Kyiv, Ukraine – Ukrainian and Russian forces exchanged fire on Monday across the vast stretch of the Dnipro River that now divides them after Russia withdraws from the southern city of KhersonReshaping the battlefield with victory declared by the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, “the beginning of the end of the war.”
Dnipro has become the new front line in southern Ukraine, and officials there have warned of the continuing danger from the fighting in areas that have already endured months of Russian occupation.
During the afternoon, artillery fire broke out in the southern district of the city near the destroyed Antonevsky Bridge over the Dnipro River, raising fears that the Russian army would retaliate for the city’s loss by bombing from its new positions on the east bank.
Mortar shells landed near the bridge, causing smoke to rise. Near the riverbank, incoming shots rang out with thunderous, metallic minutes. It was not immediately possible to assess what was injured.
The head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, Yaroslav Yanushevich, urged tens of thousands of residents remaining in the city to evacuate while Ukrainian forces worked to clear land mines, hunt down Russian soldiers left behind and restore basic services.
Mines are a great danger. Janusevich said four people, including an 11-year-old child, were killed when a family driving in the village of Novoraisk, outside the city, ran over a mine. Another miner injured six railway workers who were trying to restore service after railways were damaged. There were at least four other children injured by mines throughout the area, Ukrainian officials said in statements.
The deaths highlighted the threats that remain on the ground, even as Mr. Zelensky made a surprise visit to Kherson, a tangible sign of high morale in Ukraine.
“We, step by step, come to our whole country,” said Mr. Zelensky in a brief appearance. In the city’s main square on Monday, hundreds of jubilant residents celebrated.
Russian forces continued firing across the river on towns and villages that Ukrainian forces had retaken, according to the Ukrainian Army’s Southern Command. The military said two Russian missiles hit the town of Preslav, north of a vital dam. It was not immediately known if there were any injuries.
Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Irina Vereshuk said that the Ukrainian government is setting up evacuation routes to the cities of Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih. “We will not have time to restore sufficient energy supplies to heat homes in which children, the sick and people with difficulty moving live,” she said. It will not be a mass eviction. It will cover the sick, the elderly and those who are left without the care of their relatives.”
On Monday, a senior US military official said that Russian forces continued to target civilian infrastructure, although the pace of missile and drone strikes appeared to have slowed since the end of October.
On the eastern bank of the Dnipro, residents described an increasingly oppressive environment in which Russian soldiers poured into the area.
“Passengers are stealing locals and exchanging things for samogon,” or homemade vodka, said one resident, Tatiana, who communicated via a secure messaging app from Oleshky, a town across the river from Kherson. “Then they get drunk and get more aggressive. We are very scared here.” She requested that her family name be withheld for security reasons.
Other residents on the East Bank gave similar accounts of chaos and disorder.
Ivan, 45, wrote in a text message: “The Russians are walking around, identifying empty houses and settling there.” He lives in Skadovsk, south of Kherson, and asked that his surname not be used, fearing for his safety. “We are trying to communicate with the owners and arrange for a local person to stay where they are. So that it is not abandoned and the Russians do not take it.”
Over the weekend, the Ukrainian military sought to target Russian forces as they attempted to regroup after their withdrawal from Kherson. The Ukrainian air force launched strikes on the eastern side of the river, where the Ukrainian military said it fired at 33 Russian positions.
Andrew E. Kramer And the Anna Lukinova Contribute to the preparation of reports.
“Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer.”