Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) – Russia began evacuating civilians from Kherson in southern Ukraine on Wednesday in the face of advances by Kyiv, which said the population transfers amounted to “deportations”.
As battlefield developments continued to stretch Russia, President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday imposed sweeping new security measures in many Russian regions and declared martial law in four regions of Ukraine recently annexed by Moscow.
Moscow continued to rain missiles and munitions on all corners of Ukraine, including Kyiv and the west of the country, which was spared the Russian onslaught earlier in the conflict.
Ukraine said it shot down “several Russian rockets” over Kyiv in the third consecutive day of attacks on the capital.
A Ukrainian representative in the Kherson region called Russia’s push to evacuate the city of the same name “equivalent to deportation”. The city has been in Moscow’s hands since the first days of the invasion.
“The goal (of Putin) is to create a kind of panic in Kherson and an image (to feed) the propaganda”, declared Sergiy Khlan, the Ukrainian forces always pushed their counter-offensive towards the south.
He said the Russians were using the evacuations as a “pretext” to justify “their withdrawal from Kherson and more generally from the right bank” of the Dnieper.
Pro-Russian officials in the Ukrainian town of Oleshky, across the river, said residents of the city of Kherson were already arriving.
Russian television Rossiya 24 showed footage of people waiting to board ferries to cross the river, unable to use the bridges disabled by Ukraine.
Moscow-based Kherson region chief Vladimir Saldo told Russian state television that the city’s administration would be moved to the eastern bank of the Dnieper.
But Khlan, the Ukrainian lawmaker, said the evacuees were destined for the Krasnodar region in southern Russia.
“Russia is carrying out deportations like in Soviet times,” he said.
As developments on the ground gathered pace, Putin’s introduction of military rule in Moscow-controlled territories also gives authorities in Russia’s southern regions bordering Ukraine extra power to stifle dissent. .
“We are working on solving very complex large-scale tasks to ensure security and protect the future of Russia,” Putin said.
Local officials said they planned to displace up to 60,000 civilians from Kherson over a period of about six days.
Separately, Russian National Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev said on Wednesday that about five million people from Russian-held regions of Ukraine had “found refuge” in Russia.
Ukraine’s resilience has been hailed around the world, and the European Parliament on Wednesday awarded the annual Sakharov Human Rights Prize to “brave” Ukrainians.
President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted in response: “Ukrainians prove their commitment to the values of freedom and democracy on the battlefield every day.”
Meanwhile, in parts of Ukraine recently recaptured from Russian forces, repairs were underway before the onset of winter, with many residents still dependent on humanitarian aid.
“Other than that, nothing is working,” said Ivan Zakharchenko, a 70-year-old Izyum resident queuing for help in the square where President Volodymyr Zelensky celebrated the city’s liberation there. a little over a month ago.
Nuclear power plant personnel detained
Ukraine has retaken occupied territory in the east of the country in recent weeks. Its advance in the south, although much slower, has accelerated in recent days.
There have also been advances on the Russian side.
Moscow announced on Tuesday that its troops had retaken territory in the eastern region of Kharkiv. Moscow has also reinforced its defenses in the territory it still holds.
The Russian mercenary group Wagner said it was working to build a fortified defense line in the Lugansk region of eastern Ukraine.
“This is a multi-layered and multi-layered defense,” group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said on his company Concord’s social media.
Meanwhile, Russian forces continue to occupy the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe.
Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency Energoatom, told AFP on Wednesday that Russian forces were currently detaining about 50 plant employees.
EU to sanction Iran
Russian missile and drone strikes in the wake of the Ukrainian battlefield demolished large parts of Ukraine’s power grid before winter.
The government has warned of the risk of power outages, saying around 30% of Ukraine’s power plants have been destroyed. And the presidency said there would be electricity restrictions from Thursday.
Drones bombarded Kyiv on Monday, killing five.
An energy facility in the city was then hit by strikes on Tuesday, killing at least two people.
On Wednesday, several explosions were heard in the center before Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced that “several Russian rockets” had been successfully shot down.
Both the Kremlin and Iran have denied this, but EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said the EU had “sufficient evidence” and would prepare new sanctions against Iran.
© 2022 AFP