Zelensky makes surprise visit to liberated Kherson

4. Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky takes part in a flag laying ceremony during his visit to Kherson on November 14. (Photo: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/AFP)
KHERSON, Ukraine — President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday said it was “impossible to kill Ukraine” as he hailed the liberation of city of Kherson in a surprise visit.اضافة اعلان

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile cautioned that Ukraine was facing difficult months ahead and Russia’s military capability should not be underestimated, despite the takeover of Kherson city.

The Ukrainian presidency distributed images of Zelensky singing the national anthem with his hand over his chest as the country’s blue and yellow flag was hoisted next to Kherson’s main administrative building.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman denied, however, that the Ukrainian leader’s visit had any impact on the status of the Kherson region, which Moscow formally annexed into Russia at a ceremony last month.

The takeover by Ukrainian troops is the latest in a string of setbacks for the Kremlin, which invaded Ukraine on February 24 hoping for a lightning takeover and to topple the government in days.

But Russian troops failed to capture the capital Kyiv and have since been pushed back from large portions of territory in the south and east.

Still, Stoltenberg said that “the coming months will be difficult” and cautioned that “we should not make the mistake of underestimating Russia.”

“Putin’s aim is to leave Ukraine cold and dark this winter,” he told a press conference in The Hague after meeting the Dutch foreign and defense ministers.

The city of Kherson was the first major urban hub to fall to Russian forces and the only regional capital Moscow’s troops gained control over.

Its recapture opens a gateway for Ukraine to the entire Kherson region, with access to both the Black Sea in the west and the Sea of Azov in the east.

The region was one of four that the Kremlin announced in September were annexed and part of Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to use all available means to defend them from Ukrainian forces, hinting at the use of nuclear weapons.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday he would not comment on Zelensky’s visit to Kherson but added: “this territory is part of the Russian Federation.”

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s forces had retaken 12 towns and villages in the eastern region of Lugansk, the military and local officials said Monday.

The eastern industrial region has been held by Russian-supported separatists since 2014 but Kyiv’s forces have slowly been clawing back territory there.

But Russia’s military also said its forces were making gains in the neighboring region of Donetsk, capturing the village of Pavlivka, where fighting had caused controversy in Russia.

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