Ukraine’s Kherson races to restore energy and water after Russia’s withdrawal

  • The main infrastructure in Kherson was mined by the Russian ruler
  • The humanitarian situation in Kherson is “extremely difficult” – official
  • The authorities are working to restore vital services
  • Joy mixes with concerns about water and energy for Kherson residents
  • Fighting rages in Donetsk and eastern Luhansk regions

Kherson, Ukraine (Reuters) – Public utilities companies in Kherson are working to restore vital infrastructure damaged and mined by desertion from Russian forces, regional officials said on Sunday, with most homes in the southern Ukrainian city still without electricity and water.

The governor of Kherson region, Yaroslav Janusevich, said that the authorities decided to keep the curfew from 5 pm to 8 am and prevent people from leaving or entering the city as a security measure.

“The enemy has destroyed all critical infrastructure targets,” Yanusvich told Ukrainian television.

“We are trying to meet in a few days and (afterwards) we open the city,” he said.

Ukrainian forces reached central Kherson on Friday after Russia relinquished the only regional capital it had captured since the invasion began in February. The withdrawal was the third major Russian retreat in the war and the first to involve ceding such a large occupied city in the face of a major Ukrainian counterattack that retaken parts of the east and south.

On Sunday, artillery exchanges reverberated over the city but failed to dampen the crowds of jubilant, flag-waving residents gathered in the face of the cold from gathering in Kherson’s main square. The crowds tried to pick up cellphone signals from Starlink ground stations on Ukrainian military vehicles.

“We are happy now, but we are all afraid of the bombing from the left bank,” said singer Yana Smirnova, 35, pointing to the Russian cannons on the eastern side of the Dnipro River near the city.

Smirnova said that she and her friends had to get water from the river to shower and flush their toilets, and only a few residents were lucky enough to have generators pumping water from wells.

Local authorities said most of the city lacked electricity or water, and Yuri Sobolevsky, first deputy head of the Kherson Regional Council told Ukrainian television that even while authorities were working to restore critical services, the humanitarian situation remained “extremely difficult”.

“Our sons and daughters”

But some revelers in Kherson’s main square said the problems paled in comparison to the joy of seeing Ukrainian troops enter the city.

Yana Shaposhnikova, 36, a clothing designer, said: “When we saw our army, all the problems with water and electricity were gone. The explosions are not scary. Our boys and girls (soldiers) are here. Very scary.”

Officials reported some early progress in returning life to normal in the city.

Adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Kirillo Tymoshenko, said on the messaging app Telegram that the mobile phone connection is already working in the city center, while the head of Ukraine’s railways said that train services to Kherson are expected to resume this week.

“Before fleeing Kherson, the occupiers destroyed all vital infrastructure: communications, water, heating and electricity,” Zelensky said in a video speech on Saturday.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said it has recovered 179 settlements and 4,500 square kilometers (1,700 square miles) along the Dnipro River since the start of the week.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has reported continuing heavy fighting along the Eastern Front in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

In its daily update, the General Staff said that during the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks on several settlements in the two regions.

Zelensky attributed Ukraine’s success in Kherson and elsewhere in part to stiff resistance in the Donetsk region despite repeated Russian attacks.

“There is just hell,” he said on Saturday. “There are very fierce battles every day.”

Twenty years younger

Earlier on Saturday, on the road to Kherson, villagers carrying flowers waited to welcome and kiss Ukrainian soldiers as they poured in after the Russian withdrawal.

“We’ve become 20 years younger in the past two days,” Valentina Pohailova, 61, said before a Ukrainian soldier jumped out of a pickup truck and hugged her and her companion, 66-year-old Natalia Borkonok, in a small village near the city centre. Kherson.

But a barrage of artillery fire surrounded the international airport, and police said they were setting up checkpoints in and around the city and were looking for mines behind.

(Cover) By David Ljungren, Jonathan Landay, Gleb Garanich, and Pavel Politiuk.

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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