Putin names priority for frontline region
Relocating civilians from the southern Russian city of Kherson is a top priority, President Vladimir Putin has said. The vicinity around the city has become an area of intense combat in recent weeks, with Moscow accusing Kiev’s forces of repeatedly targeting the bridges crossing the Dnieper River, as well as the local hydroelectric plant and its dam, threatening large-scale flooding if a rupture occurs.
“Those living in Kherson must be evacuated from the most dangerous zone of action. The civilian population must not suffer from shelling, any kind of offensive and counter-offensive, and other activities related to military operations,” Putin stated.
The president made the remarks in central Moscow on Friday while meeting volunteers who have been working in Kherson Region. He also expressed his gratitude to the volunteers who are helping to evacuate civilians from the combat zone.
In recent weeks, the Ukrainian military has repeatedly attempted to advance towards the city as the region has become the scene of intense fighting. While the offensive has largely been unsuccessful, it has prompted the evacuation of civilians from the battle zone, after Ukrainian troops advanced in the northeast of the region.
Last month, the recently appointed commander of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, Army General Sergey Surovikin, described the situation around Kherson as particularly “tense” and warned the military may be forced to make “difficult decisions.”
The Russian authorities began relocating civilians from the city and areas on the right bank of the Dnieper River last month. The caretaker governor of Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, explained there was “an immediate danger of flooding in the territories due to the planned destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam,” by Ukrainian forces. The measure would help shield civilians from Kiev’s “banned methods of war,” Saldo said, adding that it would also help better defend the area from a Ukrainian offensive from the north.
Ukraine, however, has claimed that Russia itself had been plotting to blow up the dam to cause flooding and frame Kiev. This week, the evacuation was expanded to a 15-kilometer (9.3 mile) zone on the left bank of the Dnieper River.
Kherson Region, together with three other former Ukrainian territories, voted to join Russia in late September. The referendums were rejected by Kiev and its Western backers and denounced as a “sham.”