Russia evacuates tens of thousands from Kherson ahead of Ukrainian offensive

Russian officials in Kherson, the port city at the mouth of the Dnieper, announced plans on Tuesday to evacuate civilians ahead of a planned Ukrainian offensive to retake the city. Officials from Kherson, which Russia captured during the country’s offensive earlier this year, said the evacuations were aimed at “avoiding casualties among the civilian population”.

Parts of the city are only 80 kilometers from Crimea, the strategic peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014 and which the Ukrainian war effort has a stated aim of taking over. Russian officials said they intended to evacuate up to 60,000 people from the part of the city on the north bank of the Dnieper, amid warnings that Russian forces should withdraw from the other side of the river.

Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery, on the front line in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Wednesday, October 5, 2022. [Foto: AP Photo / Andrii Marienko] [AP Photo/Andrii Marienko]

Over the past month, Ukraine has retaken significant parts of the Kherson region, using US HIMARS systems and Excalibur missiles, which have enabled them to launch attacks behind Russian front lines. The collapse of southern Ukraine followed the failure of Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, where Ukrainian forces advanced tens of kilometers in a matter of days.

Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement earlier this month of a partial mobilization, Russian and American commentators said the Russian front was likely to continue its retreat during the NATO-backed Ukraine offensive.

As Russian forces suffered a series of battlefield setbacks, the Russian military also launched missile and drone attacks on electrical transformer stations and water distribution centers in Ukraine.

Russian officials said the attacks were in retaliation for the October 8 shelling of the Kerch Bridge, which Ukrainian special forces claimed in press statements.

The Institute for the Study of War commented in an analysis of Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure that “the Kremlin remains trapped in a cycle of appeasement of its pro-war support base while maintaining the vision of the Russian president Vladimir Putin of a limited war in Ukraine, which is incompatible with their demands and expectations.

Adele Matthews

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