Russian forces have taken the Ukrainian city of Kherson, local officials confirmed, the first major urban center to fall since Moscow invaded one week ago.
“The (Russian) occupiers are in all parts of the city and are very dangerous,” Gennady Lakhuta, head of the regional administration, wrote on messaging service Telegram late Wednesday. The mayor of the port city of 290,000, Igor Kolykhaiev, announced discussions with “armed guests” in Kherson’s city administration.
“We had no weapons and were not aggressive. We showed that we are working to secure the city and are trying to deal with the consequences of the invasion,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
“We are having huge difficulties with the collection and burial of the dead, the delivery of food and medicine, the collection of garbage, the management of accidents, etc.,” he continued.
Kolykhaiev said that he had “made no promises” to the invading forces but asked them “not to shoot people”, while also announcing a night curfew in the city and a restriction on car traffic.
“So far so good. The flag flying above us is Ukrainian. And for it to stay that way, these requirements must be met,” he added.
The Russian army announced its seizure of Kherson, located not far from the Crimean Peninsula annexed in 2014 by Moscow, on Wednesday morning.
The Black Sea city came under siege as Russian forces pressed ahead with their offensives on other urban centres.
Another key Ukrainian port, Berdiansk, has already been seized by Russian troops, while Mariupol has repelled attacks “with dignity,” according to that city’s mayor, Vadym Boychenko.
“Today was the hardest and cruel lest day of the seven-day war. Today they just wanted to destroy us all,” he said in a video on Telegram, accusing Russian forces of shooting at residential buildings.
Boychenko said infrastructure was damaged in the assault, leaving people without light, water or heating.
Russian forces have also bombarded Ukraine’s second-biggest city Kharkiv, in an attack that has prompted comparisons to the massacres of civilians in Sarajevo in the 1990s. After days of intense fighting, hundreds of civilians have been killed, while around one million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began, triggering punishing Western sanctions intended to cripple Russia’s economy.