Liberation of Kherson sparks joy and tears in Kyiv

Liberation of Kherson sparks joy and tears in Kyiv

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Residents of Kherson gathered on Maidan Square in Kyiv on Friday to celebrate the liberation of their hometown – the first wave of joy in the capital in almost nine months of war.

“My city, where I was born and where I’ve lived my whole life, is finally free,” said 17-year-old Nastia Stepenska with tears in her eyes.

“When (the Russians) arrived it was horrible. We didn’t know what was going to happen the next day or if we would even be alive,” said the student, admitting she was in shock.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday that Kherson was “us” after Russia announced the completion of its withdrawal from the region’s capital, the only one Moscow had taken since its invasion began on February 24.

The city could open a gateway to the entire Kherson region for Ukrainian forces, with access to both the Black Sea to the west and the Sea of ??Azov to the east.

“I will return if it is possible and safe,” said Stepenska. “Soon I hope.”

The announcement that Ukrainian forces were marching into Kherson sparked a rare frenzy in Kyiv, with music in the streets and car horns blaring.

– “Best Surprise Ever” –

Residents of Kherson, who left for Kyiv when Russian soldiers captured their city in March, began converging at 7:00 p.m. on Maidan Square, wrapped in flags, popping champagne corks and hugging.

“I didn’t believe it at first. I figured it would take weeks or months, a few hundred yards at a time. And in just one day they made it to Kherson. It’s the best surprise ever,” said 41-year-old Artem Lukiv.

“I said to my kids, ‘This is it. We’re liberated’ and we all started crying,” he said, hugging his two children and a Ukrainian flag at the same time.

Under the Victory Column in the square commemorating Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, displaced people from Kherson sang the national anthem together and wiped their tears.

Then they sang the numbers of the first Ukrainian army brigades to enter Kherson – the first major urban center to fall to the Russians and the first to be recaptured.

“We are really happy… Our soldiers are gods,” said Lukiv.

“We’ve waited nine months for this. Cherson is part of Ukraine and always will be.”

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