

Ukrainian soldiers explored one abandoned Russian base, in a warehouse in the village of Blahodatne, poking through heaps of clothes, books and canned goods.

Russian military uniforms were crumpled in a heap on the floor of a sleeping area. The beds had been left rumpled. Clothes dried on a clothesline.

Nearby, a warehouse was packed with green wooden boxes of hundreds of rounds of abandoned Russian mortar ammunition. Some shells had been laid out on the warehouse floor, the detonators already screwed into the explosives, prepared to be fired quickly.

“They left in a hurry,” said Serhiy, a private who asked that only his first name be made public, according to Ukrainian military protocol. “They were preparing to shoot us with this ammunition, but they didn’t have time.”

Dmytro, another private, said, “They left without a fight.”

Through the day on Friday, Ukrainian military vehicles rolled past the village, moving eastward under a low, overcast sky along the main M14 highway, leading toward Kherson.

Remnants of the long battle for the city were seen on the road into villages reclaimed by Ukraine on Wednesday.

Along the highway, birch trees had been felled by artillery, telephone cables slumped onto the road and the metal guardrails were twisted and perforated with shrapnel. .

Occasional distant thuds from artillery were heard, possibly fired from Russian positions on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River. But Ukrainian media officers said that fighting was still raging a few miles from the city of Kherson. It was not immediately possible to independently verify the claim.


To the west, in Blahodatne, a small cluster of brick houses surrounded by fields on the open steppe, residents said that the Russians had withdrawn quietly overnight Wednesday to Thursday.

“There was no fighting, they left peacefully,” Yevgenia Khaidayeva, 82, said of the Russian pullback from what had been a defensive line to the northwest of Kherson city, passing just outside Blahodatne.

On Friday, a man who residents said was a local schoolteacher drove a motorcycle festooned with two Ukrainian flags, which fluttered as he sped about the village roads, honking and cheering “Glory to Ukraine!”

Not everyone was in a buoyant mood. Vadim Slabodyanyuk, a school security guard, stood leaning on a bicycle and blankly watching the Ukrainian soldiers pass by in trucks.

His mother and his father had been killed in artillery shelling from the Ukrainian Army during fighting over the spring and summer, he said. “And I buried them both under shelling” in the local cemetery, he added. He said it was difficult to accept that his own country’s forces had fired into his village.

Locals described a sense of slumping morale in the Russians stationed in their village, going back months.

Maria Akimona, 73, a retired milkmaid, recalled that over the summer, a Russian soldier had told her that he had a 1-year-old son and that he had said, “I won’t see him taking his first steps.”

She added, “I asked him what he was doing here, and he said he didn’t understand.”

Andrew E. Kramer



South Korea’s sale of ammunition to the U.S. has a condition: Only the U.S. can use it, not Ukraine.


South Korea says it will sell thousands of artillery shells to the United States, but on the condition that the matériel be used by American forces, not sent to help Ukraine in the war against Russia.

Amid a global scramble for new sources of arms to send to Ukraine, South Korea, among other countries, has been reluctant to send lethal aid to Ukraine for fear of getting drawn into the conflict.

A U.S. official confirmed negotiations between Washington and Seoul for a South Korean defense contractor to sell the cannon-sized ammunition to the Pentagon. The United States has been a major supplier of the weapons that Ukraine desperately needs as the nine-month war grinds on.

The deal was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal, which said the artillery shells were destined for Ukraine. But South Korea’s defense ministry said in a statement on Friday that the sale was to help replenish American artillery stockpiles. It said the negotiations were being conducted “on the condition that the United States will be the final user of the shells.”

“There is no change in our government’s stance: We will not supply lethal weapons to Ukraine,” the statement said.

It is possible that the South Korean ammunition would be used to backfill American-manufactured rounds that, in turn, are sent to Ukraine. Such behind-the scenes weapons transfers have become increasingly common as U.S. officials and NATO allies try to give cover to states that want to appear neutral during a time of war.

But several American officials reached on Friday either were unclear of the terms of the deal or declined to comment.

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed the negotiations between South Korea and the United States in a statement but pointedly did not mention Ukraine.

The spokesman, Lt. Col. Martin Meiners, noted “discussions about potential sales of ammunition to the United States by the South Korean nongovernment industrial defense base.”

He said that all weapons deals between the United States and South Korea were carefully monitored to ensure that they did not create vulnerabilities for forces on the Korean Peninsula that are on guard against threats from North Korea.

Any deals “will not detract from our defensive posture or readiness to respond against regional threats,” Colonel Meiners said.

Choe Sang-Hun,Eric Schmitt and Lara Jakes

Why is control of Kherson so important?


The retreat of Russian forces from the key city of Kherson is a watershed moment in Ukraine’s campaign to reclaim territory in the south of the country that Moscow captured near the start of its invasion.

A vital Black Sea port and a gateway to Crimea, Kherson is important strategically. Moscow’s forced withdrawal has added resonance because Kherson was the first major city to fall to Russian forces after the start of the invasion on Feb. 24.

Here is why the pullback from the city could prove to be a significant event in a grinding war that is now in its ninth month.


The decision to withdraw is a major blow to the Kremlin.

When Russian forces stormed across the Antonivsky Bridge over the Dnipro River and into Kherson City in March, it marked their biggest success in the early days of the war. Eight months later, the city, a former shipbuilding center, was the only provincial capital that they had seized.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had hoped to use the wider Kherson region as a bridgehead for a drive farther west, to the port city of Odesa, but that failed. Still, in September, he announced that Russia had annexed all of the Kherson region and three other occupied Ukrainian territories in a move that was widely denounced as illegal.

The loss of Kherson City represents a symbolic and practical blow for the Kremlin and for the ambition to conquer all of southern Ukraine — a fact underscored by Moscow’s insistence on Friday that, even as its soldiers fled, the city was still a part of Russia.


The Ukrainian military had gradually moved to isolate Russian forces in Kherson.

Kherson had become vulnerable because it was the only land that Moscow controlled west of the Dnipro River, which bisects Ukraine. In late summer, armed with longer-range Western weapons, Ukraine began a coordinated campaign to isolate Russian forces west of the river, bombarding the bridges that Moscow used to resupply its forces in the city. At the same time, Ukrainian armored and infantry divisions began a grueling advance toward the city from the north, west and south.

But the region’s wide-open fields, crisscrossed by irrigation canals that make for excellent defensive positions, had slowed the Ukrainian approach. The arrival of fall had also turned much of the ground to mud. Analysts say that Russia had dispatched some of its most seasoned fighters to the region and stockpiled ammunition and other supplies.


Conditions have been growing more dire for civilians.

Before Russia’s invasion, Kherson’s population stood at more than 250,000. Ukrainian activists estimate that 30,000 to 60,000 people remain in the city, but it is difficult to know the real number.

Last month, the occupation authorities announced that they would relocate tens of thousands of civilians from the west side of the river to territory held more firmly by Russia. Ukrainian officials and residents said that was a pretext for forced deportations.

For those who remained, life has been growing increasingly bleak, with electricity and water supply sporadic.

Although the Kremlin had suggested that the Ukrainian people would welcome their “liberation” by Russian troops, the people of Kherson protested their arrival openly and defiantly in the early days of the war. When that became too dangerous, those efforts moved underground, but yellow ribbons — the mark of the nonviolent resistance — appeared throughout the city.

On Friday, with the Russians cleared from the streets, residents raced to the city center to unfurl their national flag outside government buildings and to await the arrival of Ukrainian troops.

A correction was made on

Nov. 7, 2022


An earlier version of this article misstated who said there was no evidence of a withdrawal of Russian forces from Kherson. It was Ukraine’s military, not Kherson residents.

How we handle corrections

Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Marc Santora



The U.S. unveils another $400 million in military aid for Ukraine.


The White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, announced another $400 million in military aid for Ukraine on Thursday, including desperately needed air defense systems, in a move underscoring Washington’s commitment to Ukraine after this week’s U.S. midterm elections.

The Pentagon said that the package, the 25th drawdown of matériel from Defense Department stockpiles since August 2021, would include Avenger air defense vehicles that fire Stinger missiles and more missiles for HAWK air defense systems already being provided by Spain.

“With Russia’s unrelenting and brutal air attacks on Ukrainian critical infrastructure, additional air defense capabilities are critical,” the Pentagon said in a statement, noting that the latest package brings to $19.3 billion the amount of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration.

It also includes more ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, a five-ton truck that can fire long-range guided rockets.

Out of the billions of dollars in weapons the White House has shipped to Ukraine since the Russian invasion, perhaps none have attracted as much attention as the HIMARS, an advanced rocket launcher that Ukrainian troops have used to devastating effect, hitting targets far behind the lines like ammunition depots and bridges.

Last week, the Pentagon announced that the Defense Department was also setting up a new group to oversee how the United States and its allies train and equip the Ukrainian military.

This new command, called the Security Assistance Group-Ukraine, or SAG-U, will be based in Germany and report to U.S. European Command, which oversees all military operations on the continent and reports directly to the secretary of defense. With a staff of about 300, it will be focused on one mission: to help train and equip Ukraine’s military.

The package will also provide 21,000 more unguided howitzer shells, 500 precision-guided shells and 10,000 mortar rounds for Ukrainian artillery crews. Additionally, the Pentagon will send 100 more Humvee trucks, 400 grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of ammunition for Ukrainian assault rifles and machine guns, and cold-weather gear to help Ukrainian soldiers fight through the coming winter.

The Pentagon also said on Thursday that senior military officials from more than 40 countries would meet virtually next week to discuss how their governments can continue to provide arms, ammunition and equipment to Ukraine.

The meeting will be held under the auspices of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which the U.S. Defense Department created after Russia invaded the country in late February.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

Dan Bilefsky and John Ismay

The death of a high-ranking occupation official in Kherson coincides with Russia’s pullback order.


A high-ranking Russian-appointed official in Ukraine’s Kherson region, where Russian troops have been ordered to withdraw from the capital, has died after being involved in a car crash, local health officials said on Thursday.

The official, Kirill Stremousov, a deputy head of the occupation government in the Kherson region, had been outspoken about Russia’s deteriorating military positions on the western bank of the Dnipro River.

His death was first reported in Russian state news media on Wednesday, shortly after Moscow’s defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, ordered Russian troops to retreat from the city of Kherson on the west bank of the Dnipro and take up positions on the river’s east side.

Ukrainian officials have said the announcement could be a trap meant to lure their advancing forces into the city. Its recapturing would be a major victory for Kyiv.

Mr. Stremousov had predicted the Russian pullback in public comments in recent weeks. But on Wednesday, he posted a video on Telegram saying that the Russian Army had defended against a Ukrainian attack and that “the situation is under full control.”

The Russian state news agencies Tass and RIA Novosti reported later that day that Mr. Stremousov had been killed in an accident.

On Thursday, the Kherson health ministry said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app that he had been killed in a collision involving three cars and that two other people had been injured.

James C. McKinley Jr.



Ukraine peace talks remain distant even as Russia orders a retreat.


WASHINGTON — American and European officials say that serious peace talks between Ukraine and Russia are unlikely in the near future, even as the Biden administration tries to fend off growing questions from some members of Congress about the U.S. government’s open-ended investment in the war.

Russian and Ukrainian officials have made separate public comments in recent days about potential peace negotiations, more than six months after their last known direct talks fell apart. But U.S. officials say that they do not believe talks will begin soon and that both sides think continued fighting, for now, will strengthen their eventual negotiating positions.

They also concede that it is difficult to envision terms of a settlement that Ukraine and Russia would accept.

Ukrainian officials are optimistic about their military prospects after making unexpectedly large gains this fall. Their morale soared again on Wednesday, when Russia ordered its forces to retreat from the southern city of Kherson.

Perhaps more important, American and European officials say, Ukraine’s population has been hardened by Russia’s devastating military campaign, which has destroyed civilian areas and resulted in massacres, rape and looting. Even if Ukrainian leaders were prepared to make concessions to bring the fighting to an end, their people are not disposed to accept that, the officials say.

American officials say Russia’s recent attacks on critical infrastructure have made negotiations less likely by eroding any public support for compromise.

Michael Crowley,Edward Wong and Julian E. Barnes

Russia-Ukraine War: Zelensky Hails ‘Historic Day’ as Ukrainian Troops Enter Kherson (Published 2022) (2024)
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