Zelensky visits Kherson: "The beginning of the end of the war"
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the newly-liberated city of Kherson on Monday, where he addressed crowds and took part in a ceremony to raising the Ukrainian flag above the city.
Why it matters: Kherson was the only regional capital captured by Russia since the start of the war in February and its liberation represents a remarkable victory for Ukraine.
- Kherson's liberation marks a major setback for Russia, which had annexed Kherson Oblast and three other regions of Ukraine after staged referendums were held in September — proclaiming them part of Russia — but were unable to hold the regional capital.
State of play: "This is a great pleasure for my heart and soul. I want to thank you for who you are and for returning Ukraine to the Kherson region. We are returning our Armed Forces, our state, our flag," Zelensky said during the ceremony in Kherson's central square, according to a press release from Zelensky's office.
- The crowd held a moment of silence for those who had died during the city's liberation and the national anthem was played as the Ukrainian flag was raised.
- "All of us, our Armed Forces, our National Guard, intelligence have shown that it is impossible to kill Ukraine," Zelensky added, per the press release.
What they're saying: Kherson's liberation marks “the beginning of the end of the war," Zelensky told the crowd, the Washington Post reported.
- “The price of this victory is considered very high,” he added, noting that the cost was “a lot of people wounded and a very high number of dead."
- Zelensky thanked Western allies for their support, observing that Western weapons from the U.S. and others had made a significant difference in the battle, per the BBC.
The other side: "We leave this without comment," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday when asked about Zelensky's visit to Kherson, the BBC reported.
- "You know, this territory is part of the Russian Federation," he added.
The big picture: Kherson city was captured by Russian forces in March, in the early days of the war.
- Zelensky said in an address Sunday night that investigators have already documented more than 400 Russian war crimes across the liberated region.
- "The bodies of both civilians and military personnel are being found. In the Kherson region, the Russian army left behind the same atrocities as in other regions of our country, where it was able to enter," he said.