Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Putin endorses evacuationsfrom occupied Kherson

Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly approved the evacuation of civilians from parts of Russian-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine.
Kyiv’s forces have been steadily advancing on the strategic port city.
Mr Putin said people living in dangerous areas should leave as “the civilian population should not suffer”.
At least 70,000 people are reported to have been moved already from Kherson – the only major city gained by Moscow since its troops invaded in February.
Civilians at risk from shelling and attacks should be “removed”, Mr Putin said, during the Unity Day holiday in Moscow’s Red Square.
Kyiv accuses Russia of forcibly deporting Ukrainian civilians – which is considered a war crime – although Moscow denies this.
Russia’s intensive missile and drone strikes on civilian infrastructure across Ukraine have caused heavy casualties and damage, and forced Kyiv to impose frequent electricity blackouts.
Mr Putin’s comments followed reports on Thursday that Russian soldiers, too, had been leaving Kherson – in what would mark a major withdrawal.
A Kremlin-installed official in the region, Kirill Stremousov, told Russian media that Moscow was “likely” to pull its troops from the area.
Ukrainian officials remained cautious, warning that the reported move could be a trap to lure their soldiers into dangerous areas.
Kherson was captured soon after Russia attacked its neighbour on February 24, but recently Ukrainian forces have steadily recaptured territory on the city’s outskirts.
Civilians were first urged to leave Kherson in the middle of last month, as the Russian army switched the city to defensive mode.
Military commanders later said they had completed an operation to evacuate the city’s residents, ahead of an expected battle there.
Russia claims the Kherson region and three other Ukrainian regions as its own territory, though it does not fully control any of them. It hastily arranged local “referendums” to justify the claim – a move condemned internationally.
Russia also annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014.

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