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    Russia claims troops gone from city in southern Ukraine

    MYKOLAIV, UKRAINE (AP) – The Russian Defense Ministry said yesterday that it finished pulling out its troops from the western bank of the river that divide’s Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, including the only provincial capital that Moscow had captured since invading the neighbouring country.

    In a statement carried by Russian state news agencies, the ministry said the withdrawal was completed at 5am yesterday, and not a single unit of military equipment was left behind.

    Moscow continues to view the entire Kherson region as part of Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

    Shortly before the Russian announcement, the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the situation in the Kherson region as “difficult”. It reported Russian shelling of some of the villages and towns Ukrainian forces reclaimed in recent weeks during their counteroffensive in the Kherson region.

    Ukrainian officials were wary of the Russian pullback announced this week, fearing their soldiers could get drawn into an ambush in Kherson city, which had a prewar population of 280,000.

    Local residents shop at the main market in the city of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine. PHOTO: AP

    Military analysts also had predicted it would take Russia’s military at least a week to complete the troop withdrawal.

    Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said on Thursday that the retreating Russian troops laid mines throughout Kherson to turn it into a “city of death”.

    He also predicted they would shell the city after relocating across the Dnieper River.

    Having previously warned that the Russian retreat might be a trap, some quarters of the Ukrainian government barely disguised their glee at the pace of the withdrawal.

    Recapturing the city could provide Ukraine a position from which to expand its southern counteroffensive to other Russian-occupied areas.

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