Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenksyy championed another victory in Ukraine Friday after Russia announced all of its forces had withdrawn from the city of Kherson following months of brutal fighting in the region.
“Our people. Ours. Kherson,” Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram. “Today is a historic day. We are taking back Kherson.”
The retreat from the southern city is another major setback for Moscow as its “special military operation” continues for nearly nine months and Ukrainian troops continue to make gradual gains in ousting Russian forces.
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Zelenskyy said special units of Ukraine’s armed forces had made it inside Kherson as more troops were approaching to support the city.
Videos emerged on social media showing Ukrainians in the city center chanting and celebrating, some with their pets while others held kids on their shoulders, though Fox News has not been able to independently verify these videos.
The full retreat came after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu gave the order to withdraw Wednesday as Ukrainian forces continued to advance in another counter-offensive operation.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said that all remaining troops had been ordered out of the city of Kherson to the eastside of the Dnieper River and that “not a single piece of military equipment or weapons” had been left behind.
Russia’s decision to remove its limited supplies is a change in operational strategy following its failure to hold its military lines or equipment in Kharkiv earlier this year.
Recapturing Kherson is one of the biggest successes Kyiv has seen since it retook control over Kharkiv in September, but some defense officials are concerned it could be a Russian ploy.
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“If Ukrainian forces do establish full control of the city of Kherson, it will be an important tactical success. What cannot be ruled out is that the Russians have set up a trap and plan to carry out a false flag operation,” former DIA intelligence officer for Russian Doctrine & Strategy and the author of “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America Rebekah Koffler told Fox News Digital.
“Things are very fluid now,” she added, noting that the coming hours will be crucial in identifying the merits of the withdrawal. “Ukrainian intelligence is very capable, having benefited from U.S. and NATO’s support. They almost certainly have planned for various contingencies.”
Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence confirmed that its forces had entered the city and urged Russian soldiers who remain in the area to surrender.
“Your commanders ordered you to dress in civilian clothes and try to flee Kherson independently. Obviously, you can’t do this,” the ministry said in a statement on Facebook.
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Russian soldiers have been urged to surrender under the program established by Kyiv dubbed “I Want to Live,” which pledges certain contingencies compliant with the Geneva Convention for invading forces who willingly surrender.
“Every Russian soldier who will resist will be destroyed,” the ministry warned. “You have only one chance to avoid death – to surrender immediately.”