Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russian troops of committing war crimes and killing civilians in Kherson, part of which was recaptured by the Ukrainian military last week after the Russian withdrawal.
“Investigators have already documented more than 400 Russian war crimes and the bodies of both civilians and soldiers have been found,” Zelenskyy said in his evening video address on Sunday.
“The Russian army left behind the same barbarism as it did in other areas of the country it entered,” he continued. “We will find and bring all the killers to justice. Without a doubt.”
His allegations have not been independently verified. Russia denies that its soldiers deliberately targeted civilians.
Ukrainian troops entered the center of the southern Kherson region on Friday after Russia abandoned the only regional capital it had captured since Moscow invaded.
Russian shelling continues
The Southern Command of Ukraine’s military said on Monday that Russian forces continued to “cause fire damage to our troops and settlements along the right bank of the Dnipro.”
The governor of Kherson region, Yaroslav Yanushevych, said authorities had decided to maintain a curfew from 5pm to 8am, banning people from leaving or entering the city as a security measure.
“The enemy is mining all important infrastructure,” Yanushevych told Ukrainian television. “We are trying to meet within a few days and (then) open the city,” he said.
In an online post, Yanushevych warned people about reports of humanitarian aid reaching Kherson’s Freedom Square and urged people to avoid the city center as demining was expected to continue there.
Zelenskyy also warned the people of Kherson about the presence of Russian mines. “I ask you to please forget that the situation in the Kherson region is still very dangerous,” he said.
On Sunday, artillery exchanges that echoed across Kherson failed to dissuade cheering, flag-waving residents, huddling against the cold, from gathering in the city’s main square.
A day earlier, villagers waited with flowers on the road to Kherson to greet Ukrainian troops as they poured in to secure control of the right bank of the Dnipro River.
The recapture of Kherson marks Moscow’s third major retreat of the war and the first involving the surrender of such a large captured city in the face of a major Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Mass graves have been found in several locations across Ukraine since the invasion began in February, including civilian bodies showing signs of torture found in Kharkiv region and in Bucha, near Kyiv. Ukraine has accused Russian soldiers of committing crimes.
A UN panel said in October that war crimes were being committed in Ukraine and that Russian forces were responsible for the “vast majority” of human rights abuses in the first weeks of the war.