Almost without water and facing shortages of bread and medicine, officials warned residents of the newly liberated city of Kherson, as efforts continued Sunday to clear mines and restore critical infrastructure after the withdrawal of Russian forces.
Crowds celebrated the city’s liberation on Saturday after Ukrainian forces overran the city and Russian forces withdrew to the east.
But life is still far from normal, with authorities warning residents to be careful of explosives that litter the city, and Russian forces are still close – across the strategically important Dnipro River.
This is not the end of the struggle against the Russian occupation in the country, as reported by CNN’s Nick Robertson, who witnessed emotional scenes on Saturday in Kherson’s central square as residents applauded their liberation.
“Now Kherson is a front-line city,” he said. “Last night and in the early hours of this morning, you could hear gunfire coming towards the Russian forces.”
On Saturday, Ukraine’s National Police warned that “the main threat at the moment is mass mining,” as a police representative was injured while demining one of the city’s administrative buildings.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned during his Saturday evening address that nearly 2,000 “explosive items”, such as mines, detonating wires and unexploded ordnance, had already been removed from the Kherson region. He urged the residents of Kherson to “be careful and not try to independently inspect the buildings and things left by the occupiers.”
“There are 10 groups of bomb disposal experts working in Kherson, the police are working, there are various units of the Defense Forces,” Zelensky said.
Meanwhile, the causes of the dire humanitarian situation in the city are unfolding, with power outages and limited access to food and water.
There is practically no water supply in the city. There is a shortage of medicines, there is a shortage of bread, which is not produced due to a lack of electricity. There are also problems with food supplies, Roman Golovnya, advisor to the Kherson mayor, said in a televised broadcast on Saturday.
Infrastructure was dealt an unwelcome blow: “Before fleeing Kherson, the occupiers destroyed all vital infrastructure – communications, water supply, heating, electricity,” said Zelensky.
Weather conditions are getting tougher, with sub-zero temperatures at night, the CNN team in Kherson reported, and no heating in the city. The Ukrainian authorities said that those who find it very difficult to live in Kherson can move to other parts of the country, because they now have freedom of movement.
Meanwhile, a serious dam spanning the Dnipro River at Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region was damaged.
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies obtained by CNN on Friday showed water flowing from three gates at the dam, where a major hydroelectric project is located.
On Sunday, Vladimir Leonty, a Russian official in Nova Kakhovka, claimed on Russian state television that the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant had suffered “enormous” damage as a result of bombing by the Ukrainian armed forces, with repairs to take at least a year.
Pro-Russian officials in the annexed Kherson region claim that the evacuation of civilians and the withdrawal of Russian forces from the West Bank to the East Bank of the Dnipro River is due to the risk of flooding that would occur if the Ukrainian military hit the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Station. Power station dam.
Ukraine did not say that it was the party that bombed the factory.
Speaking on Saturday about the Ukrainian military’s next steps in Kherson, CNN military analyst Cedric Layton said: “This will be a major urban operation. What you will see is a systematic process of clearing buildings of potential booby traps and mines.”
“The other thing the Ukrainians will have to do is they will have to move their systems forward so that they can take on any potential Russian artillery that will be on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River.
You can see that the Ukrainians have moved to that river, and now they are in control of that area, and they’re going to have to get rid of some of the remaining Russian forces that didn’t make it out of the west bank of the Dnipro. But those there are likely to either surrender or be removed from the fight.”
Russian forces are focusing their efforts in the Kherson region on equipping their defensive lines on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, according to an operational update from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Sunday night.
On Friday, Russia announced its withdrawal 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 surrounding areas to the Ukrainians.
The withdrawal is a major blow to Putin’s war effort in Ukraine. Kherson was the only Ukrainian provincial capital captured by Russian forces since the February invasion.
Their retreat east across the Dnipro River cedes vast swathes of territory that Russia had occupied since the early days of the war, and which Putin had officially declared as Russian territory just five weeks earlier.
Ukraine’s military said on Sunday that the Russians were still staging attacks in the districts of Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Novopavlikvka, all in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region. It added that other areas such as Kobyansk and Liman were bombed with artillery.