Pro-Russian authorities tell Kherson residents to leave ‘immediately’

(Photo: AFP)

KYIV — Pro-Russian authorities on Saturday urged residents in the southern Kherson region, which Moscow claims to have annexed, to leave the main city “immediately” in the face of Kyiv’s advancing counter-offensive.اضافة اعلان

It comes as President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia launched 36 rockets overnight in a “massive attack” on Ukraine, following reported strikes on energy infrastructure that resulted in power outages across the country.

Kyiv’s forces have been advancing along the west bank of the Dnieper River, towards the Kherson region’s eponymous main city.

The first major city to fall to Moscow’s troops, retaking it would be a key prize in Ukraine’s counter-offensive.

In recent days, Russia has been moving residents in the region — which Moscow claims to have annexed in September — in efforts described as “deportations” by Kyiv.

“Due to the tense situation on the front, the increased danger of mass shelling of the city and the threat of terrorist attacks, all civilians must immediately leave the city and cross to the left bank of the Dnieper River,” the region’s pro-Russian authorities said on social media.

A Moscow-installed official in Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, told Russian news agency Interfax on Saturday that around 25,000 people had made the crossing.

Meanwhile more than a million households in Ukraine were left without electricity following Russian strikes on energy facilities across the country, the deputy head of the Ukrainian presidency Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Saturday.

Fresh Russian strikes targeted energy infrastructure in Ukraine’s west, the national operator said earlier, with officials in several regions of the war-scarred country reporting power outages.

Russians “carried out another missile attack on energy facilities of the main networks of Ukraine’s western regions”, Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrenergo said on social media.

Power outages were reported among others in the northwestern Volyn region, parts of the southwestern Odessa region and the city of Khmelnitskyi in western Ukraine with local authorities reiterating calls to reduce energy use.

“Saturday in Ukraine starts with a barrage of Russian missiles aimed at critical civilian infrastructure,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter, urging Kyiv’s allies to hasten the delivery of air defence systems.

According to Ukraine’s air force, Moscow’s troops on Saturday fired 17 cruise missiles by aircraft from southern Russia and at least 16 Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea.

Ukraine’s authorities have called on residents to reduce power consumption amid the attacks with some parts of Ukraine reducing their electricity use by up to 20 percent, according to Ukrenergo.

“We see savings in different regions and on different days the level of voluntary consumption reduction ranges from five to 20 percent on average,” Ukrenergo chief Volodymyr Kudrytskyi said in written comments to AFP.

He added that while these were “significant volumes” for Ukraine’s energy system, they were not enough for regions where the infrastructure “suffered the most damage” and Ukrenergo must resort to “forced restrictions”.

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