War in Ukraine: President Volodymyr Zelensky says Ukraine moving 'very carefully' around Kherson after Russia apparently withdraws troops

Defence secretary Ben Wallace has said he will “believe it when we see it” after Russia announced it will withdraw troops from Kherson – the city that has been occupied since March.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky says his country’s troops were moving "very carefully" around Kherson, as he urged caution over the Russian announcement on Wednesday that it would withdraw from the city. A Ukrainian official warned Russian forces wanted to turn Kherson into a "city of death" by planting mines as a trap for Ukrainian troops.

This comes as Mr Wallace told an audience in Edinburgh that he would “believe it when we see it” in relation to troops leaving Kherson. Speaking at a meeting of ministers from the Joint Expeditionary Force nations, Mr Wallace warned of “Russian tricks”.

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He said: “It must be quite a significant psychological blow that the one objective they did manage to capture, they have announced their intention to leave. Of course this is Russia, so we haven’t yet seen them leave en-masse.

Ukranian men talk to journalists after they managed to flee from the Russian occupied territory of Kherson, earlier this month.
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“We will believe it when we see it and I think we should all be cautious, as President Zelensky was, that there is still Russian tricks and all sorts of things.

Mr Wallace said it was Ukraine’s choice whether they entered peace talks with Russia. He said: “What we’ve all been helping Ukraine fight for is the right to choose. It’s not for me to tell Ukraine what it shouldn’t negotiate on.

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“More important than what they do with their choice is that they have the right to choose as a free sovereign state without pressure, without a gun to its head from the Kremlin.”

It was claimed a Russian flag had been taken down from administrative buildings and checkpoints were left unmanned since earlier this week. The city also had a power blackout for three days before the withdrawal.

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Kherson is the only regional capital Russia has captured since the invasion began. The withdrawal comes just weeks after the region was one of four to be annexed by Russia following a vote of citizens, which the West condemned as a sham.

Mr Zelensky warned the enemy “does not make gestures of good will”. In his nightly video address, Mr Zelensky said: “There is a lot of joy in the media space today and it is clear why. But our emotions must be restrained – always during war. I will definitely not feed the enemy with all the details of our operations, either in the south, or in the east, or anywhere else.

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"When we have our result, everyone will see it, for sure. Maybe it doesn't sound like what anyone expects now. Maybe not as in the news. But you need to understand – no one just gets away if they don't feel the strength. The enemy does not bring us gifts, does not make ‘gestures of good will’. We fight our way up.

"And when you are fighting, you must understand that every step is always resistance from the enemy. It is always the loss of the lives of our heroes.”

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He added: “Therefore, we move very carefully, without emotions, without unnecessary risk. In the interests of the liberation of our entire land and so that the losses are as small as possible. This is how we will secure the liberation of Kherson, Kakhovka, Donetsk and our other cities.”

Other Ukrainian officials said they were wary of Russia’s apparent departure. “We see no evidence that Russia is leaving without a fight,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the presidential office in Ukraine.

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He added on Twitter that Russian forces wanted to turn Kherson into a "city of death". Mr Podolyak said: “Russian military mines everything they can – apartments, sewers. Artillery on the left bank plans to turn the city into ruins. This is what 'Russian world’ looks like – came, robbed, celebrated, killed ‘witnesses’, left ruins and left.”

The UK’s Ministry of Defence said Russian forces had to withdraw as they were not able to sustain their army after Ukrainian forces damaged their resupply routes. It said Russian troops would be "vulnerable" due to limited crossing points on the Dnipro river as they logistically face leaving Kherson.

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Civilians who were able to get messages out have said water and power was cut off earlier this week.

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