Kherson was finally liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) after the Russian occupation of the region began in March. A pivotal area in the southeast, Kherson symbolises a major victory for Ukraine, and an embarrassing loss for Putin.
Kherson was one of four regions illegally annexed by Russia over a forced vote that, according to The Kremlin, showed that “99%” of Ukrainians in those regions wanted to be absorbed by Russia. However, when UAF liberated the region, they were greeted with a stunning show of support and relief to be liberated from oppressive Russian forces. Civilians were seen hugging UAF soldiers and praising them for their help.
During a surprise visit to the region upon its liberation, President Zelenskyy joined the Ukrainian soldiers welcomed with joy by the locals in the region. He stated that with Kherson secured, this was, “the beginning of the end,” for Putin’s invasion and showed confidence that Ukrainian forces would continue to regain their territory.
These images and the reports coming out of a liberated Kherson show what we already knew: that the “vote” for Kherson to join Russia was illegitimate and illegal. It also shows that Putin’s plan to absorb Ukrainians under a Russian national identity has totally back-fired: Ukrainian identity and pride has only grown stronger after this significant victory.
But of course, wherever Russian forces go, war crimes follow; Zelenskyy announced that evidence of hundreds of war crimes have been found in Kherson. This follows a pattern of evidence seen in recently liberated cities like Izyum, where efforts are still underway to identify Ukrainian victims found in mass graves.
While praising and giving medals to UAF soldiers in Kherson, Zelenskyy also noted the grim fact that Putin’s army has “taken the best heroes of our country.” Although Russian forces have been ousted, the damage remains: 80,000 people in the region are without water, heat, or electricity due to Moscow’s targeted strikes on electrical grids across the country. However, state communications technicians are already working to get the power back on with an expected completion sometime this week.
As Ukrainian forces fight back, they have the clear, unyielding support of those at home and abroad. This regained territory in Kherson will also serve as a springboard for more UAF advances, possibly in other annexed and highly-contested areas like nearby Zaporizhyzhia.