Kherson: No water, electricity or internet – only euphoria in newly liberated Ukrainian city

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Kherson, Ukraine
CNN

For eight months, residents of the Ukrainian city of Kherson have been living under brutal Russian occupation. But on Friday, Ukrainian forces invaded the town and Russian troops retreat to the east.

Residents have no water, no internet connection and little electricity. But as a CNN crew rolled into town on Saturday, the mood was euphoric.

As the crew filmed live in the central square of Kherson, some sang the national anthem while others shouted “Slava Ukrayini!” – Glory to Ukraine, a patriotic salute.

“We feel free, we are not slaves, we are Ukrainians,” Olga told CNN.

When the Russian troops arrived at the start of the war, it was a city that was trying to resist: people were kidnapped, tortured, disappearedsay the locals.

“We were terrified of [the] In the Russian army, we were terrified of soldiers who can come into our house at any time, into our house – just open the door, as if they live here, and rob, kidnap, torture,” said Olga.

But now people are flocking to the central square of the newly liberated city, wrapped in Ukrainian flags, chanting and chanting “Freedom for Ukraine”.

“Everyone here is partying in the square here. People are carrying the Ukrainian flag, they’re hugging the soldiers, they’ve come out to see what it’s like to have freedom,” Robertson said. The CNN team appeared to be the first international reporters to reach downtown Kherson since it changed hands in the past 48 hours.

On Friday, Russia announced that it had withdrawn from the western bank of the Dnipro River in the strategic southern region of Kherson, leaving the regional capital of the same name and its surroundings to the Ukrainians.

The retirement is a blow to Putin’s war effort in Ukraine. Kherson was the only Ukrainian regional capital captured by Russian forces since the February invasion. Their eastward retreat across the Dnipro is ceding large swaths of land that Russia has occupied since the early days of the war and which Putin officially declared Russian territory just five weeks ago.

“It was a really tough time for everyone. Every Ukrainian family was waiting for our soldiers, our army,” a Kherson resident told CNN on Saturday, recalling the months-long Russian occupation.

The woman said it was “incredible” to see Ukrainian troops in Kherson.

“We have felt your support every day, thank you so much,” the woman added, before hugging Robertson.

On Friday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released a nighttime video of the celebrations in the city, where a crowd was waving flags and chanting “ZSU”, the Ukrainian acronym for armed forces.

Earlier in the day, the Ukrainian army’s Southern Operational Command said Russian forces had “urgently loaded boats that appear suitable to cross and attempt to escape” across the river.

On Friday, people gathered in Maidan Square to celebrate the liberation of Kherson in the capital Kyiv.

It was unclear whether all Russian troops had left Kherson and the wider region. Serhiy Khlan, a member of Ukraine’s Kherson regional council, said the city was “almost under the control of Ukrainian armed forces” but warned some Russian troops may have remained in civilian clothes.

He warned that many Russian soldiers “have thrown away their military uniforms and are now hiding in civilian clothes”.

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