Ukraine live briefing: Zelensky hails ‘historic day’ as Ukrainian troops take city of Kherson

Ukrainians gather in central Kyiv to celebrate the recapturing of Kherson city on Friday. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

Ukrainian troops entered the southern city of Kherson on Friday and began to retake control of the regional capital after months of fighting.

“Today is a historic day,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address. “The people of Kherson were waiting. They never gave up on Ukraine.”

Ukrainian-reclaimed territory through counteroffensives

Russian-held areas

Voronezh

BELARUS

RUSSIA

Four illegally

annexed

regions where

Putin declared

martial law

Chernihiv

Belgorod

Sumy

Valuyki

Kyiv

Kharkiv

Svatove

LUHANSK

Cherkasy

Slovyansk

Luhansk

Dnipro

Donetsk

Area from which

Russian troops

have withdrawn

DONETSK

Zaporizhzhia

Area held

by Russian-

backed

separatists

since 2014

Kherson

ZAPORIZHZHIA

Mariupol

Melitopol

Mykolaiv

MOL.

KHERSON

Odessa

RUSSIA

Kerch

CRIMEA

Krasnodar

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

100 MILES

ROM.

Novorossiysk

Sevastopol

Black Sea

Control areas as of Nov. 8

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project

Ukrainian-reclaimed territory

through counteroffensives

Russian-held

areas

BELARUS

Voronezh

Four illegally

annexed

regions where

Putin declared

martial law

RUSSIA

Chernihiv

Belgorod

Sumy

Kyiv

Kharkiv

Poltava

Cherkasy

LUHANSK

Kramatorsk

Dnipro

Area from which

Russian troops

have withdrawn

DONETSK

Zaporizhzhia

ZAPORIZ.

Mykolaiv

Melitopol

KHERSON

Area held by

Russian-backed

separatists

since 2014

Kherson

Crimea

Odessa

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Sevastopol

100 MILES

Control areas as of Nov. 9

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project

Ukraine-reclaimed territory

through counteroffensives

Russian-held

areas

Four illegally

annexed

regions where

Putin declared

martial law

BEL.

Chernihiv

Belgorod

Sumy

Kyiv

Kharkiv

LUHANSK

UKRAINE

Dnipro

Area from which

Russian troops

have withdrawn

DONETSK

Zaporizhzhia

ZAPORIZ.

Area held by

Russian-backed

separatists

since 2014

Mykolaiv

KHERSON

Kherson

Crimea

Odessa

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

100 MILES

Sevastopol

Black Sea

Control areas as of Nov. 9

Sources: Institute for the Study of War

A crowd of chanting revelers, some draped in Ukrainian flags, gathered Friday in Kherson’s central square to celebrate, according to videos shared widely on social media, verified by The Washington Post. The celebrations continued into the night in the center of Kherson.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

What to know about Russia's withdrawal from the city of Kherson

1. Key developments

  • Although “the city is not yet completely cleansed of the enemy’s presence, the people of Kherson themselves are already removing Russian symbols and any traces of the occupiers’ stay in Kherson from the streets and buildings,” Zelensky said, calling on any lingering Russian forces to surrender.
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday that the last Russian soldiers had safely left. But it was not possible to verify Moscow’s claims of an orderly pullback with no fighters or weapons left behind, and there were some reports of Russian troops struggling to escape to the east bank of the Dnieper under heavy Ukrainian bombardment.
  • Ukrainian officials have accused departing Russian forces of destroying infrastructure and looting museums on their way out. Videos and photographs posted Nov. 11 and verified by The Post showed that sections of the strategic Antonovsky Bridge had collapsed. The bridge, which connects Kherson city with Russian-held territory in the south, had previously been targeted by rocket attacks. But satellite imagery captured by Planet Labs on Thursday afternoon showed that it was not missing major sections, indicating new structural damage had occurred in the last day.
  • World leaders expressed support for Ukraine’s efforts to recapture Kherson, including French President Emmanuel Macron and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. In a tweet on Friday, Cleverly said the recapture of the city showed “the strength, resilience and courage of the Ukrainian people.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, warned Nov. 10 that Russian troops planned to lay mines as they leave Kherson. (Video: Reuters)

2. Battleground updates

  • Zelensky described a monumental task ahead in the city of Kherson. “The occupiers left a lot of mines and explosives, in particular on vital objects,” he said. “We will restore all conditions of normal life — as much as possible.”
  • Russian forces will need at least one week to withdraw troops from the city of Kherson, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told Reuters. He added that there were 40,000 Russian troops still in the region.
  • At least six people have been killed in a Russian attack on a residential building in the southern Mykolaiv region, a regional official said early Friday, while three others were injured. President Volodymyr Zelensky described the attack as a “cynical response to our successes at the front.”
  • Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities in recent weeks have “disproportionately” affected civilians, Britain said Friday. The waves of attacks, which began Oct. 10, are “impacting critical functions such as health care and heating,” the country’s Defense Ministry said, with blackouts becoming routine in parts of Ukraine including the capital, Kyiv. The choice to target energy infrastructure, and the likely impact on civilians as winter approaches, appears to be aimed at undermining “civilian morale,” the update added.
  • Ukrainian forces continued to advance in the Mykolaiv region in Ukraine’s south. The area is largely under Ukrainian control, regional military administrator Vitaliy Kim said in a statement Friday.

3. Global impact

  • In an address at the COP27 U.N. climate summit in Egypt, President Biden echoed other world leaders in decrying Russia’s “brutal attack” on Ukraine, which he said “only enhances the urgency of the need to transition the world off its dependence on fossil fuels.”
  • South Korea’s Defense Ministry denied reports Friday that it planned to sell artillery shells to the United States, which would then provide the ammunition to Ukraine. The ministry said in a statement that the government’s position of not providing lethal aid to Ukraine is unchanged and that negotiations included a potential sale of 155mm howitzer shells “to make up for the shortage of 155mm ammunition inventories” in the United States.
  • Banksy, the elusive artist known for his graffiti art in public places, posted photos of artwork from Borodyanka, a town northwest of Kyiv, on Instagram Friday. The Instagram post, which appears to be Banksy’s first since December 2021, shows graffiti art on a demolished building.
  • Germany has allocated 1 billion euros from its 2023 budget to provide Ukraine with funding to defend against Russian cyberattacks, Reuters reported Friday. The money will also be used to collect evidence of Russian war crimes, according to a document cited by Reuters.

4. From our correspondents

Ukrainian security officers hunt the enemy within: ‘agents’ for Russia. Washington Post journalists recently received rare access to the counterintelligence department of Ukraine’s State Security Service — witnessing how officers track down moles and saboteurs who have helped Russia in its invasion.

One officer told The Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan and Kamila Hrabchuk: “You cannot suspect everyone … But over time, a certain professional deformation occurs when you start to suspect everyone.”

Allyson Chiu and Rebecca Tan contributed to this report.

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