Ukrainians Protest in Russian-Occupied Kherson in 'Huge' Turnout 

Hundreds of Ukrainian protesters on Saturday took to the streets of Russian-occupied Kherson, which became the first major city to be taken by Russian forces earlier in the week.

Videos posted on social media showed protesters chanting, waving Ukrainian flags, and holding posters, as Russian forces stood by in the city of of approximately 300,000 people.

"Huge turnout at a protest against the Russian occupation in Russian-occupied Kherson," tweeted Valerie Hopkins, New York Times correspondent in Moscow who is currently in Ukraine, on Saturday, along with a video, which appears to show the main square. Te video can be seen here.

Kherson residents for several hours chanted patriotic slogans and urged Russian troops to return home to Russia, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

Russian troops at one point opened fire in the air but left the city center by 1:00 pm. local time, the agency reported, citing multiple eyewitnesses.

"In Ukrainian cities, where the occupiers threaten locals with machine-gun fire, more people gather to protest than in 'peaceful' Moscow. Ukrainians are less afraid of the aggressor than Russians are of their own police. Today's protest in Russian-occupied Kherson," Ukraine's Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security tweeted.

Iuliia Mendel, a former spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, shared a video of the protest on Twitter, saying that city officials asked her to do so.

"They want the whole world to know they are Ukraine and they are proud of it," she tweeted. "They are protesting under risk of being killed by Russians."

She later tweeted that Russians "tried to shoot in the air to break up the rally in Kherson."

"But there are a lot of people and Ukrainian flags," Mendel added. "A lot of men and women of different ages. People want Russia out! Kherson is Ukraine!"

Eyewitnesses told Interfax several thousand people took part in the protest.

A local law enforcement officer was captured on video standing on top of a Russian armored vehicle, carrying a Ukrainian flag as it moved through the city, Interfax reported.

Russia's Defense Ministry said Wednesday that its military had "taken full control" of Kherson.

The mayor of Kherson, Igor Kolykhaiev, said in a statement late Wednesday that "there were armed visitors in the city council."

"We have shown that we are working to secure the city and are trying to eliminate the consequences of the invasion," Kolykhaiev said. "We don't have Ukrainian Armed Forces in the city."

"My team and I are peaceful people—we had no weapons and there was no aggression from our side," he said. "I didn't make any promises to them... I just asked them not to shoot people."

The mayor said he was thinking about how he could "rebuild the city" after the attacks.

Kolykhaiev had said residents must follow a curfew and walk in groups of no larger than two to ensure that the Russian military "is not provoked."

The strategically located city was first infiltrated by Russian forces on February 24, the first day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine-Russia conflict
Protesters carry a giant Ukrainian flag during a rally to show unity and support of Ukrainian integrity, amid soaring tensions with Russia, in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa, on February 20, 2022. Ukrainian protesters (not pictured here) on March 5 took to the streets of Russian-occupied Kherson, which was the first major city to be captured by Russia. OLEKSANDR GIMANOV/AFP/Getty Images