Kyiv, UKRAINE (AP) — Russian-installed authorities in Ukraine have launched a counteroffensive against all residents of the city of Kherson to retake one of the first urban areas it captured after its invasion. The country ordered to leave “immediately” on Saturday, ahead of the expected advance by.
In a post on the Telegram message service, the pro-Kremlin regional administration called on civilians to cross the main river by boat and move deeper into Russian-controlled territory, citing the tense situation at the front and the threat of artillery fire. rice field. Terrorist attack by Kyiv”.
Kherson has been in Russian hands since the early days of the almost eight-month-long war in Ukraine. The city is the capital of the region of the same name, one of four regions Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month and placed under Russian martial law on Thursday.
On Friday, Ukrainian forces targeted the supply route of pro-Kremlin forces across the Dnieper River, approaching a full-on assault on the city of Kherson, and shelled Russian positions across the province. Since then, they have recaptured several villages in the northern part of the region.
Russian-installed officials were reported to be desperately trying to turn the city of Kherson into a fortress while attempting to relocate tens of thousands of residents.
According to the Ukrainian Army General Staff, the Kremlin has pumped as many as 2,000 conscripts into the surrounding area to replenish losses and strengthen frontline forces.
The Dnieper stands out in regional battles because it performs multiple important functions. Provides crossroads for supplies, military, and civilians. Drinking water in Crimea annexed to southern Ukraine. Power generation from a hydroelectric power plant.
Much of the area is under Russian control, including power plants and canals that supply water to Crimea.
Kherson’s Kremlin-backed authorities previously announced plans to evacuate as many as 60,000 civilians across the river with all Russian-appointed officials.
Another official based in Russia estimated about 25,000 people crossed the Dnieper on Saturday from across the region. In a telegram post, Kirill Stremsov claimed civilians were willing to relocate.
“People are on the move because the priority today is life. We don’t drag anyone anywhere,” he said.
Ukrainian and Western officials have expressed concern about possible forced deportations of residents to Russia or to Russian-occupied territories.
Ukrainian authorities are urging residents of Kherson to resist attempts to relocate them, with one local official alleging Moscow wanted to take civilians hostage and use them as human shields. .
Elsewhere in the invaded country, hundreds of thousands of people in central and western Ukraine woke up on Saturday to blackouts and regular outbursts of gunfire. In its latest war tactic, Russia has ramped up attacks on power plants, water systems and other critical infrastructure across the country.
The Ukrainian Air Force said in a statement on Saturday that Russia had launched a “massive missile strike” targeting “critical infrastructure” and shot down 18 of 33 air and sea-launched cruise missiles. added.
In a Telegram post published late Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned 36 missiles “most of which were shot down”. The reason for the discrepancy in numbers was not immediately apparent.
Air raid sirens rang out twice across Ukraine by early afternoon, and residents rushed to shelters as Ukrainian air defenses tried to shoot down explosive drones and incoming missiles.
“Several rockets” aimed at the Ukrainian capital were shot down Saturday morning, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a telegram message service.
In a morning update, the president’s office said five suicide drones had been shot down in the central Cherkasy region, southeast of Kyiv.
Governors of six western and central provinces, as well as southern Odessa on the Black Sea, made similar reports.
A top Ukrainian diplomat said today’s attack proved that Ukraine needed a new Western-hardened air defense system “without a minute delay”.
“Air defense saves lives,” Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
The deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, Kirilo Tymoshenko, told Telegram that almost 1.4 million households had lost power as a result of the strike. He said about 672,000 households in the West Khmelnytsky region were affected and another 242,000 households in the Cherkasy region were without power.
Most of Khmelnytsky’s western city, which straddles the Bug River and had a pre-war population of 275,000, suffered a power outage shortly after local media reported several loud explosions.
In a social media post on Saturday, the city council urged local residents to stockpile water “in case they run out within an hour.”
The mayor of Lutsk, a city of 215,000 in the far west of Ukraine, made a similar appeal on Saturday. Lutsk’s power was partially knocked out after a Russian missile slammed into a local energy facility, Mayor Ihor Polishchuk said.
He later added that civilians were burned when shock waves from the strike hit his home, and one power plant was damaged beyond repair.
The central city of Uman, an important pilgrimage center for Hasidic Jews, which was home to about 100,000 people before the war, also plunged into darkness after a rocket hit a nearby power plant, local officials said. told Telegram.
Ukrainian state energy company Uklenergo responded to the strike by announcing rolling blackouts in Kyiv and 10 regions of Ukraine to stabilize the situation.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, the company accused Russia of attacking “an energy facility within a major network in the western region of Ukraine”. Claimed to be comparable to fallout from coordinated strikes.Energy Grid.
Both Ukrenergo and Kyiv officials urged Ukrainians to conserve energy. Earlier this week, Zelensky urged consumers to limit their electricity use between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. and avoid using energy-hungry appliances such as electric stoves.
Zelenskyy said earlier in the week that 30% of Ukraine’s power plants had been destroyed since Russia launched its first wave of targeted infrastructure strikes on October 10.
In another development, Russian officials said two people were killed and 12 wounded in a shelling attack on a remote town just a few kilometers north of the Ukrainian border.
A 14-year-old boy and an elderly man died on the spot after a shell hit civilian infrastructure in Shevekino, home to about 44,500 people, said Andrei Ikonnikov, Minister of Health for Russia’s South Belgorod region.
An earlier social media post by regional governor Vladislav Gladkov condemned the attack on Ukraine. Kyiv has not formally responded to these accusations.
Kozlowska reports from London.
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