The Ukrainian army has recaptured dozens of landmine-riddled settlements in southern Ukraine after Russian forces withdrew. Moscow announced the withdrawal of its forces from Kherson province a day ago.
A Ukrainian military analyst and media observer said that as early as Thursday night there were indications that Ukrainian forces were approaching the strategically important port city of Kherson on the banks of the Dnipro River.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in an interview with Reuters news agency that it will take at least a week for Russian forces to withdraw from the city of Kherson. He added that Russia still has 40,000 troops in the area and intelligence reports indicate that its forces are in and around the city.
Russia announced on Wednesday that it would withdraw its troops from the western region of Dnipro, which includes Kherson. Kherson is the only regional capital to be fully captured by Moscow after its February military operation against Ukraine.
The third evacuation since the attack in February
This is the third withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine since the military invasion in February. In March, a small contingent of the Ukrainian army prevented Russian forces from capturing the capital, Kiev, in the north. Then in September, the Ukrainian army expelled the Russian occupying forces from the northeastern region of Kharkiv.
Kherson is one of four provinces that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed to Russia in late September, although most countries have declared it illegal.
The city of Kherson was within Ukrainian artillery range, and the nearest Ukrainian reconnaissance patrol was less than 18 kilometers from the city, Ukrainian military analyst Yuri Botusov wrote on the messaging app Telegram.
“Ukrainian forces are riding on the shoulders of the retreating enemy and trying to enter Kherson. Fighting is starting in an area along the river crossings where Russian forces are concentrated,” he said.
Loads of mines
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video speech Thursday night that Ukrainian forces had liberated 14 settlements and were advancing south.
He said that the Russian army has left behind thousands of mines and bombs. Experts are busy finding them and disabling them. He further informed that about 170,000 square kilometers of land remains to be cleared of mines. They include places where fighting is still going on and “where the enemy is laying mines before retreating, as they did in Khairsun.”
“The Russian army took public infrastructure, destroyed power lines and wanted to leave a net behind,” said Yaroslav Yanusevich, the appointed governor of Ukraine in Kherson.
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