STORY: Ukrainian troops swept victoriously into the city center of Kherson, taking selfies with a cheering crowd. One man wept with joy.
Video obtained by Reuters showed jubilant residents in Kherson celebrating one of the most significant victories of the war – after Russia abandoned the only regional capital it had captured since its invasion in February.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy marked the event – the third major Russian retreat of the war – with a televised address Friday night.
"Today is a historic day. We are getting the south of the country back, we are getting Kherson back."
"Khersonians waited. They never repudiated Ukraine. They were right to pin their hopes on Ukraine."
In downtown Kyiv, Ukrainians who fled their homes in Kherson celebrated the city’s liberation. One man – with his country’s flag draped over him– said he feels joy: "We thank the Armed Forces of Ukraine! We feel happy, we want to go home, we want to talk to our loved ones, we miss them so much," he said.
In the recaptured village of Blahodatne, one man rode a motorcycle with the country’s flags flapping in the wind, telling Reuters he was excited after living through 9 months of horror.
Russia said it had withdrawn 30,000 troops from Kherson, across the Dnipro River, without losing a single soldier.
But Ukraine is painting a picture of a more chaotic Russian retreat.
This warehouse in the Kherson region viewed by Reuters is said to be full of artillery munitions and other equipment that Russia left behind.
A regional official said that some Russian troops drowned trying to get across the river or changed into civilian clothes.
A spokesperson for the Ukrainian military's southern command, said "saboteur operations cannot be ruled out" by Russian troops in civilian clothes.
Zelenskiy said measures to make Kherson safe – like removing what he called a large number of landmines - would start as soon as possible.