Russian-appointed authorities have ordered residents of the Ukrainian city of Kherson to evacuate “immediately” as Ukraine draws closer.
Kherson, the capital of the eponymous southern region and one of four illegally annexed by Russia in the past month, is a key strategic hub in the war.
Ahead of an expected advance of Ukrainian soldiers, the pro-Russian regional administration urged people to flee the incoming “terrorist attacks” in Kyiv.
But a Kherson resident disagrees, claiming Russian officials and allies are high on the evacuation list.
They told Sky News today: “This is not a civilian evacuation. The collaborators are running away, and those who came to help the occupiers.”
“Most often it is families of Russian officers, families of Russian officials and collaborators who helped organize the referendum.
“Among them are teachers and doctors, community workers and kindergarten teachers. Those who took Russian passports.”
Russia has warned civilians about the looming threat of shelling, saying they must leave so Russia can strengthen defense lines to repel attacks.
Thousands have flocked to boat trips from Kherson this week across the Dnipro River, which divides the country in two.
But the ordered route takes residents deeper into Russian-held territory and away from Kherson, which the Kremlin has held shaky since the early days of the war.
Tens of thousands of civilians and Russian officials will be stripped as part of the operation, local leader Vladimir Saldo said earlier this week.
He estimated that around 50,000 to 60,000 civilians would leave in an “organized, phased displacement.”
Ukrainian forces are advancing at full speed on the west bank of the Dnipro to push back the Russians.
According to the Ukrainian Army General Staff, the Kremlin sent up to 2,000 conscripts to the region to reinforce the front.
But Kyiv on Friday attacked Russian supply routes via Kherson as they slowly moved towards Kherson.
And for a good reason. Kherson is the only land route to the Crimean Peninsula, allowing Moscow to ship supplies like drinking water there.
This is also where the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station is located, which keeps the lights on in the southern region.
In a sign of Russia’s growing desperation, Moscow is even considering blowing up a dam at the plant on the outskirts of Kherson.
That would buy Russia some time even if it floods thousands of people nearby, the US think tank Institute of War suggested on Wednesday.
Kherson is among three other provinces illegally admitted to Russia after a sham referendum.
All four are now under martial law, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday, giving sweeping powers to the Russian-installed heads of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson.
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/10/22/thousands-flee-annexed-kherson-after-russia-orders-evacuation-17617210/ Thousands flee annexed Kherson after Russia orders evacuation