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Ukrainian officials and local residents moved to stabilize conditions in the freshly recaptured southern city of Kherson, as Russian symbols were demolished and with the restoration of the Ukrainian radio and television service and a new police presence.

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The November 12 action came after months of occupation by Russian forces following their unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February and as Ukrainian and Western officials hailed Kyiv’s latest “extraordinary” success on the field of battle and the “strategic failure” of Moscow.

As jubilant residents of Kherson woke up the morning after the first Ukrainian troops arrived, the Ukrainian military said it was putting in place “stabilization measures” to ensure security.

Ihor Klymenko, head of Ukraine’s national police, said about 200 officers were at their posts in Kherson and checkpoints had been set up. Authorities have also begun searching for any evidence of possible Russian war crimes, he said in a Facebook post.

Ukraine’s communications watchdog said national television and radio broadcasts had resumed in the strategic southern city and officials said aid supplies had started arriving from nearby areas.

Social media posts from November 12 showed local residents removing commemorative plaques installed by authorities installed by the Kremlin during the occupation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other officials warned that if special forces had entered the center of Kherson, the full deployment of Ukrainian troops was still underway and some Russian soldiers could have discarded military uniforms for clothing civilians and stay in the city.

“Even when the city is not yet completely cleared of the presence of the enemy, the inhabitants of Kherson themselves are already removing from the streets and buildings Russian symbols and all traces of the stay of the occupiers in Kherson,” said Zelenskiy in his nightly video speech.

But he said “medicine, communications, social services are coming back. Life returns. »

WATCH: Local residents greeted Ukrainian soldiers in Snihurivka on November 10, as Ukrainian army advance forces recaptured the town in the southern Mykolaiv region.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, addressing world leaders at an ASEAN summit in Cambodia, warned that the festive mood could turn dark with the possible discovery of evidence of war crimes in Kherson .

Such evidence was uncovered after Russian troops withdrew from Kyiv and Kharkiv regions months ago.

“Every time we liberate a piece of our territory, when we enter a city liberated from the Russian army, we find torture rooms and mass graves with civilians tortured and murdered by the Russian army during the war. occupation of the territories”, he added. said. “It’s not easy to talk with people like that. But I said that every war ends with diplomacy and Russia must approach the talks in good faith.

On November 12, the White House hailed Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson as an “extraordinary victory” for Ukraine.

“It looks like the Ukrainians have just won an extraordinary victory where the only regional capital that Russia captured in this war is now back under a Ukrainian flag – and that’s quite a remarkable thing,” he said. US National Security Advisor Jake. Sullivan told reporters while accompanying President Joe Biden to the ASEAN summit.

Sullivan said the Russian retreat would have “wider strategic implications”, including mitigating Russia’s longer-term threat to other southern Ukrainian cities such as Odessa.

“This is a great moment, and it’s thanks to the incredible tenacity and skill of Ukrainians, backed by the relentless and united support of the United States and our allies,” Sullivan said.

Asked about reports that the Biden administration has begun to pressure Zelenskiy to consider negotiations with Moscow, Sullivan said Russia, not Ukraine, was the party that had to decide whether to stand or no at the table.

“This whole notion, I think, in the western press of ‘When is Ukraine going to negotiate?’ lacks the underlying fundamentals,” Sullivan said.

Russia, he added, continues to make “outlandish claims” about its self-proclaimed annexations of Ukrainian lands, even as it withdraws from Ukrainian counterattacks.

“At the end of the day, at 30,000 feet, Ukraine is the peace party in this conflict and Russia is the war party. Russia has invaded Ukraine. If Russia chooses to stop fighting in Ukraine and leave, that would be the end of the war. . If Ukraine chose to stop fighting and give up, that would be the end of Ukraine,” he said. “In this context, our position remains the same as it has been and is fundamentally in close consultation and support of President Zelenskiy.”

Meanwhile, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on Nov. 12 that Moscow’s “strategic failure” in Kherson would sow doubt among Russian public opinion about the purpose of the war in Ukraine.

“Russia’s announced withdrawal from Kherson marks yet another strategic failure for them. In February, Russia failed to achieve any of its main objectives except for Kherson,” Wallace said in a statement. “Now that this has also been returned, surely ordinary people in Russia must be wondering, ‘What was all this for? “”

With reports from AFP, AP and Reuters

Donald E. Patel