Ukrainian President visits liberated Kherson, expresses happiness

President Zelensky with Ukrainian troops in Kherson

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed happiness over liberated Russian-occupied Kherson city of Ukraine.

Zelensky who visited the city yesterday spoke to Ukrainian soldiers gathered in the city, saying Ukraine is “moving forward” and is ready for peace, BBC reported.

It is yet another major setback for Russia to loss Kherson, taken in the early stages of the invasion and a major supply line for Russian troops fighting in Ukraine.

Moscow had declared it the administrative centre of the illegally-annexed Kherson region, and it was the only regional capital to be occupied.

Kherson was captured in March, in one of Russia’s major early successes in the war.

The region was then one of four to be illegally annexed after self-styled referendums were held in September.

At a ceremony in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson was “non-negotiable”.

But in the following weeks Ukraine began to make gains in the south of the country, advancing along Dnipro river towards Kherson and putting Russian forces under increasing pressure.

Finally, Russian forces withdrew and Ukrainian troops entered the city on Friday.

Locals were seen celebrating, some reuniting with loved ones they had not seen for months. The mood in the city was one of jubilation and relief, but also trepidation and fear of what may come next, the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen reported.

In his visit on Monday, Mr Zelensky told troops that Ukraine is “ready for peace, peace for all our country,” the Reuters news agency reported.

He thanked Nato and other allies for their support in the war against Russia, adding that high mobility artillery rocket systems (Himars) from the United States had made a big difference for Kyiv.

The president addressed a crowd gathered in Kherson’s main square, some of whom waved Ukrainian flags or wore them draped across their shoulders, a Reuters journalist in Kherson said.

Mr Zelensky said he is “really happy” about the liberation, as are the people of Ukraine.

Asked where Ukrainian forces might advance next, he said: “Not Moscow…We’re not interested in the territories of another country.”

Mr Zelensky had previously said that investigators have uncovered more than 400 war crimes in areas of Kherson abandoned by Russian forces as they retreated.

The BBC has been unable to verify these allegations, and Moscow denies that its troops intentionally target civilians. (BBC)