KYV, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — Russian-established authorities on Saturday ordered all residents of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson to leave the city “immediately” ahead of an expected advance of Ukrainian troops, one of the first to retaliate to free are doing. The urban areas were occupied by Russia after invading the country.
Through a Telegram messaging service, the regional administration set up by the Kremlin called on citizens to cross a major river and use boats in Russian-controlled territory, given the tense situation on the front lines and suspected bombings and “terrorist attacks”. was cited. by Kyiv.
Kherson has been in Russian hands since the first days of the invasion in February. The city is the capital of a region of the same name, one of four that was illegally annexed to Russia by President Vladimir Putin last month and then placed under Russian martial law.
On Friday, Ukrainian forces bombarded Russian posts across the province, drawing a near all-out attack on their capital as they attacked Kremlin forces’ re-supply routes across the Dnieper River.
The Russian-founded authorities were reportedly trying to turn the city of Kherson into a fortress because of its major industries and major river and sea port, a prime target for both sides as they tried to relocate thousands of residents.
According to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army, the Kremlin sent more than 2,000 troops to the surrounding area to compensate for the losses of its troops and strengthen units at the front.
The Dnieper River holds a prominent position in regional fighting as it serves important functions, allowing supplies, troops and civilians to pass through, as well as providing drinking water for southern Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula. Hydroelectric power provides power to the plant. , Much of the territory is under Russian control, including the power station and the canal that feeds Crimea.
Kremlin-backed officials in Kherson previously announced plans to evacuate all Russian-appointed officials and 60,000 civilians across the river, with local leader Volodymyr Saldo saying it would be a “gradual and organized move”.
Another Russian-founded official estimated on Saturday that about 25,000 people from across the region had crossed the Dnieper. On Telegram, Kirill Stremosov claimed that citizens were relocating voluntarily.
“People are actively moving because today the priority is life. We are not dragging anyone anywhere,” he said in a candid response to allegations made by Ukraine and the West about a possible forced relocation by Moscow.
Ukrainian authorities have urged local residents to resist attempts to relocate them, with a local official alleging that Moscow wanted to take civilians hostage and use them as human shields.
Elsewhere, hundreds of thousands of people in central and western Ukraine woke up on Saturday to power outages and periodic gunfire as Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense tried to shoot down drones and missiles.
Russia has intensified its attacks on power plants, water supply systems and other key infrastructure across the country in the latest phase of the nearly eight-month-long war.
Ukraine’s air force in a statement accused Moscow of launching a “massive missile strike” on “critical infrastructure” on Saturday, hours after airstrike sirens sounded across the country. The note said Ukrainian troops shot down 18 of 33 air- and sea-launched cruise missiles.
Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app that “several shells” were also dropped targeting the capital on Saturday morning. The governors of six provinces in the west and the center of the capital, as well as Odessa on the Black Sea coast in the south, made similar statements.
In its morning report, the Ukrainian presidential office said five explosive-laden drones were shot down in the central Cherkasy region, southeast of Kyiv.
The western city of Khmelnitsky, located on the banks of the Bug River, and with a pre-war population of about 275,000, lost power soon after several powerful explosions were reported by local media. Local officials took to social networks to ask residents to collect water, “if it even gets cut in an hour.”
The mayor of Lutsk, a city with 215,000 residents in the far west of the country, made a similar call on Telegram on Saturday.
Earlier in the week, President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the population to limit their energy consumption between 07:00 and 11:00 a.m. and to avoid the use of high-drain appliances such as electric heaters.
In the past two weeks, Russia has intensified its attacks on key civilian infrastructure across Ukraine. According to officials, about 40% of Ukraine’s electricity system has been badly damaged. Zelensky claimed earlier in the week that 30% of power stations had been destroyed since October 10.
Kozlowska reported from London