Ukrainian flags flood Kherson as emotional residents celebrate liberation from Russian occupiers

Ukrainian flags flood Kherson as emotional residents celebrate liberation from Russian occupiers
/ bne IntelliNews
By Social media correspondent Dominic Culverwell November 11, 2022

Blue and yellow flags, banners and hats decorated the city of Kherson for the first time since March, as emotional residents greeted Ukrainian soldiers entering the newly liberated city.

After struggling to hold on to the city for months, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered his troops to withdraw from the occupied Ukrainian city on November 10 in a major military setback. Ukrainians have taken to social media to express joy and share stories in one of the war’s most portentous moments.

As Ukrainian soldiers advanced through a newly liberated village in the Kherson region, a young girl greeted the men by performing “The Red Viburnum in the Meadow” on her violin; a song that has become the unofficial anthem of Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion. The song went viral worldwide after Andriy Khlyvnyuk, of the band BoomBox, performed it in Kyiv wearing his territorial defence uniform.

In another video, the aunt of journalist and political advisor Iuliia Mendel was seen hugging and greeting a soldier, giving him flowers and thanking him. “This is how I can see my aunt from Kherson region for the first time in nine months in a video hugging a Ukrainian soldier. She even doesn’t know to have become an internet star,” Mendel tweeted.

Reports claim that Ukrainian Armed Forces struggled to enter the city centre as crowds of residents flocked to the streets, welcoming the soldiers. Civilians could be seen taking selfies with the soldiers in the main square and waving the Ukrainian flag to the chants of “Slava Ukrainini” (Glory to Ukraine).

At the same time, Ukrainian soldiers uploaded footage showing the removal of Russian propaganda posters inside the administrative centre of Beryslav, Kherson Region. The soldiers hold the poster up to the camera which reads “Russia here forever and ever”, before tearing it apart and stamping on it.

To commemorate the liberation of Kherson, Ukraine’s postal service, Ukraposhta, launched a stamp featuring the region’s most iconic export; the watermelon. In the summer, barges carrying hundreds of tonnes of melons make their way up the Dnipro River to Kyiv, delighting Ukrainians as temperatures heat up. Social media users posted photos of watermelons to mark the moment Ukraine welcomed back its “watermelon capital”.

Kherson was one of the four regions where Russia held illegal referenda to annex Ukrainian territories in September, which was met with widespread criticism. The UN voted overwhelmingly to condemn the annexation of the four regions shortly afterwards. The resolution on October 13 "condemns the organisation by the Russian Federation of so-called referenda within the internationally recognised borders of Ukraine" and "the attempted illegal annexation" of Ukraine’s territory. The motion also demanded that Moscow "immediately and unconditionally reverse" its annexation decisions.

Russia’s withdrawal is a huge victory for Ukraine and signals another major blow for Moscow. The decision comes as the Kremlin has begun to signal that it is open to talks with Kyiv on the possibility of ending the war.

The US has been in secret talks with the Kremlin, US National Security advisor Jake Sullivan admitted recently, and has advised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to soften his line on refusing to negotiate with Putin. Bankova repeated that it was willing to talk to Russia if it was prepared to negotiate in “good faith” on November 10, but notably dropped the refusal to talk with Putin, in what many see as a concession to US pressure.

The improved prospects for peace talks and Russia’s strategic withdrawal from Kherson come at a time when “Ukraine fatigue” has noticeably increased as the economic cost of the Ukrainian war weighs on the rest of the world.

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