Ukraine’s Kherson races to restore power, water after Russian retreat
KHERSON — Utility companies in Kherson were working to restore critical infrastructure damaged and mined by fleeing Russian forces, with most homes in the southern Ukrainian city still without electricity and water, regional officials said on Sunday.
The governor of Kherson region, Yaroslav Yanushevych, said the authorities had decided to maintain a curfew from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. and ban people from leaving or entering the city as a security measure.
“The enemy mined all critical infrastructure objects,” Yanushevych told Ukrainian TV.
“We are trying to meet within a few days and (then) open the city,” he said.
Ukrainian troops arrived in the center of Kherson on Friday after Russia abandoned the only regional capital it had captured since its invasion began in February. 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.
On Sunday, artillery exchanges echoed over the city but they failed to discourage crowds of jubilant, flag-waving residents bundled up against the cold from gathering on Kherson’s main square. The crowds tried to catch mobile phone signals from Starlink ground stations carried on Ukrainian military vehicles.
“We are happy now, but all of us are afraid of the bombing from the left bank,” said Yana Smyrnova, 35, a singer, referring to Russian guns on the east side of the Dnipro River that runs close to the city.
Smyrnova said that she and her friends had to get water from the river for bathing and flushing their toilets, and only a few residents were lucky enough to have generators that power pumps to get water from wells.
Local authorities said most of the city lacked electricity or water and Yuriy Sobolevskiy, first deputy chairman of Kherson regional council told Ukrainian TV that even as the authorities were working to restore critical services, humanitarian situation remained “very difficult.”
‘OUR BOYS AND GIRLS’
Some of those celebrating on Kherson’s main square, however, said the problems paled compared with the joy of seeing Ukrainian troops entering the city.
“When we saw our army, all of the problems with water and electricity disappeared,” said Yana Shaposhnikova, 36, a clothing designer. “And the explosions are not so scary. Our boys and girls (troops) are here. So it’s not so scary.”
Officials reported some early progress in restoring normality to the city.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s adviser Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on the Telegram messaging app that a mobile connection was already working in the city center, while the head of Ukrainian state railways said train services to Kherson were expected to resume this week.
Zelenskiy said in a video address on Saturday that “before fleeing from Kherson, the occupiers destroyed all the critical infrastructure: communications, water, heat, electricity.”
Ukraine’s defense ministry said it had recaptured 179 settlements and 4,500 square kilometers (1,700 square miles) along the Dnipro River since the beginning of the week.
Ukrainian armed forces’ general staff reported continued fierce fighting along the eastern front in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Over the past 24 hours Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks along several settlements in both regions, the general staff said in its daily update.
Zelenskiy credited Ukraine’s success in Kherson and elsewhere in part to stiff resistance in the Donetsk region despite repeated Russian attacks.
“There it is just hell – there are extremely fierce battles there every day,” he said on Saturday.
‘TWENTY YEARS YOUNGER’
Earlier on Saturday, on the road to Kherson, villagers holding flowers waited to greet and kiss Ukrainian soldiers as they poured in after the Russian retreat.
“We’ve become 20 years younger in the last two days,” said Valentyna Buhailova, 61, just before a Ukrainian soldier jumped out of a small truck and hugged her and her companion Nataliya Porkhunuk, 66, in a hamlet near the center of Kherson.
But volleys of artillery fire surrounded the international airport and police said they were setting up checkpoints in and around the city and sweeping for mines left behind.
(Reporting by David Ljjungren, Jonathan Landay, Gleb Garanich and Pavel Polityuk Writing by Clarence Fernandez and Tomasz Janowski Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry, David Goodman and Jane Merriman)
Comments are closed.