New damage to major dam near Kherson after Russian retreat - Maxar satellite

As Russia withdraws from the Kherson region, Significant new damage to the major Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine was spotted by the US satellite imagery company Maxar.

 A satellite image shows an overview of Nova Kakhovka dam in Kherson, Ukraine November 11, 2022. (photo credit: MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
A satellite image shows an overview of Nova Kakhovka dam in Kherson, Ukraine November 11, 2022.
(photo credit: MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Significant new damage to the major Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine can be seen following Russia's withdrawal from nearby Kherson city, US satellite imagery company Maxar said on Friday.

Maxar said images taken on Friday showed several bridges that cross the Dnipro river had also been damaged. Ukrainian troops were greeted by joyous residents in the center of Kherson after Russia abandoned the city.

"Satellite images this morning ... reveal significant new damage to several bridges and the Nova Kakhovka dam in the aftermath of the Russian retreat from Kherson across the Dnipro river," Maxar said in a statement.

"Satellite images this morning ... reveal significant new damage to several bridges and the Nova Kakhovka dam in the aftermath of the Russian retreat from Kherson across the Dnipro river."

US satellite imagery company Maxar

It said sections of the northern extent of the dam and sluice gates had been "deliberately destroyed". Earlier this week Russia accused Ukraine of shelling the dam.

Both sides have repeatedly accused each of planning to breach the dam using explosives, which would flood much of the area downstream and would likely cause major destruction around Kherson.

 Satellite image shows the Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River near Nova Kakhovka in Ukraine, October 18, 2022 (credit: MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) Satellite image shows the Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River near Nova Kakhovka in Ukraine, October 18, 2022 (credit: MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Ukrainian forces welcomed as liberators in Kherson

Ukrainian troops were greeted by joyous residents in the center of Kherson on Friday after Russia abandoned the only regional capital it had captured since its invasion in February.

Russia said it had completed the pullout across the Dnipro River without losing a single soldier, but Ukrainians painted a picture of a chaotic retreat, with Russian troops ditching their uniforms or drowning while trying to escape.

Advanced units of Ukraine's armed forces have reached the western bank of the Dnipro river in some parts of Kherson region, the general staff said in a Facebook statement on Friday.

"Today is a historic day. We are in the process of taking Kherson back," said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a video address. 

"As of now, our defenders are on the outskirts of the city, and we are very close to entering. But special units are already in the city," he continued.

Zelenskiy said that measures to make Kherson safe - in particular, efforts to remove what he called a lot of mines -would start as soon as possible.

He also said Ukrainian forces were strengthening their positions everywhere along the front, but did not give details.

"Today is a historic day. We are in the process of taking Kherson back."

Volodymyr Zelensky

Video footage circulating on the internet showed dozens of Ukrainians cheering and chanting victory slogans in Kherson's central square, where the apparent first Ukrainian troops to arrive snapped selfies in the crowd.

Two men lifted a female soldier on their shoulders and tossed her into the air. Some residents wrapped themselves in Ukrainian flags. One man was weeping with joy.

Ukraine's defense intelligence agency said Kherson was returning to Ukrainian control and ordered any remaining Russian troops to surrender to Ukrainian forces entering the city.

As Ukrainian forces surged forward during one of the most rapid and humiliating Russian retreats of the war, villagers came out of hiding to describe months under occupation of Russian troops they said had killed residents and looted homes.

Ukraine invites Russian soldiers to surrender

Ukraine's defense intelligence agency told any Russian troops still there to surrender.

In a statement issued in Russian, the agency said Kherson was coming back under Ukrainian control after being occupied since March and threatened to "destroy" any Russian soldiers who resisted.

"You have only one chance to avoid death - immediately surrender," the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Defence Ministry said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

The statement, which offered the first official confirmation that Ukrainian forces were in Kherson, guaranteed the safety of any Russian soldiers who surrendered.

It said that Russian troops still in the city had been ordered by their commanders to change into civilian clothes and to hide.

At the newly recaptured village of Blahodatne, 20 km (12 miles) north of Kherson, Ukrainian soldiers were taking over positions dug by the Russians. At the entrance of the village, Ukrainian troops looked over a large stockpile of 120 mm mortar shells abandoned by the Russians in a dilapidated warehouse.

Reuters could not immediately verify the full extent of the Ukrainian advance or the fate of any Russian soldiers left behind as Moscow rushed to pull thousands of troops across the wide Dnipro River.

Serhiy Khlan, a member of Ukraine's regional council for Kherson, said the regional capital was now almost fully under the control of Ukrainian forces, with a Ukrainian flag hoisted over its administrative building by partisans.

A large number of Russian soldiers had drowned in the river trying to escape and others had changed into civilian clothing, he said, advising residents not to leave their homes while searches for remaining Russian troops took place.

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military's southern command, said Russian troops "have been changing into civilian clothes for two weeks."

"It means saboteur operations cannot be ruled out," she told a separate briefing.

Russia's withdrawal from the western bank of the Dnipro river

Earlier, the Russian defense ministry said it had finished its withdrawal from the western bank of the Dnipro river, where Kherson city lies, just two days after Moscow announced the retreat.

"Not a single unit of military equipment or weapons have been left on the right (western) bank. All Russian servicemen crossed to the left bank," it added, saying that Russia had not suffered any loss of personnel or equipment during the withdrawal.

Pro-Russian war bloggers had reported late on Thursday that Russian forces crossing the river were coming under heavy fire from Ukrainian forces. The Russian ministry said Ukrainian forces had struck Dnipro River crossings five times overnight with US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems.

Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov had told Reuters on Thursday it would take at least a week for Russia to pull out of Kherson. He estimated Russia still had 40,000 troops in the region, and said intelligence showed its forces remained in and around the city.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an overnight address that Ukrainian forces had recaptured 41 settlements as they advanced through the south, indicating one of the swiftest and most dramatic shifts of control in almost nine months of war.

'Stealing everything'

There was no sign of Russian forces when Reuters reached Blahodatne. Relieved villagers recounted life under occupation, saying about 100 Russians had held the village for eight months. The Russians had withdrawn without a fight on Wednesday and Ukrainian troops moved in on Thursday, they said.

The Russians had killed a man who had approached too close to their trenches and taken away two other men and a young woman whose fate remained unknown, the villagers said.

"For the first two months they came in and were extremely aggressive," said Serhii Kalko, 43, adding that Russian soldiers fired in the air as they walked down the streets.

The Russian troops had also broken into vacant homes and looted them, removing furniture, televisions, stoves and refrigerators, the villagers said.

"The Russians were stealing everything. Everything they could take they took," a woman named Halyna, 50, recounted. "We tried not to be in their sights," she said, adding that only about 60 of approximately 1,000 residents had remained.

"The Russians were stealing everything. Everything they could take they took."

Halyna, a Blahodatne resident

The withdrawal from Kherson is the third major Russian retreat of the war, and the first to involve abandoning such a large occupied city. Moscow's forces were driven in March from the outskirts of the capital Kyiv and ousted from the northeastern region of Kharkiv in September.

Kherson province is one of four that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed from Ukraine in late September. The loss of the regional capital would appear to end dreams expressed by some Russians of seizing Ukraine's entire Black Sea coast, although Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the region's annexed status remained unchanged.

The only road route near Kherson across the river, the already damaged Antonivskiy bridge, collapsed. Russian military bloggers said it was probably blown up as Russian troops withdrew.

The Russian defense ministry said it had adopted "defensive lines and positions" on the eastern bank of the river, which Moscow hopes it will be able to better supply and defend.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the decision to retreat was taken by the defence ministry. Asked by reporters if it was humiliating for Putin, Peskov said: "No."