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Ukrainian officials and local residents moved to stabilize conditions in the newly recaptured southern city of Kherson, as Russian symbols were being torn down and with the restoration of Ukrainian radio and television service and a new police presence.

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The action on November 12 came after months of occupation by Russian forces following their unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February and as Ukrainian and Western officials hailed Kyiv’s latest “extraordinary” battlefield success and Moscow’s “strategic failure.”

Separately, Russian occupying forces said late on November 12 that they were preparing to leave the city of Nova Kakhovka, the site of a damaged dam on the Dnieper River, to a safer location, according to Russian state-run TASS news agency.

As jubilant Kherson residents woke up the morning following the arrival of the first Ukrainian troops, Ukraine’s military said it was putting “stabilization measures” in place to ensure safety.

Ihor Klymenko, chief of the National Police of Ukraine, said about 200 officers were at their posts in Kherson and that checkpoints had been set up. Authorities also began seeking out any evidence of possible Russian war crimes, he said in a Facebook post.

The Ukrainian communications watchdog said national TV and radio broadcasts had resumed in the strategic southern city and officials said aid supplies had begun to arrive from nearby regions.

Social media postings on November 12 showed local residents removing memorial plaques put up by Kremlin-installed authorities during the occupation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other officials warned that while special forces had entered central Kherson, the full deployment of Ukrainian troops was still under way and that some Russian soldiers could have shed military uniforms for civilian clothing and remained in the city.

“Even when the city is not yet completely cleansed of the enemy’s presence, the people of Kherson themselves are already removing Russian symbols and any traces of the occupiers’ stay in Kherson from the streets and buildings,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

But he said that “medicine, communications, social services are returning. Life is returning.”

WATCH: Local residents welcomed Ukrainian soldiers into Snihurivka on November 10, as advance forces of the Ukrainian military recaptured the town in the southern Mykolayiv region.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, speaking to world leaders at an ASEAN summit in Cambodia, warned that the celebratory mood could turn grim with the possible discovery of war crimes evidence in Kherson.

Such evidence was discovered after Russian troops pulled out of the Kyiv and Kharkiv regions months ago.

“Every time we liberate a piece of our territory, when we enter a city liberated from the Russian Army, we find torture rooms and mass graves with civilians tortured and murdered by the Russian Army in the course of the occupation of the territories,” he said. “It’s not easy to speak with people like this. But I said that every war ends with diplomacy and Russia has to approach talks in good faith.”

The White House on November 12 hailed Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson as an “extraordinary victory” for Ukraine.

“It does look as though the Ukrainians have just won an extraordinary victory where the one regional capital that Russia had seized in this war is now back under a Ukrainian flag — and that is quite a remarkable thing,” US national-security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters as he accompanied President Joe Biden to the ASEAN summit.

Sullivan said that the Russian retreat would have “broader strategic implications,” including relieving the longer-term threat by Russia to other southern Ukrainian cities such as Odesa.

“It’s a big moment, and it’s due to the incredible tenacity and skill of the Ukrainians, backed by the relentless and united support of the United States and our allies,” Sullivan said.

Asked about reports that the Biden administration has started to press Zelenskiy to explore negotiations with Moscow, Sullivan said Russia, not Ukraine, was the side that has to decide whether or not to go to the table.

“This whole notion, I think, in the Western press of, ‘When’s Ukraine going to negotiate?’ misses the underlying fundamentals,” Sullivan said.

Russia, he added, continues to make “outlandish claims” about its self-declared annexations of Ukrainian lands, even as it retreats from Ukrainian counterattacks.

“Ultimately, at a 30,000-foot level, Ukraine is the party of peace in this conflict and Russia is the party of war. Russia invaded Ukraine. If Russia chose to stop fighting in Ukraine and left, it would be the end of the war If Ukraine chose to stop fighting and give up, it would be the end of Ukraine,” he said. “In that context, our position remains the same as it has been and fundamentally is in close consultation and support of President Zelenskiy.”

Separately, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on November 12 that Moscow’s “strategic failure” in Kherson will sow doubt among the Russian public about the point of the war in Ukraine.

“Russia’s announced withdrawal from Kherson marks another strategic failure for them. In February, Russia failed to take any of its major objectives except Kherson,” Wallace said in a statement. “Now with that also being surrendered, ordinary people of Russia must surely ask themselves: ‘What was it all for?'”

Meanwhile, Pavel Filipchuk, the head of the occupation government in Nova Kakhovka, told administrators and residents that Russian forces will be pulling back from the city on the right bank of the Dnieper River.

He cited concerns that the key dam could be damaged by missiles, which would result in flooding.

Both Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of planning to blast the dam, which has already been severely damaged.

With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and Reuters

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