Russia abandon tanks and weapons in Kherson after scrambled retreat

Russia-abandoned tanks and weapons litter Kherson

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Scores of burnt Russian tanks and military equipment have been left behind in the strategic port city of Kherson following Russia’s humiliating retreat last week, footage has shown. James Longman, foreign correspondent for ABC news, toured the city a week after its liberation, showing abandoned Russian bunkers and a nearby airfield “littered with destroyed Russian vehicles”. He claimed the sheer devastation left behind suggested Russian troops had “lived in squalor” while occupying the city. While the liberation of Kherson appears to have been a success, Ukrainian officials have warned that demining the city will take years, with 25 people, including civilians, among those fatally wounded by Russian traps. 

Mr Longman said: “In the liberated city of Kherson, the airfield is littered with destroyed Russian vehicles. 

“This is a great visualisation of the sheer scale of Russian losses here. The Russians left Kherson because Ukraine forced them to.” 

Surveying the devastation in the airfield, Mr Longman suggested the “Russian troops look like they lived in squalor here”.

In a segment for ABC news, however, the reporter could be seen ducking for cover as Russian artillery fire could be heard in the distance. 

A week since the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson was liberated, residents can’t escape reminders of the terrifying eight months they spent under Russian occupation: missing people, mines everywhere, closed shops and restaurants, a scarcity of electricity and water — and explosions day and night as Russian and Ukrainian forces battle just across the Dnipro River.

When Russian soldiers retreated on November 11 from Kherson, the only regional capital Moscow captured since the invasion began on February 24, they left a city devoid of basic infrastructure — water, electricity, transportation or communications.

Many shops, restaurants and hotels are still closed and many people are out of work. But residents have been drawn downtown this past week by truckloads of food from Ukrainian supermarket chains that have arrived and internet hotspots that have been set up.

While people were euphoric immediately after the Russian withdrawal, Kherson remains a city on hold.

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A major obstacle to bringing residents back to Kherson, and to the rebuilding effort, will be clearing all of the mines that the Russians placed inside administrative offices and around critical infrastructure, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. 

“Demining is needed here to bring life back,” said Mary Akopian, Ukraine’s deputy minister of internal affairs. She said Kherson has a bigger problem with mines than any of the other cities Ukraine has liberated from the Russians because it had been under occupation for the longest period of time.

She estimated it would take years to completely clear mines from the city of Kherson and surrounding areas. 

Already, 25 people have died clearing mines and other explosives left behind in Kherson, and dozens of civilians who hastened to return home were killed by mines.

Before retreating, Russian soldiers also looted stores and businesses — and even museums. The Ukrainian government estimates that 15,000 artefacts have been stolen from museums in the Kherson region and taken to nearby Crimea.

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The humiliating Russian retreat did not bring an end to the sounds of war in Kherson. About 70 percent of the wider Kherson region is still in Russian hands. Explosions can regularly be heard in the city, although locals aren’t always sure whether it’s part of the mine-removal effort, or the sound of Russian and Ukrainian artillery.

Despite the ongoing fighting nearby, people in Kherson feel confident enough about their safety to ignore air-raid warning sirens and gather in large numbers on the streets — to greet each other and to thank Ukrainian soldiers.

Like many residents, the Yulia  Nenadyschuk and her husband do not wince when they hear the explosions in the distance, and they are loath to complain about any other difficulty they face.

“We are holding on. We are waiting for victory. We won’t whine,” said Yulia Nenadyschuk. “All of Ukraine,” her husband added, “is in this state now.”

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