Despite the destruction left behind by Russian forces who fled the Ukrainian city of Kherson and a pocket on the west bank of the Dnieper River, residents there said that they have not lost hope.
Residents said departing Russian troops plundered the city, carting away loot as they withdrew, while media reported that retreating forces had blown up part of a television broadcasting centre and damaged heating and power infrastructure.
“It is painful to watch how the city was being destroyed in front of our eyes,” said resident Tetiana, who declined to give her last name.
While most people said the Russians kept to themselves, living conditions under the occupation were wretched: Electricity, water and phone services were cut. Bridges were blown up, making it hard to move between villages to buy and sell food – and mines lurked everywhere.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine had gathered evidence of at least 400 war crimes committed by Russian troops during their occupation of the area, including killings and abductions, in addition to widespread destruction of infrastructure.
One Ukrainian official described the situation in Kherson as “a humanitarian catastrophe”.
Reconnecting the electricity supply is the priority, with gas supplies already assured, Kherson regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said.
The Russian pullout marked a triumphant milestone in Ukraine’s pushback against Moscow’s invasion almost nine months ago.
In the past two months, Ukraine’s military claimed to have retaken dozens of towns and villages north of the city of Kherson.