KYIV, Ukraine – There was the feel of a “victory” celebration in Kyiv. A small but boisterous crowd, singing songs, waving flags and chanting slogans. All follows the entry of Ukrainian troops into the key southern city of Kherson after over eight months of Russian occupation.
Thrilled residents in Kherson itself wasted no time to come out, wave flags and hug their saviors … Ukrainian soldiers.
In a TV address, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy called the moment “historic.”
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Earlier, Russian troops had been spotted skulking over a makeshift pontoon bridge to reach the still-Russian-occupied opposite riverbank.
“No loss of military personnel has been allowed to happen,” a Russian military spokesmen noted.
Still, it’s believed that some soldiers might have been left behind and are changing into “civvies” to try to blend into the crowd.
Ukraine will make short work of them, we were told on a Zoom call with the mayor of the neighboring city of Mykolaiv.
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“We are ready to move forward and clean our land from all occupiers, “Oleksander Senkevych said.
The events in Kherson are not good news for Russian President Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. He has been decidedly low-profile during the past week.
As we witnessed, though, it was fantastic news for a country looking for some kind of a break after being battered by months of fighting.
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And feeling especially hard hit as winter approaches as Russian strikes pound the electric power grid here.
We asked one young person at the impromptu rally in Kyiv how she felt. “Amazing,” she replied. “Kherson?” I asked. “Ukraine!” she responded.
I asked another gentleman why he was so happy, to which he answered, “Because Kherson is free!”
And then there was a lady who usually lives in Kherson and has been staying in Kyiv for five months to get away from the Russians. She told me she didn’t believe this turn of events would happen.
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“Feel the weather,” she said. In fact, it was seasonably warm that night. “Just like my home in Kherson,” she explained.
The thing is, many fear that this is probably just a brief respite from the cold winds of war, which continue to whip through Ukraine.