Ukraine: Announcement of compulsory evacuation of the Donetsk region
KYIV, Ukraine –
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday said his government is ordering a forced evacuation of people in the eastern region of Donetsk, which is under fierce fighting with Russia.
In a late-night televised address, Zelenskyy also said hundreds of thousands of people still in war zones in the greater Donbas region, which includes Donetsk as well as the neighboring Luhansk region, needed to leave.
“The more people leave the Donetsk region, the fewer people the Russian military will have time to kill,” he said, adding that residents who leave will be compensated.
Separately, Ukraine’s domestic media quoted Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk as saying that the evacuation needed to take place before winter began because natural gas supplies in the region had been destroyed.
Zelenskyy said hundreds of thousands of people are still living in areas of Donbas, where fighting is fierce.
“Many people refuse to leave but it still needs to be done,” the president said. “If you have the chance, talk to the people who are still in the battle areas in Donbas. Convince them that it is necessary to leave.”
This is not the first time Ukrainian authorities have called for civilians to evacuate from areas they control in Donetsk, and John Herbst, a former US ambassador to Ukraine, told Reuters it was likely due to expectations that it would More heavy fighting occurred due to lack of fuel.
“I don’t know why Zelenskyy made the appeal,” he said. “What I do know is that there was heavy fighting in Donetsk. The Russians took (neighboring) Luhansk (oblast) a few weeks ago. I expect there will be more intense fighting in Donetsk.”
Herbst said he does not expect Russia to capture the rest of Donetsk because of its need for longer logistics lines and the use of advanced long-range artillery and missile systems by Ukrainian forces from the United States and other countries. grant.
Earlier on Saturday, the Ukrainian military said more than 100
Russian soldiers were killed and 7 tanks destroyed in skirmishes in the south on Friday, including in the Kherson area that was the focus of Kyiv’s counter-offensive in that part of the country and is an important link in Moscow’s supply lines.
The army’s southern command said rail traffic to Kherson via the Dnipro River had been cut, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and east.
South of the town of Bakhmut, which Russia considers a top target in Donetsk, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces had “partially succeeded” in establishing control over the Semyhirya settlement by attacking it from three direction.
“He was on his own on the outskirts of the settlement,” the army’s evening report said, referring to Russian forces.
British defense and intelligence officials, who have been one of Ukraine’s most loyal allies since Moscow’s invasion of the neighboring country on February 24, describe Russian forces as struggling to stay afloat. motivation.
Ukraine has used Western-supplied long-range missile systems to severely damage three bridges spanning the Dnipro River in recent weeks, cutting off the city of Kherson and – according to defense officials. Britain – making the Russian 49th Army very vulnerable on the west bank of the river.
The governor of the pro-Ukrainian Kherson region, Dmytro Butriy, said fighting was ongoing in many parts of the region and that the Berislav district, just northwest of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, was badly affected.
He wrote on Telegram: “In some villages, not a single house is intact, all infrastructure has been destroyed, people are living in basements.
Just north of Lysychansk, which Moscow’s forces had captured in early July after weeks of fighting, Ukrainian guerrillas destroyed a railway junction box near the Russian-controlled town of Svatove on Friday night. , making it difficult for Moscow to deliver ammunition to the front lines. Luhansk region governor Serhiy Gaidai said in an online post.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports.
Officials from the Russian-appointed administration that runs the Kherson region earlier this week dismissed Western and Ukrainian assessments of the situation.
On Friday, the British Ministry described the Russian government as “increasingly desperate” for having lost tens of thousands of soldiers in the war. The director of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence service, Richard Moore added on Twitter that Russia is “running out of steam”.
CAUSE OF DEATH
Ukraine and Russia have raised accusations of a missile attack or explosion early Friday that appears to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the frontline town of Olenivka, which is backed by Moscow-backed separatists. east of Donetsk.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday released a list of 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war killed and 73 wounded in a Ukrainian military attack with the US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). .
Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov said “all political, criminal and moral responsibility” rests with Zelenskyy, “his criminal regime and Washington supports them.”
The ministry said Russia had invited experts from the United Nations and the Red Cross to probe the dead “in the interest of conducting an objective investigation.”
The separatists put the death toll at 53.
Ukraine’s armed forces denied responsibility, saying that Russian artillery targeted the prison to cover up abuses there. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Friday said Russia had committed war crimes and called for international condemnation.
Reuters could not immediately verify the various versions of events, but several deaths were confirmed by Reuters journalists who visited the prison.
Earlier, the United Nations said it was prepared to send experts to investigate if it received the consent of both sides. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was reaching out and offered to help evacuate the injured.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed condolences in a phone call on Friday with Kuleba and said Washington was committed to “holding Russia accountable for its atrocities”, the US State Department said. .
Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities against civilians and identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia denies targeting civilians and war criminals.
(Reporting by Reuters; written by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Jonathan Landay and David Brunnstrom; edited by Lincoln Feast, William Mallard, Frances Kerry, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis)