(Update 1: Adds detail)
Lviv, Ukraine, Nov 14 (EFE).- Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday visited the recently liberated city of Kherson, which was the only regional capital Russia had managed to gain control over since invading the eastern European nation nine months ago.
His surprise trip to the major city in southern Ukraine came just days after Russia’s military announced its retreat to the left bank of the Dnieper river, which runs through the Kherson region and into the Black Sea.
“This is a great pleasure for my heart and soul. I want to thank you for who you are and for returning Ukraine to the Kherson region. We are returning our Armed Forces, our state, our flag,” he said, according to a presidential office press release.
He said Russia’s withdrawal from the city and its surroundings had revealed a number of destroyed and damaged buildings.
“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, and intelligence have shown that it is impossible to kill Ukraine,” he added.
He also warned local citizens to remain cautious, adding that Russia had mined the area.
“Right now, the relevant services are still working, demining is being carried out, so you need to be careful. Since there are already several cases of injury and death of people,” he added.
Zelenskyy told reporters that Ukraine was on a “long and complicated” path towards overcoming Russia’s occupying forces, adding that Ukraine was ready for peace but only in a deal that recognizes its full territorial integrity.
Accompanied by several senior officials and members of the armed forces, Zelenskyy observed a minute of silence and hoisted the Ukrainian national flag in Kherson’s city center.
Zelenskyy’s visit to Kherson coincided with the first United Nations aid delivery to the city since it was captured by Russia forces in early March.
On the eve of his visit, the Ukrainian leader said authorities had documented 400 cases of war crimes committed by Russian forces in the Kherson region.
“The Russian army left behind the same atrocities as in other regions of our country, where it was able to enter,” he said.
“We will find and bring to justice every murderer. Without a doubt.”
Kherson was among four Ukrainian regions including neighboring Zaporizhizhia, and the eastern Donbas oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk, that were unilaterally annexed by Russian president Vladimir Putin in late September.
At the time, Putin proclaimed that Kherson would remain Russian “forever.”
The head of Russia’s military in Ukraine, Sergey Surovikin, announced a military retreat to the left bank of the Dnieper river last week, claiming that Moscow’s forces would shore up their defensive lines.
Kyiv has warned that Russian soldiers could still attempt to attack the regional capital of Kherson from across the river and has called on the population not to return to the area until it is completely safe.EFE