Ukraine’s president has alleged that Russian troops have committed “more than 400 war crimes,” in the Kherson region.
The southern city of Kherson had been occupied by Russian forces for eight months until troops began to withdraw last week, leaving behind what one official described as a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
It is believed that there is still a significant presence of Russian forces in the wider Kherson region, but the retaking of the city has been hailed as a major victory for Ukraine.
‘More than 400 war crimes’
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is accusing Russian forces of having committed “the same atrocities as in other regions of our country” before they were forced to pull out from the strategic southern city of Kherson and its surrounds.
In his nightly video address on Sunday, Zelensky said without details that “investigators have already documented more than 400 Russian war crimes, and the bodies of both civilians and military personnel have been found”.
“In the Kherson region, the Russian army left behind the same atrocities as in other regions of our country,” he said. “We will find and bring to justice every murderer. Without a doubt.”
The end of Russia’s eight-month occupation of Kherson city has sparked days of celebration but also exposed a humanitarian emergency, with residents living without power and water and short of food and medicines. Russia still controls about 70% of the wider Kherson region.
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.
Ukraine’s retaking of Kherson was the latest in a series of battlefield embarrassments for the Kremlin. It came some six weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the Kherson region and three other provinces in southern and eastern Ukraine — in breach of international law — and declared them Russian territory.
‘A humanitarian catastrophe’
Zelensky said Russian soldiers who were left behind when their military commanders abandoned the city last week are being detained. He also spoke, again without details, of the “neutralisation of saboteurs,” while police have called on residents to help identify people who collaborated with Russian forces.
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.
Residents said departing Russian troops plundered the city, carting away loot as they withdrew last week. They also wrecked key infrastructure before retreating across the wide Dnieper River to its east bank.
There are even reports of Russian forces taking animals from the zoo in Kherson.
The founder of an animal rights movement in Ukraine, Oleksandr Todorchuk, said on Facebook: "They have taken most of the zoo’s collection to Crimea: from llamas and wolves to donkeys and squirrels,"
According to local media, a Moscow-backed official in Crimea had ordered the "evacuation" of animals.
Situation in Kherson is still ‘very dangerous’
Zelensky urged people in the liberated zone to also be alert for booby traps, saying: “Please, do not forget that the situation in the Kherson region is still very dangerous. First of all, there are mines. Unfortunately, one of our sappers was killed, and four others were injured while clearing mines.”
Yanushevych was quoted as saying Russian troops had "mined all critical infrastructure objects."
Zelensky promised that essential services will be restored, saying: “We are doing everything to restore normal technical capabilities for electricity and water supply as soon as possible”.
“We will bring back transport and post. Let’s bring back an ambulance and normal medicine. Of course, the restoration of the work of authorities, the police, and some private companies are already beginning.”
The head of the Ukrainian state railways said train services to Kherson would resume this week, but another regional official, Yuriy Sobolevskyy, told Ukrainian TV that the humanitarian situation "remains very difficult,” and that most houses have no electricity or water.