Video footage shows dozens of people cheering and chanting victory slogans in Kherson city's central square, where the apparent first Ukrainian troops to arrive snapped selfies in the throng.

People celebrate after Russia's retreat from Kherson, in central Kiev, Ukraine on November 11, 2022.
People celebrate after Russia's retreat from Kherson, in central Kiev, Ukraine on November 11, 2022. (Reuters)

Jubilant residents have welcomed Ukrainian troops arriving in the centre of Kherson after Russia abandoned the only regional capital it had captured since its offensive in February.

Video footage verified by the Reuters news agency on Friday showed dozens of people cheering and chanting victory slogans in Kherson city's central square, where the apparent first Ukrainian troops to arrive snapped selfies in the throng.

Two men hoisted a female soldier on their shoulders and tossed her into the air. Some residents wrapped themselves in Ukrainian flags. One man was weeping with joy.

Locals had placed Ukrainian flags in the square as news of the end of more than eight months of occupation filtered out.

"Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes! Glory to the Nation!" one man shouted in another video verified by Reuters.

"Today is a historic day. We are getting the south of the country back, we are getting Kherson back," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an evening video address.

"As of now, our defenders are on the outskirts of the city, and we are very close to entering. But special units are already in the city," he said.

Russia said it had withdrawn 30,000 troops across the Dnipro River without losing a single soldier. But Ukrainians painted a picture of a chaotic retreat, with Russian troops ditching their uniforms, dropping weapons and drowning while trying to flee.

The withdrawal marked the third major Russian retreat of the war and the first to involve yielding such a large occupied city in the face of a major Ukrainian counter-offensive that has retaken parts of the east and south.

Ukraine's defence intelligence agency said Kherson was being restored to Ukrainian control and ordered any remaining Russian troops to surrender to Kyiv's forces entering the city.

READ MORE: What does the Russian withdrawal from Kherson signify?

Capital under full control of Ukraine

Serhiy Khlan, a member of Ukraine's regional council for Kherson, said the regional capital was now almost fully under the control of Ukrainian forces.

A large number of Russian soldiers had drowned in the river trying to escape and others had changed into civilian clothing, he said, advising residents not to leave their homes while searches for remaining Russian troops took place.

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military's southern command, said "saboteur operations cannot be ruled out" by Russian troops in civilian clothes.

Earlier, the Russian Defence Ministry said it had finished its withdrawal from the western bank of the Dnipro river, where Kherson city lies, two days after Moscow announced the retreat.

"Not a single unit of military equipment or weapons have been left on the right (western) bank. All Russian servicemen crossed to the left bank," it added, saying that Russia had not suffered any loss of personnel or equipment.

Pro-Russian war bloggers had reported late on Thursday that Russian forces crossing the river were coming under heavy fire from Ukrainian forces. The Russian ministry said Ukrainian forces had struck Dnipro river crossings five times overnight with US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems.

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The Dnieper River divided western Ukraine from its eastern part, which has been heavily populated by Russians. Moscow's retreat from the west bank of the river might aim to consolidate Russian forces in the east bank of the river.
The Dnieper River divided western Ukraine from its eastern part, which has been heavily populated by Russians. Moscow's retreat from the west bank of the river might aim to consolidate Russian forces in the east bank of the river. (Elif Cansın Senol / TRTWorld)

Russian defensive lines

Ukrainian social media brimmed with celebratory messages and elation. 

Many businesses and official institutions, from national mail carrier Ukrposhta to the national anti-corruption office, inserted images of watermelons into their profiles. The Kherson region is nationally renowned for its watermelons.

Kherson province is one of four regions Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed from Ukraine in late September. It is also strategically important as the land gateway to Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 and where Moscow's Black Sea fleet is based.

The only road route near Kherson across the Dnipro river, the already damaged Antonivskiy bridge, collapsed. Russian military bloggers said it was probably blown up as Russian troops withdrew.

Russia said it had adopted "defensive lines and positions" on the eastern bank of Dnipro river, which Moscow hopes it will be able to better supply and defend.

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Source: Reuters