Kherson, the only provincial capital in Ukraine that Russia keeps under control, is preparing for the imminent offensive of kyiv for its reconquest. The new head of all Russian armed forces in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, has paved the way with an interview in which he admits that “difficult decisions” will have to be made on this front. The military authorities imposed by Moscow in the annexed province of Kherson have begun to remove the inhabitants from there this Wednesday. Also, in order not to hinder the movement of its troops, no civilian will be allowed to enter the region for at least seven days. The Ukrainian government has accused Moscow of putting on a “propaganda show” with the evacuation and of trying to scare citizens.
The city has woken up with long queues of people in front of the buses that were going to take them to the other side of the Dnieper River. The governor of the Kremlin in that territory, Vladimir Saldo, affirms that more than 5,000 people have left that province in the last two days, although the official evacuation begins today in a region where, according to his calculations, more than 40% of the residents have gone into exile due to the war unleashed by Moscow in February.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive on Kherson province began in late August. Their progress has been slower than the surprise attack in September that drove the Russians out of northeastern Kharkov in a few weeks. On the other hand, the Lugansk and Donetsk fronts remain stable, in Moscow’s orbit since the insurrection promoted in 2014.
The Russian authorities insist that it is a voluntary evacuation. “Dear residents! Evacuate soon. Ukrainian forces will bombard residential buildings. The buses will leave from 7.00 from Rechport to the East Bank, ”said a message that its inhabitants have received.
The newspaper Joloddeclared a foreign agent by the Kremlin, has shown several of the evacuation pamphlets distributed in the city. “Protect your family, go to the left bank,” one headline accompanied by a photo of some parents and his son with the smile of a dental clinic ad and wrapped in the Russian flag. The left bank is, in fact, the eastern one, the one south of the city, since it is not named from the point of view of the map, but on its course to the mouth of the Dnieper.
“What do you need to know about leaving?”, headlines another pamphlet where it is emphasized that the civil-military authorities imposed in the annexed region offer “the possibility for the families of Kherson to go to other regions of Russia to rest and study ”. In it, an archive drawing of another happy family with binoculars and even a mask from a pandemic that was long forgotten.
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“If the fighting starts, there will be artillery shells and they will bombard the city. It is better to get people out of the city, and that is what we are doing now,” Russian Governor Vladimir Saldo said in an interview with Rossiya 24 channel. “In order for this task to be more orderly, the entry of civilians into the Kherson region will be banned for seven days,” he added. In addition to the existing ferries, the authorities have sent new boats to the city’s river port to cross the Dnieper River.
General Surovikin, also head of the Russian Aerospace Forces, said Tuesday that the Ukrainian army could attack the city with “prohibited weapons” or destroy the Kakhovskaya hydroelectric plant. The regional governor has qualified the danger that a hypothetical flood could pose. “The water level would not rise more than a meter or meter and a half,” Saldo stressed in the case of the dam’s rupture.
“No one plans to hand over Kherson to the Ukrainian armed forces,” stressed the Kremlin-imposed boss in the area. In addition, he has pointed out that the march of the civilians will facilitate the fortification of the city.
Surovikin’s appointment has been received like rain in May by the pro-Russian channels in the face of the debacle of the last two months. “Why were we so excited about creating a unified command? The left flank did not know how the right flank fought, now we are reaping the fruits of that disorder,” Alexander Sladkov, war correspondent for the Izvestia newspaper, says on Telegram, before showing his optimism: “If we do the right thing, I think we will stand firm.” .