STORY: Greeted with a flurry of national flags and tears, Ukrainians arrived in the newly-liberated city of Kherson by train Saturday - the first time in more than eight months.
For some, the journey marked a long-overdue return home after Ukrainian forces liberated the city from Russian occupation just over a week ago.
The big welcome came even as the city remains largely without electricity or running water.
After a series of battlefield defeats, Russia is aiming punishing missile strikes at Ukraine's energy infrastructure that could leave millions of civilians exposed to the winter cold.
Pentagon officials said Moscow hopes to exhaust Ukraine's missile defenses, and buy time to reset its forces.
AUSTIN: "These are atrocities."
At a security forum in Canada Saturday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russia's invasion of Ukraine has offered a preview of "a possible world of tyranny and turmoil.”
"Putin's fellow autocrats are watching. And they could well conclude that getting nuclear weapons would give them a hunting license of their own. And that could drive a dangerous spiral of nuclear proliferation."
Austin's remarks were some of his strongest to date on the importance to the international community of helping Kyiv prevail after nearly nine months of war, and they were delivered at what may be an inflection point in the conflict.
Austin said Russia was breaking the laws of war.
"We've seen schools attacked. Children killed. Hospitals bombed. Centers of Ukrainian history and culture reduced to rubble."
Moscow denies that its armed forces deliberately target civilians or civilian infrastructure.
The United States and its allies have helped provide arms, intelligence and training to Ukrainian forces, while stopping short of directly intervening in a war against nuclear-armed Russia.
Also on Saturday, Britain's new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made his first visit to Kyiv, pledging continued support and providing a new air defense package to help shoot down Russian drones.
"And we are stepping up our support to help you through the cold hard winter ahead. This includes winter kit for your troops, help for your amazing first responders and another 16 million pounds of humanitarian assistance for food and shelter.”
The need for aid was apparent in Kherson's main square on Friday, as hundreds of residents clambered for packages of food and second-hand clothing, bracing for the cold winter ahead.