Ukraine’s Kherson races to restore power, water after Russian retreat

  • The humanitarian situation in Kherson ‘very difficult’ – official
  • Authorities working to restore critical services
  • Joy is mixed with concern for water and energy for the residents of Kherson
  • Residents report abuses by the occupying forces
  • Fighting continues in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk

KHERSON, Ukraine, Nov 13 (Reuters) – Utilities in Kherson were working to restore critical infrastructure damaged and mined by fleeing Russian forces, with most homes in the southern Ukrainian city still without electricity and water, as reported this Sunday by the regional authorities.

In the midst of their jubilation, some residents of the city recounted the ill-treatment of the Russians during their occupation of Kherson.

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

“The enemy has mined all critical infrastructure objects,” Yanushevych told Ukrainian TV. “We’re trying to get together in a few days and (then) open up the city,” he said.

Ukrainian troops arrived in central Kherson on Friday after Russia abandoned the only regional capital it had captured since its invasion began in February. The retreat was the third major Russian retreat of the war and the first involving the surrender of such a large occupied city in the face of a major Ukrainian counteroffensive that retook parts of the east and south.

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On Sunday, artillery exchanges echoed through the city, but failed to discourage crowds of jubilant, flag-waving residents huddled against the cold from gathering in Kherson’s main square. The crowd was trying to pick up cell phone signals from Starlink ground stations carried in Ukrainian military vehicles.

“We are happy now, but we are all afraid of shelling from the left bank,” said Yana Smyrnova, a 35-year-old singer, referring to Russian weapons on the east side of the Dnipro River that runs near the city.

Smyrnova said she and her friends had to fetch water from the river to bathe and flush their toilets, and only a few residents were lucky enough to have generators that powered pumps to get water from wells.

Local authorities said most of the city was without electricity or water. Yuriy Sobolevskiy, first deputy chairman of the Kherson regional council, told Ukrainian television that while authorities were working to restore critical services, the humanitarian situation remained “very difficult.”

‘OUR BOYS AND GIRLS’

However, some of those celebrating in Kherson’s main square said the troubles paled in comparison to the joy of seeing Ukrainian troops enter the city.

“When we saw our army, all the problems with water and electricity disappeared,” said Yana Shaposhnikova, 36, a clothing designer. “And the explosions aren’t as scary. Our boys and girls (troops) are here. So it’s not as scary.”

Officials reported some early progress in restoring normalcy in the city.

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President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s adviser Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on the Telegram messaging app that a mobile connection was already working in the city center, while the head of Ukraine’s state railways said train services to Kherson were expected to resume this week .

Residents said the Russians had gradually withdrawn over the past two weeks, but their final departure became clear only when the first Ukrainian troops entered Kherson on Thursday.

“It was kind of gradual,” said Alexii Sandakov, 44, a videographer. “First it was their special police. Then the ordinary police and their administration. Then you started to see less soldiers in the supermarkets and then their military vehicles leaving.”

Many residents interviewed by Reuters said they tried to minimize their contact with Russians and knew of people who had been arrested and mistreated for showing any expression of Ukrainian patriotism.

Reuters could not immediately verify such accounts.

Russia has denied abuses against civilians or attacks on civilians since the war began.

“We had to bury our (Ukrainian) flag underground,” said Shaposhnikova, wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap. “If you wear something yellow and blue (Ukraine’s national colors) you could be shot or invited into a cellar where you would be tortured.”

She said Russian police arrested a friend of hers who was a volunteer delivering humanitarian aid to outlying areas. They took her to an underground prison and deprived her of sleep for three days while they interrogated her, demanding to know whether she was revealing her positions to the Ukrainian military, Shaposhnikova said.

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Sandakov said Russian troops ransacked the homes of Ukrainian soldiers who left the city before the takeover and would search the bodies of young men passing checkpoints for tattoos of Ukrainian nationalist groups.

Reuters could not independently verify these comments.

EASTERN UKRAINE

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said it had retaken 179 settlements and 4,500 square kilometers (1,700 square miles) along the Dnipro River since the beginning of the week.

The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces reported continued heavy fighting along the eastern front in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have repelled Russian attacks along several settlements in both regions, the general staff said in its daily update.

Zelenskiy attributed Ukraine’s success in Kherson and elsewhere in part to tough resistance in the Donetsk region despite repeated Russian attacks.

“It’s hell there – there are extremely fierce battles there every day,” he said on Saturday.

Reporting by David Ljjungren, Jonathan Landay, Gleb Garanich and Pavel Polityuk Writing by Clarence Fernandez and Tomasz Janowski Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry, David Goodman and Jane Merriman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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