Pro-Russian authorities are urging residents of Kherson to leave “immediately”.

Pro-Russian authorities are urging residents of Kherson to leave “immediately”.


Pro-Russian authorities on Saturday urged residents of the southern Kherson region, which Moscow is said to have annexed, to leave the capital “immediately” amid Kiev’s ongoing counter-offensive.

It comes as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia launched 36 rockets overnight in a “massive attack” on Ukraine after reported strikes on energy infrastructure that led to power outages across the country.

Kiev’s forces are advancing along the west bank of the Dnieper River towards the eponymous capital of the Kherson region.

Retaking the first major city to fall to Moscow’s forces would be a key prize in Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

In recent days, Russia has been relocating residents in the region – which Moscow reportedly annexed in September – in an effort Kyiv has described as “deportations”.

“Due to the tense situation at the front, the increased threat of mass shelling of the city and the threat of terrorist attacks, all civilians must leave the city immediately and cross over to the left bank of the Dnieper,” the pro-Russian of the region told the authorities in the social media with.

A Moscow-based official in Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, told Russia’s Interfax news agency on Saturday that around 25,000 people made the crossing.

– ‘Fear for our lives’ –

At a train station in the town of Dzhankoy in northern Crimea, a peninsula Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, residents of Kherson boarded a train bound for southern Russia, an AFP reporter saw on Friday.

“We are leaving Kherson because heavy shelling started there, we are afraid for our lives,” said Valentina Yelkina, a pensioner who is traveling with her daughter.

Another Kherson resident, 70-year-old Yelena Bekesheva, said she was going to Moscow.

“We didn’t immediately make the decision (to go) but then we were invited by our friends and relatives,” she told AFP.

Meanwhile, more than a million households in Ukraine were left without power after Russian strikes on power plants across the country, Deputy Head of Ukraine’s Presidency Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Saturday.

Fresh Russian attacks have targeted power infrastructure in western Ukraine, the national operator said earlier, with officials reporting power outages in several regions of the war-torn country.

The Russians “carried out another missile attack on power plants of the main grids of the western regions of Ukraine,” Ukrainian energy operator Ukrenergo said on social media.

– ‘A barrage of Russian missiles’ –

Power outages were reported in the north-western Volhynia region, parts of the south-western Odessa region and the city of Khmelnitskyi in western Ukraine, among others, with local authorities repeating calls to reduce energy consumption.

“Saturday in Ukraine begins with a shelling of Russian missiles aimed at critical civilian infrastructure,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter, urging Kiev’s allies to speed up deliveries of air defense systems.

According to the Ukrainian Air Force, Moscow’s troops fired 17 cruise missiles from planes flying from southern Russia and at least 16 Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea on Saturday.

Ukrainian authorities have urged residents to reduce electricity consumption amid the attacks, with some parts of Ukraine reducing their electricity consumption by up to 20 percent, according to Ukrenergo.

“We see savings in different regions and on different days the level of voluntary consumption reduction is on average between five and 20 percent,” Ukrenergo boss Volodymyr Kudrytskyi told AFP in written comments.

He added that while these are “significant amounts” for Ukraine’s energy system, they are not enough for regions where infrastructure has “suffered the most damage” and Ukrenergo has to resort to “enforced restrictions.”

At least two civilians were killed in strikes in the Russian region of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine, according to the local governor on Saturday.

“There are two dead among civilians” after the shelling of “civilian infrastructure” in the city of Shebekino, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said, adding that almost 15,000 people were left without electricity.

Russia said in mid-October there had been a “significant increase” in Ukrainian fire on its territory, with attacks mainly focused on the Belgorod region and neighboring Bryansk and Kursk.

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