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Occupation authorities are evacuating from Kherson Locals, too, are urged to leave as the Russian army gets ready for a major Ukrainian offensive
Occupation authorities in the annexed Kherson region of Ukraine have announced the start of a new Ukrainian offensive in that direction. “Up to two infantry battalions of the 128 Motor Assault Brigade and a 17 Brigade tank battalion” have “launched an offensive in the Nova Kamianka–Beryslav direction,” said Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed regional administration. The acting “governor” of Kherson, Volodymyr Saldo, says that “no one is about to surrender” Kherson. Still, Saldo has ordered to evacuate his administration to the left bank of the Dnieper. He also forbade any entry of traffic into the right-bank area for the coming week, urging all residents to leave. While the Ukrainian General Staff is silent about the offensive, Russia’s General Surovikin says that he expects “to make some difficult decisions” in Kherson.
Occupation authorities are urging Kherson residents to leave. In the morning on October 19, they sent locals a text message, warning them that the Ukrainian army would be “shelling residential areas.” The message also mentioned the possibility of organized evacuation to the left bank. A day earlier, Volodymyr Saldo had announced that residents of four municipalities (though not Kherson) — some 50–60 thousand people — could be “relocated in an organized fashion” to the left bank and to Russia. His instruction told people to bring their documents, money, electronic devices, a first aid kit, and food enough for at least two or three days. Whether evacuation was meant to be mandatory or optional is still unclear, but Saldo presently claims that up to 40 percent of residents have already left Kherson and its outskirts.
Earlier, the Russian government promised to issue housing vouchers to any Kherson residents willing to move to Russia’s “other regions.” Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin assured Kherson migrants that they would get temporary housing in Russia “until the moment they choose their apartments” and redeem their vouchers for Russian real estate.
General Sergey Surovikin, the new commander of the Russian invasion, admitted that the situation in the Kherson direction is “very complicated.” In an October 18 interview, Surovikin accused Ukraine of getting ready to resort to prohibited kinds of warfare — including a missile strike on the Kakhovka Dam and an “indiscriminate strike” on Kherson itself. Surovikin expects to “make some difficult decisions” in Kherson.
Ukraine itself makes no comment on its impending offensive. The General Staff has hardly mentioned Kherson in its recent twice-daily reports. In the morning on October 19, it noted only that Russia was bringing additional forces to certain points in the region. The President’s Office, too, is quiet about the offensive. But the regional head of Mykolaiv, Vitalii Kim, thinks that the Russian side is preparing a provocation:
Knowing the Russian tactics, and that they’re digging artillery fortifications near Chaplynka just so that they could reach Kherson, I have a feeling that they’re getting ready strike at Kherson.
Kherson is the only Ukrainian regional center captured by Russia in this war, and the only major population center held by Russian troops on the right bank of Dnipro. If Russia lost Kherson, it would have to give up on taking Mykolaiv and Odesa, since the Dnieper is 500 meters (1,640 feet) wide in that area, and forcing a crossing would be exceptionally hard. Early in the war, Russia was able to do this by surprising the Ukrainian defense. Ukraine is investigating the possibility of treason in its army and security services, that may have enabled Russians to take control of thee bridges across Dnipro. Since then, those bridges have been damaged, and Russia currently has to supply its right-bank grouping by ferries.
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