Russia evacuates 15,000 civilians from Kherson as Ukrainian counter-offensive continues to make gains

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New Delhi: Around 15,000 people have been evacuated from the Russian-controlled part of the Kherson region west of the Dnieper River, Moscow-backed authorities said on Thursday, as the Ukrainian counter-offensive continues to advance on the regional capital.

“Around 15,000 people have listened to the (evacuation) recommendation of the leadership of the Kherson region,” a pro-Russian official, Kirill Stremousov, said on Telegram.

He encouraged people to cross over to the left bank of the Dnieper River to safety and posted a video of a column of buses.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials on Wednesday accused Russia of “deporting” the residents to Russia.

Kherson’s Moscow-backed authorities announced the start of the so-called evacuations Wednesday.

On the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin also introduced martial law in the four Ukrainian regions he claims to have annexed; Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Lugansk and Donetsk.

The now almost eight months long war took a turn in Kherson since September with the Ukrainian forces recapturing significant areas.

Earlier on Tuesday the Russian military commander in Ukraine had said that the civilians from Kherson were being “resettled” while describing the situation on the battlefield as “tense”

Over the next few days, thousands more are expected to follow suit.

“About 50,000 to 60,000 people would be moved out in the next six days, said Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed chief of Kherson.

Position on the ground

Kherson city, the only regional capital Russian forces could manage to capture since the beginning of the war on 24 February 2022, falls on the western bank of the Dnieper River, which divides the Kherson province into two parts connected through only two bridges over the mighty river. Russia had swiftly moved across the river in the initial days of the war and managed to wrest control of the capital.

The ground position in the area remained, more or less, the same after initial Russian gains till mid-July when Ukraine started its counter offence in Kherson. Armed with western long-range precise artillery – like the US-supplied HIMARS, and UK-supplied M270, Ukraine has since destroyed both bridges, and essential parts of the Russian supply line, making it harder for Russia to respond to the counter-offensive.

Since mid-September Ukraine stepped up the counter-offensive and recaptured around 450 square miles of land, besieging the Russians from all sides with their back against the river.

Kherson holds importance for Russia as it now, with the neighbouring eastern Zaporizhzhia province, forms the only land route that Moscow has to the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

With inputs from agencies

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Russia evacuates 15,000 civilians from Kherson as Ukrainian counter-offensive continues to make gains
Russia evacuates 15,000 civilians from Kherson as Ukrainian counter-offensive continues to make gains
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