January 31, 2023

Filipino Guardian

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Ukraine’s Kherson races to restore power and water after Russian withdrawal

Kherson, Ukraine — Utilities in Kherson were working to restore critical infrastructure mined by fleeing Russian forces, with most homes in the southern Ukrainian city still without electricity and water, regional officials said on Sunday.

The governor of the Kherson region, Yaroslav Yanushevych, said the authorities decided to maintain a curfew from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. as a security measure, banning people from leaving or entering the city.

“The enemy has mined all critical infrastructure objects,” Yanushevych told Ukrainian television. “We’re trying to meet within a few days and (then) open up the city,” he said, adding he hoped cellphone operators could start work on Sunday.

Ukrainian troops arrived in central Kherson on Friday after Russia gave up the only regional capital it had captured since its invasion began in February. The withdrawal was the third major Russian withdrawal of the war and the first to involve the abandonment of such a large occupied city in the face of a major Ukrainian counteroffensive that has retaken parts of the east and south.

The head of Ukraine’s state railways said train services to Kherson are expected to resume this week.

However, another regional official said while demining was underway and authorities were working to restore critical services, the humanitarian situation in the city was “very difficult”.

“Most of the houses have no electricity, no water and problems with gas supply,” Yuriy Sobolevskiy, first deputy chairman of the Kherson regional council, told Ukrainian TV.

While jubilant residents greeted the arriving troops in Kherson, the Ukrainian general staff reported ongoing heavy fighting along the eastern front in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Over the past 24 hours, its forces have repelled Russian attacks along several settlements in both regions, its morning update said, while Russian rocket and artillery fire was reported in the eastern areas of Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Novopavlivka and Zaporizhzhia.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy partially attributed Ukraine’s success in Kherson and elsewhere, despite repeated Russian attacks, to stiff resistance in the Donetsk region.

“It’s just hell there – there’s extremely heavy fighting every day,” he said in his evening video address on Saturday.

“Twenty Years Younger”

Hundreds of residents lined the streets of Kherson on Saturday, waving national flags, chanting “Thank you, thank you” and decking Ukrainian soldiers with blue and yellow ribbons.

“It’s impossible to put into words how I’m feeling right now. I have never had such joy in my life as I do now,” said Natalia Koloba, who lives in Kherson. “Our brothers, our protectors have come and today we are free. That’s incredible.”

Earlier on Saturday, on the Kherson road, villagers waited with flowers to greet and kiss Ukrainian soldiers as they poured in after the Russians’ stunning retreat to secure control of the west bank of the Dnipro River.

“We have become 20 years younger in the last two days,” said Valentyna Buhailova, 61, just before a Ukrainian soldier jumped out of a small truck and hugged her and her companion Nataliya Porkhunuk, 66, in a hamlet near central Kherson.

But volleys of artillery fire surrounded the international airport, and police said they would set up checkpoints in and around the city and sweep for abandoned mines.

The road from Mykolaiv to Kherson was lined with fields scarred by miles of abandoned Russian trenches. A wrecked T72 tank lay with its turret upside down.

The abandoned trenches were littered with trash, blankets, and camouflage netting. An irrigation ditch was filled with discarded Russian equipment, and several anti-tank mines were visible along the roadside. – Reuters