Russian forces seized control of the city of Kherson on Wednesday, the first major Ukrainian city to fall since the start of Russia’s invasion last week.
Russian forces had been seen in the city in days prior, but on Wednesday New York Times reporter Michael Schwirtz tweeted, “Kherson has fallen to the Russian military, becoming the first major Ukrainian city to come under Russian control since the invasion last week. The mayor, Igor Kolykhaev, told me he met today with the Russian commander who plans to set up a military administration.”
In the early morning hours on Wednesday, dozens of Russian military vehicles could be seen in front of the Kherson state administration building.
Kherson is located in the southern part of Ukraine and serves as both a port city with access to the Black Sea, as well as to the Dnieper River, which runs all the way from the north of Ukraine to the Black Sea.
Following Kherson’s surrender, more Russian vehicles could be seen rolling through the city and Kolykhaev reportedly instructed the city’s residents to obey orders from Russian troops, while begging the Russian side not to shoot civilians. Kolykhaev told the New York Times that around 300 Ukrainian civilians and combatants had already died in the fighting before the city fell.
“There is no Ukrainian army here,” Kolykhaev said. “The city is surrounded.”
In the days before the city fell, one Ukrainian soldier had earned praise for sacrificing himself to destroy the Geniche Car Bridge, which provided access to Kherson from the direction of Russian-occupied Crimea.
Even after surrendering to Russian forces, at least one Ukrainian man remained defiant, waiving the Ukrainian flag in front of assembled Russian forces in the city’s Freedom Square.
Some Russian soldiers had been reported looting within the city of Kherson, even before the Ukrainian side relinquished control.
Another video showed Russian soldiers looting from what looks like the same supermarket.
In another incident, a Russian soldier appeared to try to break into an electronics store in the city.
In one looting incident on Sunday, Russian soldiers even appeared to rob a bank in Kherson.
Some social media users have said there is still some fighting ongoing in the city.
One video showed the placement of an alleged Russian explosive taped to a wall, with a trip-wire stretched along a walkway.
A Kherson resident shared another video on Wednesday of Russian armored vehicles rolling through the streets with dozens of troops and said the city had been “submerged in street fighting.”