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Russia-Ukraine war: Zelenskiy says Kherson ‘never gave up’ as Ukrainian troops reach city centre – as it happened

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Zelenskiy: ‘Kherson never gave up on Ukraine’

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has released a statement on his official Telegram account after his troops retook Kherson on Friday.

Zelenskiy said it was a “historic day” and that the people in the southern city “never lost hope”.

He said: “They never gave up on Ukraine. Hope for Ukraine is always justified – and Ukraine always returns its own.”

The president previously shared a video of people celebrating around a fire in Kherson as darkness descended.

The full statement reads:

Today is a historic day. We are returning Kherson. As of now, our defenders are on the approaches to the city. But special units are already in the city.

The people of Kherson were waiting. They never gave up on Ukraine. Hope for Ukraine is always justified – and Ukraine always returns its own.

And even when the city is not yet completely cleansed of the enemy’s presence, the people of Kherson themselves are already removing Russian symbols from the streets and buildings and any traces of the occupiers’ stay in Kherson.

It was the same in all other cities liberated by our defenders. It will be the same in those cities that are still waiting for our return.

Ukraine will come to all its people.

And I thank every soldier and every unit of the defence forces who are making this offensive operation in the south possible now.

Absolutely everyone – from privates to generals.

The armed forces, intelligence, SBU, National Guard – all who brought today’s day closer for Kherson oblast.

Key events

Closing summary

It’s approaching 9pm in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and here’s a summary of today’s developments as Ukrainians in Kherson city are celebrating after the arrival of Ukrainian soldiers to recapture the city.

  • Jubilant crowds have been seen welcoming soldiers in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, after progress made by the armed forces in recent days continued. Ukrainian forces have liberated 41 settlements as they advanced through the south, the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said in his Thursday evening address.

  • A Ukrainian flag has been raised in Svobody Square, near the headquarters for the regional administration for the first time since the city fell to Russia on 2 March. Another is being flown outside the city’s national police headquarters.

  • A Ukrainian defence ministry spokesperson has told the BBC that Ukraine’s forces are almost in full control of Kherson.

  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that it was a “historic” day for the country. In a statement on his Telegram page, he said that people in Kherson never gave up hope on Ukraine, adding: “Hope for Ukraine is always justified – and Ukraine always returns its own.”

  • More than 30,000 Russian service personnel have been withdrawn to the eastern bank of the Dnipro River. The defence ministry said that its evacuation had been completed by 5am Moscow time on Friday.

  • The ministry said there was no military hardware or soldiers left on the western side of the river.

  • Vladimir Putin’s press spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, denied the Russian withdrawal from Kherson was humiliating for the Kremlin, when he spoke to reporters on Friday morning. Peskov said there were no regrets about the city in southern Ukraine being annexed by Russia at a lavish ceremony in late September.

  • However, reports have emerged of some Russian troops being left behind in Ukraine and changing into civilian clothes. The ministry of defence’s intelligence unit has urged Russian soldiers to surrender.

  • The Antonivskiy Bridge, the only nearby road crossing from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson to the Russian-controlled eastern bank of the Dnipro River, has been blown up.

  • Ukraine’s prosecutor general is investigating three bodies that were found in Kherson region, who it’s suspected were victims of war crimes.

  • Seven people were killed in a Russian missile attack on a five-storey block of flats in Mykolaiv that took place early on Friday morning. Emergency service crews have been working to try to find any survivors.

  • Russian attacks on electricity facilities are having a disproportionate effect on civilians in Ukraine, having an indiscriminate impact on critical functions such as healthcare and heating, according to the latest evaluation by the UK’s Ministry of Defence.

  • Ukraine is building a wall at its northern border with neighbour Belarus, a key ally of Putin. The concrete wall is already 3km long.

  • Forty-five Ukrainian soldiers have been freed in a prisoner exchange with Russia and the bodies of two killed Ukrainian soldiers have also been repatriated, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office has said.

  • The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has said that his organisation had started training civilians in Russian regions bordering Ukraine to form a militia and build fortifications.

  • The United Nations has been holding talks with Russian officials about the agreement to export grain from Ukraine through the Black Sea.

That’s all for today. Thank you for following along. We will be back tomorrow.

There is significant new damage caused to the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine, after Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson, according to aerial images.

In a statement reported by Reuters, satellite imagery company Maxar said: “Satellite images this morning … reveal significant new damage to several bridges and the Nova Kakhovka dam in the aftermath of the Russian retreat from Kherson across the Dnipro River.”

It follows news earlier on Friday that the Antonivskiy Bridge had been blown up, cutting a link between the two sides of the river. The Russian forces have fled to the west side, allowing Ukrainian forces to retake Kherson city.

It’s not just in Kherson that people are celebrating today’s events, there are also people gathering in Kyiv to mark the return of the southern Ukrainian city into Ukrainian hands.

Ukrainians gather in central Kyiv on Friday to celebrate the recapturing of Kherson city, Ukraine.
Ukrainians gather in central Kyiv on Friday to celebrate the recapturing of Kherson city, Ukraine. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP
A man holds a Ukrainian flag behind him in central Kyiv as he celebrates the return of Kherson to Ukrainian control.
A man holds a Ukrainian flag behind him in central Kyiv as he celebrates the return of Kherson to Ukrainian control. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP

Zelenskiy: ‘Kherson never gave up on Ukraine’

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has released a statement on his official Telegram account after his troops retook Kherson on Friday.

Zelenskiy said it was a “historic day” and that the people in the southern city “never lost hope”.

He said: “They never gave up on Ukraine. Hope for Ukraine is always justified – and Ukraine always returns its own.”

The president previously shared a video of people celebrating around a fire in Kherson as darkness descended.

The full statement reads:

Today is a historic day. We are returning Kherson. As of now, our defenders are on the approaches to the city. But special units are already in the city.

The people of Kherson were waiting. They never gave up on Ukraine. Hope for Ukraine is always justified – and Ukraine always returns its own.

And even when the city is not yet completely cleansed of the enemy’s presence, the people of Kherson themselves are already removing Russian symbols from the streets and buildings and any traces of the occupiers’ stay in Kherson.

It was the same in all other cities liberated by our defenders. It will be the same in those cities that are still waiting for our return.

Ukraine will come to all its people.

And I thank every soldier and every unit of the defence forces who are making this offensive operation in the south possible now.

Absolutely everyone – from privates to generals.

The armed forces, intelligence, SBU, National Guard – all who brought today’s day closer for Kherson oblast.

Celebrations are continuing into the night in Kherson, with videos showing parties in the streets and people chanting “ZSU”, the initials of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Ukraine’s prosector general’s office has said three bodies found during a search in the Kherson region are being investigated to see whether they were victims of war crimes.

Soldiers found the bodies in a cellar in Berislav, north along the Dnipro River from Kherson, where they discovered they had fractured skulls.

The prosecutor said that investigations are under way to see whether they are linked to war crimes.

Here’s some of the videos that have been published today on social media showing overjoyed people in Kherson celebrating the departure of Russian troops and arrival of Ukrainian forces.

Crowds cheer as Ukrainian troops enter Kherson city centre – video

Ukraine is building a wall at its border with Belarus, a key ally of Russia, from where Vladimir Putin launched part of his invasion in February.

The concrete wall will be reinforced with barbed wire, a ditch and an embankment to fortify its border with Belarus, the Kyiv Independent is reporting.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the president’s office, said the wall already spans 3km and construction is also taking place in Ukraine’s Rivne and Zhytomyr oblasts.

Summary of the day so far

It’s approaching 6pm in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and here’s a summary of today’s developments on a day where Ukrainian troops have entered the centre of Kherson city for the first time since it was captured by Russia on 2 March.

  • Jubilant crowds have been seen welcoming soldiers in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, after progress made by the armed forces in recent days continued. Ukrainian forces have liberated 41 settlements as they advanced through the south, the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said in his Thursday evening address.

  • A Ukrainian flag has been raised in Svobody Square, near the headquarters for the regional administration. Another is being flown outside the city’s national police headquarters.

  • A Ukrainian defence ministry spokesperson has told the BBC that Ukraine’s forces are almost in full control of Kherson.

  • More than 30,000 Russian service personnel have been withdrawn to the eastern bank of the Dnipro River. The defence ministry said that its evacuation had been completed by 5am Moscow time on Friday.

  • The ministry said there was no military hardware or soldiers left on the western side of the river.

  • Vladimir Putin’s press spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, denied the Russian withdrawal from Kherson was humiliating for the Kremlin, when he spoke to reporters on Friday morning. Peskov said there were no regrets about the city in southern Ukraine being annexed by Russia at a lavish ceremony in late September.

  • However, reports have emerged of some Russian troops being left behind in Ukraine and changing into civilian clothes. The ministry of defence’s intelligence unit has urged Russian soldiers to surrender.

  • The Antonivskiy Bridge, the only nearby road crossing from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson to the Russian-controlled eastern bank of the Dnipro River, has been blown up.

  • Seven people were killed in a Russian missile attack on a five-storey block of flats in Mykolaiv that took place early on Friday morning. Emergency service crews have been working to try to find any survivors.

  • Russian attacks on electricity facilities are having a disproportionate effect on civilians in Ukraine, having an indiscriminate impact on critical functions such as healthcare and heating, according to the latest evaluation by the UK’s Ministry of Defence.

  • Forty-five Ukrainian soldiers have been freed in a prisoner exchange with Russia and the bodies of two killed Ukrainian soldiers have also been repatriated, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office has said.

  • The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has said that his organisation had started training civilians in Russian regions bordering Ukraine to form a militia and build fortifications.

  • The United Nations has been holding talks with Russian officials about the agreement to export grain from Ukraine through the Black Sea.

Luke Harding

Luke Harding

This comes from my colleague, The Guardian’s foreign correspondent, Luke Harding who is in Mylove, in Kherson province.

Amid jubilation at the liberation of Kherson, there was no let-up in the war with Russian forces. The Ukrainian army pounded retreating soldiers as they sought to cross to the left bank of the Dnipro River.

An armoured column of 40 Ukrainian vehicles including several T-72 tanks trundled past the village of Mylove in Kherson province, liberated on Thursday. It headed in the direction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant – a key crossing point – and the still-occupied right-bank city of Nova Kakhovka.

From Mylove, the Russians were a mere 8km away. They controlled territory visible just across the river: radio masts and houses beneath a line of trees. Black smoke billowed on the horizon.

There were booms every few minutes and a sequence of rapid whooshes from outgoing Ukrainian grad missiles. The Russians fired back, though less frequently, from artillery positions over the water. “You get used to it,” villager Serhiy Demcuk said, after another percussive explosion. “No you don’t,” his wife Alesia disagreed. “It’s terrible,” she said.

The Ukrainian advance has been slowed by the fact the fleeing Russians blew up bridges and other strategic objects. Ukrainian vehicles were forced to take a long detour across sunflower fields and agricultural land after the crossing over a tributary was destroyed. There has been no time to install pontoon bridges.

A major clean-up operation was taking place on Friday, with Ukrainian military police going house to house, checking documents. They were hunting for local collaborators and for Russians who got left behind and may have disguised themselves as civilians.

The Kremlin’s shambolic retreat from Kherson has been a major military disaster. The new frontline positions are extremely close, however, with both sides able to target each other using multiple-launch rocket systems and even tank rounds.

Ukraine’s general staff will be keen to knock out Russian military bases as soon as possible, to prevent the Kherson from being pulverised and turned into another Mariupol.

Kyiv also faces another strategic dilemma: does it try to cross the Dnipro River and keep going, or open a new front south of Zaporizhzhia and towards the Russian-controlled city of Melitopol?

The British government has ordered some documents to be kept secret by an inquiry into the death of a woman killed by the Novichok nerve agent following the 2018 attempted murder of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, the inquiry heard on Friday.

Dawn Sturgess died from exposure to Novichok in July 2018 after her partner found a counterfeit perfume bottle that British police believe had been used by Russian intelligence operatives to smuggle the poison into the country.

Skripal, who sold Russian secrets to Britain, and his daughter Yulia had been found slumped unconscious on a public bench in the southern English city of Salisbury four months earlier.

They and a police officer who went to Skripal’s house were left critically ill in hospital from exposure to the military-grade nerve agent, but later recovered.

While British police have charged three Russians, who they say are GRU military intelligence officers, in absentia over the attack on Skripal and his daughter, no formal case has been brought against them over the death of Sturgess, 44.

An inquest into her death has been replaced by a public inquiry to allow it to consider highly confidential information from the police and the security services.

Personnel in hazmat suits working to secure a tent covering a bench in the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, were found critically ill by exposure to Novichok nerve agent.
A picture from 2018 showing personnel in hazmat suits working to secure a tent covering a bench in the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, were found critically ill after exposure to the Novichok nerve agent. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has sent a greeting to Poland on that country’s Independence Day, expressing gratitude in a video message for Polish help since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

“Ukrainians will remember how you welcomed us, how you help us. Your country is our sister,” Zelenskiy said.

Poles have rallied to Ukraine’s cause, and Poland has welcomed large numbers of refugees. But there are also lingering tensions over a Polish-Ukrainian ethnic conflict in which 100,000 Poles were killed by Ukrainians during the second world war.

Some Polish far-right groups try to keep those tensions alive. One large poster in a yearly Independence Day march organised by Polish nationalist groups read “Stop the Ukrainization of Poland.”

More footage of cheering crowds greeting Ukrainian forces in the centre of Kherson continues to make its way to social media.

Here’s a clip that has just been posted by Pjotr Sauer, a Guardian reporter covering Russia and Ukraine:

Forty-five Ukrainian soldiers have been freed in a prisoner exchange with Russia and the bodies of two killed Ukrainian soldiers have also been repatriated, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office has said.

The official, Andriy Yermak, gave no details of the Russians freed in the swap, Reuters reported. But he published a video of a group of soldiers sitting in the back of a vehicle who were told “Welcome to Ukraine” and then cheered “Glory to Ukraine!”

Yermak also tweeted other video footage and photos, including this one

Another POWs swap. We managed to free 45 AFU soldiers and get back to Ukraine bodies of two fallen defenders.

Thanks to the Coordinating Staff on the Treatment of Prisoners of War. We are going on. Our people will return home. pic.twitter.com/CDAnahRqwo

— Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) November 11, 2022

The prisoner exchange was the latest in a series since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.



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