- Zelensky urges world leaders to push for peace now
- Ukraine PM says Russia’s Kherson beat time to end war
- Zelensky welcomes US-China non-nuclear threat comments
- Kherson resident tells of abuse by Russian army
KHERSON, Ukraine, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Images on Tuesday appeared to show Russian troops have withdrawn from a town on the far bank of the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine from the city of Kherson, which surrendered last week, in a sign that Russia One of the largest troop retreats. The war may not be over by the river.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told world leaders his country would not ease its military campaign to drive Russian troops out of the country after last week’s victory in the only regional capital occupied since the Russian invasion.
“We are not going to let Russia sit still, build up its power and start a new series of terror and global unrest,” he said via video link at the G20 summit of large economies in Indonesia.
“I believe now is the time that Russia’s destructive war must and can be stopped.”
Ukrainian troops besieged by happy residents have swept through Kherson in recent days to claim the biggest spoils of war so far, and Russian President Vladimir Putin declared six weeks ago that the city will always be Russian.
Russia has said it is pulling its forces across the wide Dnieper to more easily defended positions on the other side. But images posted on the internet on Tuesday appeared to suggest the retreat may not have stopped by the river.
In the video captured in the town of Oreshki, there is no sign of a Russian presence in Kherson, across the Dnieper River, across a collapsed bridge.
A driver drove for miles at high speed on an abandoned main road without encountering any Russian checkpoints or flags. Several bunkers along the road appear to have been abandoned. Reuters confirmed the location of the video based on visible landmarks.
The Ukrainian military said overnight that it had opened fire on enemy positions in Oreshki, but Ukrainian officials did not comment on images that appeared to show Russian troops had withdrawn.
Moscow said last week it was withdrawing troops across the Dnieper to better defend positions on the eastern bank of Kherson province, which controls access to Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014 Strategic Black Sea Peninsula.
“Ukraine has the initiative and momentum and is telling the Russians where and when the next fight will be fought,” said Philip Ingram, a former senior British military intelligence officer.
On Monday, Zelensky visited Kherson to celebrate the victory, shaking hands with soldiers and waving to civilians. He said Ukraine had collected evidence of at least 400 war crimes, including killings and kidnappings, committed by Russian forces during its eight-month occupation.
The war was a central focus of the G20 summit, where Western leaders condemned Moscow. Russia is a member, Ukraine is not, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is staying home.
Addressing world leaders in Bali, Indonesia, Zelensky called on Russia to withdraw all troops from Ukraine and reaffirmed Ukraine’s territorial integrity. He also called for the release of all Ukrainian prisoners.
“Please choose your path of leadership – we will definitely implement the peace plan together,” he said.
Zelensky also welcomed comments made by Chinese President Xi Jinping — who has not publicly criticized Russia for the war, but told U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday that nuclear weapons must not be used in Ukraine.
Putin has repeatedly said Russia could use nuclear weapons to defend its territorial integrity, which has been interpreted in the West as an implicit threat to lands Moscow claims to annex.
“Everyone understands who these words are aimed at,” Zelensky said in remarks to Ukrainians, referring to Xi’s remarks.
The United States expects the G20 to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine and its impact on the global economy, a senior U.S. official said. Russia’s membership makes a consensus on Ukraine unlikely, and the official declined to give the form of the condemnation.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, speaking in Bali, said Putin’s government would hear a global chorus of opposition to his actions.
“Russia’s actions put us all at risk,” he said.
Russia has said Putin is too busy to attend the summit.
Moscow said it was launching a “special military operation” in Ukraine to protect Russian speakers. Ukraine and the West have described it as an unprovoked war of aggression.
Ukrainian officials say Kherson’s arrest further weakens the argument that it should agree to cede land in any peace talks.
“The Ukrainian military does not accept any negotiation, no agreement or compromise decision,” Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny wrote on Telegram late Monday after a phone call with U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley.
Olga Fedorova, an English teacher in Kherson, said that with no electricity or internet, many residents did not know what was happening until the Ukrainian army raised the flag on the main square on November 11. 11.
“We can’t believe, we still can’t believe our Ukrainian army is here,” she said. “We’ve been waiting for them for eight and a half months.”
Residents of Kherson and surrounding areas interviewed by Reuters since Friday described killings and kidnappings, including one in which a neighbour was shot and three people taken by the army in the village of Blahodatne.
Accounts could not be independently verified.
Russia denies its troops deliberately attacked civilians or committed atrocities in Ukraine. Mass cemeteries have also been found in other areas previously occupied by Russian forces, with some civilian corpses showing signs of torture.
Reporting by Jonathan Landay, Lidia Kelly, Gleb Garanich, Pavel Polityuk, Ron Popeski, Joseph Campbell and Felix Hoske; Writing by Stephen Coates, Peter Graff; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Michael Perry, William Maclean
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