Local residents celebrate after Russia's retreat from Kherson Local residents celebrate after Russia's retreat from Kherson 

Pope prays for Ukraine as Kherson residents welcome Ukrainian troops

Pope Francis urges everyone to remain close to Ukraine and never be resigned to war, as Ukrainian troops carry out “stabilization measures” near the city of Kherson after retaking the area from Russian forces.

By Stefan J. Bos and Devin Watkins

Speaking at the Sunday Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis renewed his closeness in prayer to the people of Ukraine, saying that peace is possible.

“Let us always remain close to our brothers and sisters in martyred Ukraine: close in prayer and in concrete solidarity. Peace is possible! Let us not resign ourselves to war.”

Recapture of Kherson

After an eight-month occupation, citizens have flooded the streets in Kherson to welcome Ukrainian forces.

"Greetings from Kherson," a Ukrainian soldier shouted while surrounded by enthusiastic crowds. "We endured, we waited," people cried to him. The soldier then took out the Ukrainian flag sign attached to his helmet, giving it to an infant, saying, "for our future."

The United States has declared the Russian retreat in the strategic city of Kherson "an extraordinary victory" for Ukraine, which Russia invaded on February 24th.

Kyiv explained that it also established control in over 60 settlements in the Kherson region.

Moscow said about 30,000 Russian troops had been pulled out of the area from the west bank of the Dnipro River, although those figures have not been independently verified.

Heavy fighting

Yet, former US army general and CIA director David Petraeus cautioned that the war seems far from over. "Neither side, I don't think at this point, is at all inclined to negotiate. Each side thinks that it is going to prevail over time," he said in an interview.

"So I think we are in for many more months of very tough fighting, noting that I think Russia is in a very difficult position, a very dire situation. Ukraine, a country less than one-third of their size without all the energy and mineral wealth that Russia has, has managed to build an army that is bigger and more capable than Russian forces are on Ukrainian soil. Obviously, with enormous help from the United States and the Western world," General Petraeus added.

Stabilization measures

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky has also acknowledged that stabilization measures are still being carried out in the area.

He noted that before they fled, Russian forces destroyed Kherson's critical infrastructures, including communications, water, heat, and electricity supplies.

In addition, Kyiv remains concerned that not all Russian troops withdrew from the area.

Reports have emerged of some Russian troops being left behind in Ukraine and changing into civilian clothes or drowning trying to escape.

Ukraine's defense ministry urged Russian soldiers to surrender to stay alive, saying their commanders had abandoned them. However, after brief celebrations, Ukrainian soldiers prepared for more battles in this devastating war.

13 November 2022, 14:25