Ukrainian troops have begun arriving in the centre of the strategic city of Kherson after Russia’s withdrawal – with jubilant residents celebrating their liberation.
Sky’s international correspondent Alex Rossi and his team were among the first foreign journalists to reach the centre since the city was retaken.
And he said the locals were “very grateful to see something they didn’t think they would see for perhaps a long time, if ever at all”.
Receiving hugs and thumbs up, he added: “Russia annexed this territory and there is a Ukrainian flag flying now and it is under the control of Ukrainian soldiers.”
Authorities have said Ukrainian police officers and broadcasts are returning to the city.
The chief of the National Police of Ukraine, Ihor Klymenko, said in a Facebook post that some 200 officers were at work in the city, setting up checkpoints and documenting evidence of possible war crimes.
Police teams also were working to identify and neutralise unexploded ordnance.
Ukraine’s communications watchdog said national TV and radio broadcasts had resumed in the city, and an adviser to Kherson’s mayor said humanitarian aid and supplies had begun to arrive from the neighbouring Mykolaiv region.
Speaking on Ukrainian TV, the adviser, Roman Holovnya, described the situation in the city as “a humanitarian catastrophe”.
On Friday, Ukraine’s president praised his people’s resilience, and he delivered a warning to Russian soldiers left behind in the Kherson region.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address: Today is a historic day. We are returning the south of our country, returning Kherson.
“The people of Kherson were waiting. They never gave up on Ukraine. Hope for Ukraine is always justified – and Ukraine always regains its own.
“I am happy to see how people, despite all the threats, despite the repression and abuse of the occupiers, cherished the Ukrainian flags, believed in Ukraine…
“And even when the city is not yet completely cleansed of the enemy’s presence, the people of Kherson themselves are already removing Russian symbols and any traces of the occupiers’ stay in Kherson from the streets and buildings.”
His warning for Russian “soldiers, mercenaries and collaborators” who were left behind in Kherson and other liberated southern cities was: “The only chance for salvation is for you to surrender to Ukrainian captivity.
“We guarantee that you will be treated in accordance with the law and international standards.
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“And to those Russian soldiers who have put on civilian clothes and are hiding somewhere, I want to say that there is no point in hiding.
“We’ll find you anyway.
“Don’t drag it out.
“Voluntary captivity is the only option for all occupiers.”
Kherson city was the only provincial capital to be captured by the Russians since they invaded late in February, and the region was annexed along with three others in September.
But earlier this week, Russia’s military commanders said they could no longer supply troops in the city and the west bank of the Dnipro River that it sits on.
Moscow’s forces still control about 70% of the Kherson region and the Kremlin insisted the withdrawal from Kherson city was not an embarrassment for President Vladimir Putin.
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow continues to view the region as part of Russia.
There are fears that the departing Russians will now seek to turn Kherson into a “city of death”, continuing to shell it from their new base across the river – or that they could regroup before launching an attempt to re-take the city.
Meanwhile, Mr Zelenskyy said that “stabilisation measures” will soon begin in Kherson, with de-mining a priority.
He said: “The occupiers left a lot of mines and explosive, in particular on vital objects.
“It is very important: now, when de-mining has not even begun, we cannot ensure access of media representatives to Kherson.
“It is necessary to demine at least basic communications, check the main objects.”
He added: “We will restore all conditions of normal life, as much as possible.
“Our defenders are immediately followed by policemen, sappers, rescuers, energy workers…medicine, communications, social services are returning… life is returning.”
Mr Zelenskyy also said that another 45 Ukrainian military personnel were released from Russian captivity on Friday, although he gave no other details.