Here’s a look at what happened when Russian forces withdrew from Kherson and why the city is so important to Moscow and Kyiv

Ukrainian officials say Ukrainian flags appeared “en masse and everywhere” after Russia withdrew from the southern region of Kherson, one of four regions of Ukraine annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in September.

The months-long Ukrainian offensive to retake the city of Kherson, the only provincial capital under Russian control since the first days of the invasion, is coming to a head.

The fall of the city would inflict another humiliation on Moscow after a series of battlefield defeats and other setbacks.

Here’s a look at what happened and why Kherson is such an important city for both sides.

Why is the city popular?

The recapture of Kherson was central to the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south.

Kherson, which had a pre-war population of 280,000, is the only regional capital to be captured by Russian forces.

The city and surrounding area fell to Moscow in the early days of the war as Russian soldiers quickly pushed their attack north from the Crimean peninsula – the region illegally annexed by the Kremlin in 2014.

Its loss was a blow to Ukraine due to its location on the Dnipro River near the mouth of the Black Sea and its role as a major industrial center.

Since then, Ukrainian resistance fighters have challenged Russian forces for control of the city, with acts of sabotage and assassinations of Moscow-appointed officials.

Kherson is also at a point where Ukraine can cut off fresh water from the Dnipro River to Crimea.

Kyiv blocked these vital supplies after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and Mr Putin mentioned the need to restore them as one of the reasons for his decision to invade Ukraine.

What’s going on there?

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Putin faces his greatest humiliation of the war as his troops withdraw from Kherson just over a month after declaring the Ukrainian city Russian territory.

Over the past day, Ukrainian forces have advanced northwest, west and northeast of the city of Kherson, advancing up to 7 kilometers in some areas, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank. .

“The Russians have taken positions that they hope will be easier to defend. Ukraine will have to decide if, when and how to keep pushing,” said Olga Oliker, director for Europe and Central Asia at the International. Crisis Group.

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