The Russian pullback from Kherson is a big deal and President Zelensky is emphasizing that today by traveling to the city.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a triumphant visit to Kherson on Monday morning, saying that the city’s liberation marked “the beginning of the end of the war” and pledging to drive Russia entirely out of his country.

Standing in the central square of Kherson in front of a raucous crowd of several hundred people, Zelensky said Western-supplied weapons played a crucial role in recent battlefield victories but that the victories were paid for in Ukrainian blood.

“Nobody just gave us anything,” he said when a journalist suggested that Russian troops had fled the city. “The price of this victory is considered very high,” the president said, adding that the cost was “a lot of people wounded and a very high number of dead.”

Russia’s reaction to the visit only emphasized how far out of touch they are with reality.

Moscow’s surrender of the city last week exposed Putin’s annexation proclamation as a fantasy, divorced from reality on the ground, and the jubilation of residents upon the arrival of Ukrainian troops suggested that Russia did not enjoy the local support it tried to claim from staged referendums in September.

Asked about Zelensky’s visit to the city, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Monday reiterated Russia’s bogus claim to Ukraine’s sovereign land. “We leave this without comment, ” Peskov said during a conference call with reporters. “You know that this is the territory of the Russian Federation.”

Actually, no, it’s not territory of the Russian Federation. You know how I know that? Because Zelensky is singing the Ukrainian national anthem as the Ukrainian flag is raised and no one is stopping him.

He also gave out some awards to the military.

He did an interview joking about why he came.

About an hour ago (as I write this) the Associated Press reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had checked into a hospital in Bali and the left a short time later.

Bali Gov. I Wayan Koster said Lavrov, 72, was taken to Sanglah Hospital, the island’s biggest, “for a health checkup.”

“He left the hospital after a brief checkup and his health is in good condition,” the governor said…

Two of the people said Lavrov had sought treatment for a heart condition, with one later saying he’d returned to his hotel.

Lavrov’s spokesperson was quick to post a photo and a video showing him in a t-shirt at his hotel room (I guess he doesn’t own any comfortable shoes).

Meanwhile, the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service had flown to Turkey for talks with the US.

Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Naryshkin flew to Ankara from the Russian side.

This meeting has not been publicly announced before. The source has so far declined to provide details of the talks.

CNN confirms Naryshkin is meeting with CIA director Bill Burns.

CIA Director Bill Burns is meeting with his Russian intelligence counterpart, Sergey Naryshkin, in Ankara Monday as part of an ongoing effort by the US to “communicate with Russia on managing risk” and to discuss the cases of “unjustly detained US citizens,” a National Security Council spokesperson tells CNN.

“We have been very open about the fact that we have channels to communicate with Russia on managing risk, especially nuclear risk and risks to strategic stability,” the spokesperson said. “As part of this effort, Bill Burns is in Ankara today to meet with his Russian intelligence counterpart.”

CNN has previously reported that national security adviser Jake Sullivan has also been in touch with his Russian counterparts to warn them of the consequences should Russia use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

The spokesperson emphasized that Burns “is not conducting negotiations of any kind.”

Russia’s threats to resort to the use of nuclear weapons haven’t been getting as much attention in the US because of the election but the saber is still being rattled. Over the weekend there was a protest march of sorts in Moscow. These protesters weren’t demanding an end to the war, they were demanding that Putin nuke Washington DC.

Even Russian media notes that this could not have happened so close to the Kremlin without approval of the security services. In short, this was staged.

At the same time as this astroturf march is taking place in the street, Russia’s leading propagandists are once beating the nuclear drum. “There are two options: Either we win this war or the whole world is reduced to ashes,” Vladimir Solovyov said. But Julia Davis is right. All of this sounds like a warhead worth of copium after Russia’s embarrassing loss in Kherson.

Finally, one more clip. This is a parody/fake but it made me smile.

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