- Video shows abandoned Russian bunker on Oreshki road
- Zelenskiy tells G20 summit Ukraine will not pause forward
- Lavrov accuses West of trying to politicize summit manifesto
KHERSON, Ukraine, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Images on Tuesday appeared to show Russian troops have evacuated a town across the Dnieper River in Ukraine from the city of Kherson, where they surrendered last week, in a sign of war One of the biggest retreats may not yet be at the water’s edge.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told world leaders his country would not ease its military campaign to drive Russian troops out of the country after last week’s victory in the only regional capital occupied since the Russian invasion.
“We will not let Russia sit back and wait for it to end, build up its own power, and then start a new series of terror and global instability,” he said in a video link to the G20 summit of large economies in Indonesia.
“I believe now is the time that Russia’s destructive war must and can be stopped.”
Ukrainian troops besieged by happy residents have swept through Kherson in recent days to claim the biggest spoils of war so far, and Russian President Vladimir Putin declared six weeks ago that the city will always be Russian.
Russia has said it is pulling its forces across the wide Dnieper to more easily defended positions on the other side. But in the video captured in the town of Oreshki from Kherson across a collapsed bridge over the Dnieper, there is no sign of a Russian presence.
A driver drove for miles at high speed on an abandoned main road without encountering any Russian checkpoints or flags. Several bunkers along the road appear to have been abandoned. Reuters confirmed the location of the video based on visible landmarks.
The Ukrainian military said overnight that it had opened fire on enemy positions in Oreshki, but Ukrainian officials did not comment on images that appeared to show Russian troops had withdrawn there.
“Ukraine has the initiative and momentum and is telling the Russians where and when the next fight will be fought,” said Philip Ingram, a former senior British military intelligence officer.
On Monday, Zelensky visited Kherson to celebrate the victory, shaking hands with soldiers and waving to civilians. He said Ukraine had collected evidence of at least 400 war crimes, including killings and kidnappings, committed by Russian forces during its eight-month occupation.
As far as Russia is concerned, it recently said its focus is on eastern Ukraine, which it claims has captured the frontline village of Pawlivka in the Donetsk region. Kyiv said Russia had suffered huge losses in attacks in the east, with little success.
The war was a central focus of the G20 summit, where Western leaders condemned Moscow. Russia is a member, Ukraine is not, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is staying home.
Addressing world leaders in Bali, Indonesia, Zelensky described a peace proposal under which Russia would withdraw all troops from Ukraine, release all prisoners and reaffirm Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
He will indefinitely extend a program to protect Ukrainian grain exports and expand it to the port of Mykolev, which Russian guns cannot reach after the Kherson advance.
“Please choose your path of leadership – we will definitely implement the peace plan together,” he said.
The United States expects the G20 to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine and its impact on the global economy, a senior U.S. official said. Russia’s membership makes a consensus on Ukraine unlikely, and the official declined to give the form of the condemnation.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who led the Russian delegation in Putin’s absence, accused the West of trying to politicize the summit manifesto by including language condemning Russia’s actions in the draft manifesto.
Moscow said it was launching a “special military operation” in Ukraine to protect Russian speakers. Ukraine and the West have called it an unprovoked war of aggression.
Ukrainian officials say Kherson’s arrest further weakens the argument that it should agree to cede land in any peace talks.
“The Ukrainian military does not accept any negotiation, no agreement or compromise decision,” Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny wrote on Telegram late Monday after a phone call with U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley.
Olga Fedorova, an English teacher in Kherson, said that with no electricity or internet, many residents did not know what was happening until the Ukrainian army raised the flag on the main square on November 11. 11.
“We can’t believe, we still can’t believe our Ukrainian army is here,” she said. “We’ve been waiting for them for eight and a half months.”
Residents of Kherson and surrounding areas interviewed by Reuters since Friday described killings and kidnappings, including one in which a neighbour was shot and three people taken by the army in the village of Blahodatne.
Accounts could not be independently verified. Russia denies atrocities in occupied territories.
The Russian bombardment of the city of Mykolaiv, with a population of about half a million people throughout the war, has happily pushed Moscow’s artillery out of range.
In an area scarred by the crater, Pavel Salohub, a 28-year-old history teacher and boxing coach, said he had not heard a single explosion for four days — his first respite since the invasion.
“Emotionally, everyone is happier, you can feel it. It’s the first thing everyone talks about,” he said.
Writing by Jonathan Landay, Tom Balmforth and Reuters reporting by Peter Graff, Editing by William Maclean
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