Russian-installed authorities in occupied Kherson have urged residents to leave “immediately” as they expect Ukrainian troops to proceed counterattack campaign to retake the city in southern Ukraine.
The regional government posted a notice on the Telegram app on Saturday asking civilians leave Kherson city, citing the tense situation on the front and the threat of artillery fire and plans of “terrorist attacks” by Ukrainian forces.
They urged civilians to use boats to cross the river to push deeper into Russian-held territory.
Russia capture the capital of the Kherson region in the early days of the war and occupied other parts of the region in the months that followed. Kherson is one of the four regions of President Vladimir Putin illegal annexation last month. On Thursday, he declared martial law in the areas as Ukrainian forces continued to counterattack.
Kherson-backed Kremlin authorities had earlier announced plans to evacuate all Russian-appointed officials and about 60,000 civilians across the river, in what local leader Vladimir Saldo said would be the an “organised, gradual displacement”.
An estimated 25,000 people from the region crossed the river, according to another Russian-installed official, Kirill Stremousov, who said civilians were willing to relocate.
“People are actively moving because today the priority is life. We are not dragging anyone anywhere,” he said in his Telegram post, adding that some residents may be waiting for the Ukrainian army to retake the city.
However, Ukrainian and Western officials have expressed concern about the possibility of being forced to move residents to Russia or to Russian-occupied territory. Kyiv urged the people of Kherson to resist efforts to relocate them, with one local official accusing Moscow of wanting to take civilians hostage and use them as human shields.
Attacks on ‘critical infrastructure’
On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians in the central and western part of the country lost power amid a Russian surge strike on power plantswater supply system and other critical infrastructure.
Ukraine’s air force says Russia launched “a major missile attack” targeting “critical infrastructure”, hours after the air raid sirens sounded across the country. It said it shot down 18 of 33 air- and sea-launched cruise missiles.
The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, said “several missiles” aimed at the capital were shot down on Saturday morning. Other governors of six western and central provinces as well as the southern Odesa region also reported similar attacks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later said Russia had launched 36 missiles, most of which were shot down.
Zelenskyy said: “Those deadly attacks against extremely important facilities are the signature tactics of terrorists. “The world can and must stop this terrorism.”
Loss of energy
Due to recent attacks on infrastructure, grid operator Ukrenergo and Ukrainian officials urge citizens to limit electricity use nationwide for the first time.
Earlier this week, Zelenskyy said 30% of Ukraine’s power plants have been destroyed since Russia launched its first wave of targeted infrastructure attacks on October 10.
According to the deputy office of the President of Ukraine Kyrylo Tymoshenko, nearly 1.4 million households lost power due to the attacks. He added that about 672,000 houses in the western Khmelnytskyi region were affected and another 242,000 lost power in the Cherkasy region.
Much of the western city of Khmelnytskyi, which lies between the Bug River and has a pre-war population of 275,000, was without electricity shortly after local media reported several large explosions.
In a post on social media, the city council urged residents to stock up on water “in case it runs out within an hour”.
The mayor of Lutsk, a city of 215,000 people in western Ukraine, made a similar appeal, saying power in the city had been partially destroyed after Russian missiles hit the areas. local energy facility and damaged a power plant beyond repair.
The central city of Uman, an important pilgrimage center for Hasidic Jews with some 100,000 inhabitants before the war, was also plunged into darkness after a rocket hit a nearby power plant.
On Friday, Ukrainian forces shelled Russian positions across the Kherson region, targeting pro-Kremlin supply routes across the Dnieper River and preparing for a final assault. recapture the city of Kherson.
The counter-attack has taken back large areas in the north of the region since the end of August. The Ukrainian military reported that The Russian army was forced to withdraw from the villages of Charivne and Chkalove in the Beryslav district.
Meanwhile, Russian officials said two civilians were killed and 12 others injured after airstrikes hit Russia’s southern region of Belgorod near the border with Ukraine on Saturday.
Regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on social media after shelling on “civil infrastructure” in the town of Shebekino, where nearly 15,000 people were left without electricity.