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Residents of Kherson at the railroad station in Jankoy, Crimea, October 21, 2022

Kherson residents urged to leave ‘immediately’ 25,000 people cross to the eastern bank of the Dnipro as Ukraine ‘moves the front line’

Source: Meduza
Residents of Kherson at the railroad station in Jankoy, Crimea, October 21, 2022
Residents of Kherson at the railroad station in Jankoy, Crimea, October 21, 2022
AP / Scanpix / LETA

On October 19, occupation authorities in the Kherson region announced that Ukrainian Armed Forces were starting a new offensive in their direction. They urged residents to leave, saying the Ukrainian army would be “shelling residential areas.” Occupying authorities themselves evacuated the region. The city of Kherson was not included in initial evacuation orders, but on October 22, Russian authorities ordered residents to leave “immediately.” There are reports of delays for Kherson residents trying to cross to the left (eastern) bank of the Dnipro, though Russian authorities 25,000 people have already made the crossing. They claim to have plans to relocate 50,000 to 60,000 people in total deeper into annexed Kherson or into other regions of Russia.

In times of war, it is impossible to immediately verify information disseminated even by official spokespeople for parties to the conflict.

As of October 22 in the annexed Kherson region, 25,000 people have been taken from the right (western) bank of the Dnipro to the left, says Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the occupying Russian administration. “People are actively moving because today the priority is life. We won’t force anyone, we won’t drag anyone anywhere. There is a group of ‘waiters.’ They’re waiting for Ukrainian Armed Forces,” he told journalists. Earlier, Vladimir Saldo, head of the annexed region, said that authorities planned to take 50,000 to 60,000 people to the left bank of the Dnipro and other regions of Russia. More than 5,000 residents, according to media reports, were moved to a sanatorium in the Krasnodar region.

In the city of Kherson, where there was initially no evacuation order, residents have been required to leave the city “immediately.” On October 22, the local occupying administration announced that Kherson residents should cross the left bank “today” because of “the tense situation at the front, the increased danger of massive strikes on the city, and the threat of terrorist attacks.” On October 23, Sergey Kravtsov, Minister of Education of the Russian Federation, told teachers in the Kherson region to go the left bank of the Dnipro, Crimea, or the Krasnodar region.

The administration of the annexed region initially explained the evacuation by alleging that Ukraine was preparing to blow up the dam at the Kakhovka Hydropower Station. American think tank The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) then said that Russia was likely planning to damage the dam and blame Ukraine, in order to cover its retreat and prevent Ukrainian troops from chasing Russians deep into the Kherson region. On October 20, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Russian military had mined the dam and could blow it up.

Amid the “immediate” evacuation from Kherson, the city experienced problems with internet access, and Russian-appointed regional authorities announced that a car bomb in the city had killed one civilian and injured three.

People evacuated from the city of Kherson arrive by a bus on a ferry in the city of Oleshky, in the Kherson region, October 22, 2022
Alexander Ermochenko / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

Kherson residents were being taken across the Dnipro river, but the crossings were interrupted, said the regional administration, appointed after Russia formally annexed the region. “There really are problems, but the scale is greatly exaggerated and the cause is distorted,” the administration said. It said the problems arose because the number of people trying to leave the city rose sharply, and not because authorities were removing their archives, as was reported on social media. After the first reports of interruptions to river transport, authorities launched additional boats.

Residents of the Kherson region who move to Russia are receiving certificates for housing in various Russian regions. The first regions for resettlement are the Krasnodar region and Stavropol, said Marat Khusnullin, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. “We will continue to use this mechanism for those who want to move,” he said. The government decree states that “residents of the city of Kherson and the right bank of the Kherson region,” who arrived “on the territory of other subjects of the Russian Federation en masse, in an emergency” can count on certificates for the purchase of an apartment or house in any region of Russia.

Evacuated residents of Kherson at the station in Jankoy, Crimea, October 22, 2022
Alexey Pavlishak / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

Residents of the Kherson region are “moving” in the context of a Ukrainian Armed Forces offensive. Russian forces continue to withdraw their troops from the western part of the Kherson region, said the ISW in an assessment of the situation on October 22. The institute cited the Ukrainian General Staff’s announcement that certain Russian detachments continued to abandon territory in the region, and that the Ukrainian army had liberated the settlements of Charivne and Chkalove. Russian pro-Kremlin “war correspondents” claimed, alongside Kirill Stremousov, that the Ukrainian army had left the village of Bezimenne (located near Chkalove). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian officers and medical staff had left the city of Beryslav, and that the Russian military appropriated transport from local residents in order to leave the city. Other sources have not confirmed those reports.

Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to “move the front line” in the Kherson region, though Russia does not confirm this. Nataliya Gumenyuk, representative of the Operational Command South of the UAF’s ground forces, reported on October 23 that the Ukrainian army had shifted the front line. She said that Russia had removed its forces from the right bank of the Dnipro in order to concentrate its strength on the left bank. The same day, Russia reported an unsuccessful Ukrainian attack on Russian troops in the direction of the cities Brusinskoye, Pyatikhatky, Koshara, Sukhanovo, and Ishchenka. Stremousov announced that “all attempts by Ukrainian detachments to penetrate deeper into our defenses were repulsed.” He said the region is “strengthening its lines of defense, and at this stage everything is stable and without complications.”

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Translated by Emily Laskin

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