February 2, 2023

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The first train in 9 months leaves Kyiv for Kherson

The first train from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, to Kherson since before the Russian invasion arrived on Saturday after an 11-hour journey, a step in reconnecting the vital southern city a week after Ukrainian troops wrested control from Russian occupation .

Train 102, which arrived in Kherson in the morning, carried 200 passengers and would mark the start of scheduled service between the cities, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official in the president’s office, wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

Videos posted by Ukrainian officials on social media showed the train departing to cheers and applause from people on the platform, while triumphant rock music blared from the speakers.

“This is our triumphant march!” Mr. Tymoshenko wrote. “Like this train, we will bring everything for normal life back to Kherson!”

Kherson was the first major city to be taken by Moscow forces after February’s invasion, and remained under Russian control until November 11, when Ukrainian troops entered the city to jubilant cheers from residents. Russia’s retreat from the city across the Dnipro River, the retreat from the only regional capital within its reach, dealt a blow to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in his war.

During the months of occupation, the city’s residents were exposed to the Russian campaign of assimilation and the suppression of Ukrainian identity. Reports of harsh interrogations, torture and ill-treatment by Russian soldiers have surfaced in the days since Russia’s withdrawal.

According to Serhii Khlan, the previously exiled deputy governor of the Kherson region, electricity and water were restored at the Kherson railway station before the train’s arrival. Officials said the train would run from Kyiv to Kherson on even dates and from Kherson to Kyiv on odd dates.

Train services also resumed a few days earlier from Kyiv to Mykolaiv, a stricken Black Sea port near Kherson. Railway officials said at the time that reconnecting the link to Kherson was a challenge as retreating Russian troops had extensively mined the tracks, leading to explosions that injured at least nine railway workers in recent days.

Two days after the recapture of Kherson, before the line was secured, the National Railway Company of Ukraine began selling tickets to the city to be used once travel resumed. It also offered targeted tickets to destinations still under Russian occupation — Mariupol in the south-east, Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, and Simferopol in Crimea — the proceeds of which would be used for transport infrastructure projects.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, CEO of the railway company, wrote on Twitter that the resumption of rail service was important because roads, made muddy and impassable by snow and rain, had hampered efforts to bring aid to the residents of Kherson.