Flowers and mines greet Ukrainian forces on their way to Kherson

Flowers and mines greet Ukrainian forces on their way to Kherson


Smiles, flowers from locals and mines planted by the Russians greeted Ukrainian soldiers advancing on Kherson, a major southern city liberated by Moscow’s forces on Friday.

“We see attractive, smiling faces, flowers and embroidered towels that we display on our vehicles,” said Andriy Zholob, the commander of a medical unit currently about 50 kilometers from Kherson.

“We see children running towards us and greeting us,” said the man from the western city of Lviv, who worked as an orthopedist before the Russian invasion in February.

The Ukrainian army announced it had entered Kherson after Russian forces withdrew – nine months after Moscow’s forces captured the regional capital.

The soldier acknowledged that in the southern Ukraine region “probably there are a certain number of locals” who regret the Russian withdrawal – adding that he was relieved not to have met any.

Another Ukrainian soldier who had just entered the city of Kherson showed AFP videos of the approach to the city.

In one, a young woman shouts “Honour to Ukraine!” while blowing kisses to troops.

In another clip, near a bus stop decked out in the blue and yellow national colors, dozens of civilians greeted the troops’ vehicle with applause, flowers and shouts of “our rescuers!”

“It’s the same everywhere,” said the soldier, who cannot be identified for security reasons.

– ‘Towards Victory’ –

“There is a lot of affection … we are advancing towards Victory, towards the Dnieper River, towards the city of Kherson,” said Zholob, whose brigade began advancing on Kherson last week after camping for several months.

They made slow progress at first before rushing forward in less than 48 hours.

After four months on the southern front, he was surprised by his army’s rapid success.

“Our enemy is skilled and dangerous. The advance we are seeing now and the occupiers’ flight to the Dnieper really came as a surprise to all of us,” Zholob said.

In recent months, “it has been a trench warfare, with raids, artillery duels. It was really tough, bloody, with a lot of losses and very exhausting.”

He said he had “burned many of the occupiers’ weapons, destroyed many local farm implements and marked them with Z-marks,” the symbol of the Russian invasion, and saw houses destroyed by the fighting.

Zholob said that while cheerful, he has remained vigilant and remains “suspicious” as Ukrainian authorities have issued repeated warnings for fear of booby traps being left behind by Russian forces.

The danger of mines being laid by the Russians before they leave, or duds ready to explode at any moment, is now ever-present, he said.

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