Ukrainian officials raised the Ukrainian flag on Friday over the contested city of Kherson, two days after Russian forces commander Gen. Sergei Surovikin announced a withdrawal of his troops.
According to Reuters, Ukrainian regional lawmaker Serhiy Khlan declared the “final stage of reclaiming the west bank of the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region” is underway, after Russian forces moved to the opposite side in a draw down from the city.
The flag of the European Union was seen raised alongside the Ukrainian flag over the city’s central administrative building.
Summit.news reports: Gen. Surovikin had earlier in the week said that all civilians who wanted to evacuate, which the Russian side has estimated at 115,000 people, have been successfully brought to the left bank. This as Ukrainian forces had reportedly reclaimed dozens of settlements in the southern area while moving toward Kherson.
The Ukrainians are meanwhile alleging that not all Russian soldiers have fled the city but are instead changing into civilian clothing in order to hide within.
Without citing evidence, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military’s southern command told a press briefing that Russian troops “have been changing into civilian clothes for two weeks,” but that “the number of these people is not known.” According to further military statements:
The Kremlin has remained silent on the rapidly unfolding events around Kherson, other than saying it has completed the Kherson withdrawal. There was some speculation earlier in the week even from Kiev officials over the possibility that the Russians were staging a trap by announcing a false withdrawal. But widely circulating footage of columns of Ukrainian troops marching into the city appear to confirm a total Russian retreat…
The aforementioned Ukrainian regional official, Serhiy Khlan, described the situation around the Dnipro further, “Our Armed Forces, under a fierce onslaught, destroyed most of the Russians who were fleeing like rats to the left (eastern) bank of the Dnipro.” He added: “They were fleeing along the pontoons they had built under Antonivskyi bridge, leaving their equipment behind. Many Russians have drowned.”
Shelling and explosions have continued to be reported amid the movement of Russian troops to the opposite bank of the river. The Ukrainians also say they are sustaining fire on Russian positions.
“Now since our Armed Forces have actually taken control of the right-bank [western] part of the Kherson region, we can keep the left-bank [eastern] part of Kherson region under fire control, up to the Crimean isthmus,” Khlan said.