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‘Get out of the army’s way’ In the occupied Kherson region, Russian-appointed ‘authorities’ urge residents to ‘take a vacation’ in Russia — or move there for good
The Russian-installed government of the occupied part of Ukraine’s Kherson region has created a hotline for residents who might wish to “take a vacation” in Russia. The hotline was active as of October 8. On October 13, Volodymyr Saldo, the former Kherson mayor and now the Russian-appointed head of the occupied area, asked Russia to help “Kherson families” “leave for other regions of the Russian Federation, for rest and study.”
Volodymyr Saldo chalked up his request to the “daily missile strikes,” which the Ukrainian army, as he alleges, aims at “hotels, apartment buildings, markets, and any places with many civilians.” In response to Saldo’s appeal, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin promised that the Russian government would “fully assist” Saldo and his administration “in placing the residents in other areas of the Russian Federation.”
“We’ll provide them all with free accommodations and everything they need. Those who decide to remain permanently will also receive housing,” Khusnullin added.
On October 14, Saldo’s deputy, Kirill Stremousov, complained that “the large numbers of civilians make it difficult for the military to maneuver.” “Rest and recuperation in the Russian Federation,” he said, would be a sensible thing to do while the region is “cleansed from the Ukronazis and Western mercenaries.” This, he said, would help reduce civilian casualties in the region:
Russian soldiers won’t shield themselves with civilians, the way those Nazis did. The soldiers won’t be able to fight back if the Ukronazis enter a populated settlement. So, let’s get out of the army’s way. Civilians should be a safe distance from combat.
Only the day before saying these words, Stremousov (known as a “pro-Russian trickster, conspirologist, and antivax leader”) had stressed that “there isn’t any evacuation” and “no one is retreating.”
This looks like a campaign to send residents of the occupied Kherson region to Russia — but its scale is not yet clear. On October 14, Volodymyr Saldo said that 350 people had asked to leave the region for Russia.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Russian-occupied Kherson region began as far back as last summer. For several weeks, the AFU made progress using artillery and rocket fire. By striking at the crossings over the Dnieper, they attacked the Russian supply lines to the right bank, where Kherson itself is located. (Most of the Russian-occupied area of the Kherson region is on the left bank of the Dnieper.) Russian units are now supplied via the makeshift crossings near the Nova Kakhovka dam, and by ferries near Kherson. Neither of those options offers much capacity.
In late August, Ukrainian troops launched an offensive on the right bank of the Dnieper, suffering heavy losses. In September, Ukraine succeeded in liberating most of the Kharkiv region. In early October, the AFU resumed their offensive in the Kherson region, liberating several dozen settlements northeast of Kherson.
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