Russia starts evacuations in occupied Kherson
Russia has initiated the evacuation of civilians in the occupied region of Kherson as Ukraine continues to mount its counteroffensive to regain territory lost during the war.
Vladimir Saldo, the Russia-appointed leader of the region, said in a post on Telegram that Ukraine is building up forces for a large-scale offensive on Kherson, while Russia has formed a force to repel the offensive.
Saldo said immediate danger exists from flooding of the area, accusing Ukraine without evidence of planning to destroy a nearby dam and saying that water from power plants upstream of a river will be released.
He said this led him to decide to order the evacuation of four municipalities to the left bank of the river.
The move comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday that he will declare martial law in the four regions that Russia recently annexed through referendums that were widely denounced by the international community.
The declaration, which will go into effect Thursday, will give the Kremlin more control over the regions — Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.
Saldo said the regional government’s task is to save lives and allow Russian troops to do their jobs. He said the Russian government will provide housing certificates to residents who move further into Russia.
The BBC reported that Ukraine has told civilians to ignore the move.
Reuters reported that Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, accused Russia of attempting to scare residents of Kherson through newsletters accusing Ukraine of planning to shell the city.
Multiple outlets reported that Russia’s top commander in Ukraine, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, said on Russian state television that the situation in Kherson is uneasy and Russia’s control of the city was weakening.
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