Ukrainian soldiers are greeted with hugs and kisses as locals, freed by advancing troops, celebrate

As Ukrainian flags flew over towns in the country’s northeast for the first time in months, overjoyed Ukrainians greeted their liberators with hugs and kisses and presented them with watermelons in some of the happiest scenes since the war began.

he flight of Russian troops in the Kharkiv region was a great cause for celebration for many who have been forced to endure occupation since the conflict began.

The footage — some filmed by Ukrainian soldiers, others by local residents who receive them — shows civilians weeping tears of joy after more than 40 towns and villages were liberated by lightning struck by Russian lines.

In the early days of last week’s counter-offensive, the tearful residents of Balakliya, in the region’s southeast, celebrated the moment they were freed by their occupiers.

“We have been praying for six months for you to return to us. We couldn’t take it anymore,” said one woman as she emerged from a block of flats while another hugged and kissed Ukrainian soldiers.

The women offered the soldiers pancakes but were warned to take shelter amid fears of Russian air raids in the area.

“We are here, everything is fine now,” a soldier told them.

On the steps of Balakliya City Hall, two women threw themselves at troops while they were filmed celebrating the moment.

As Ukrainian forces advanced and Russian defenses collapsed, more and more footage capturing the moment various cities were liberated was shared online.

In a clip apparently captured by a soldier’s bodycam, residents of Kozacha Lopan hailed the troops as heroes.

A woman is seen reaching out for a soldier as if unable to comprehend what is happening.

Despite the joy, Western officials have expressed concern about what might be discovered in the cities liberated from Russian control.

Many residents of the Russian-speaking region said their treatment by Moscow’s invading army was humane, in contrast to their behavior in cities like Bucha, where the discovery of mass graves of torture victims has sparked international outrage.

“They weren’t monsters, they were children,” said Olena Matvienko, a resident of Zalinznychne. She added, “I asked what they wanted from us and they said, ‘We can either be here or we can be in prison.'”

Ukrainian war crimes investigators were dispatched to the area to determine whether the occupiers had committed any atrocities.

Maria Grygorova said she and two friends buried two men who were allegedly shot for violating a 6pm curfew imposed by Russian forces.

Two more bodies were collected, including the decomposing remains of a security guard who worked at an asphalt factory and was killed atop a tower used by Russian snipers. An investigator reportedly vomited when the remains were discovered.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Ukrainian soldiers are greeted with hugs and kisses as locals, freed by advancing troops, celebrate

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