Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that his military’s special units have entered Kherson as Russian forces retreated from the strategic southern port city.
“Today is a historic day,” Zelensky said in an address. “We are regaining the south of our country, regaining Kherson.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Wednesday that Russian forces would retreat from Kherson, as Moscow struggled to supply forces in the city.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday morning that it had fully withdrawn its troops.
However, Zelensky questioned the Russian announcement, saying some soldiers remained in the city.
The Ukrainian president addressed the opposition’s forces saying: “Russian soldiers, mercenaries and collaborators who were left behind” in Kherson should surrender to Ukrainian captivity.
“We guarantee that you will be treated in accordance with the law and international standards,” Zelensky said, adding, “Voluntary Ukrainian captivity is the only option for all occupiers.”
The loss of Kherson is the latest in a series of defeats for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kherson lies within one of four regions that Putin announced Russia had annexed in late September after holding referendums in those areas. The referendums were panned as a “sham” by the international community. Similarly, the annexations were condemned by the Ukrainian allies.
Moscow similarly pulled its forces out of the city of Lyman in the annexed region of Donetsk, just one day after Putin’s formally annexed the territories.