- Putin says evacuation zone is dangerous
- Moscow moved people from Kherson
- 24-hour curfew announced for Kherson city
- US sends more military aid, senior official visits Kyiv
FRONT LINE WEST OF KHERSON, Ukraine/kyiv, November 4 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday publicly endorsed the evacuation of civilians from parts of southern Ukraine’s Kherson region , the latest sign of Russia’s withdrawal in one of the most bitterly disputed areas of the country. Ukraine.
“Now, of course, those who live in Kherson should be removed from the area of the most dangerous actions, because the civilian population should not suffer,” Putin told pro-Kremlin activists as he marked the Day of the national unity of Russia.
Moscow has already transported people out of an area it controls in Kherson on the west bank of the Dnipro, and announced this week that the evacuation zone would also include a 15 km buffer zone on the east bank. But the comments appear to be the first time Putin has personally endorsed the evacuations.
Russia says it has brought residents to safety on the way to a Ukrainian advance. Kyiv claims the measures included forced deportations of civilians, a war crime, which Russia denies.
Putin’s comments came as Russia may be preparing to abandon its military base on the west bank of the Dnipro, including the regional capital of Kherson – potentially one of the biggest Russian retreats of the war.
On Thursday, Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed occupation administration in Kherson, said Russia was likely to withdraw its troops from the West Bank. In later remarks he was more equivocal, saying he hoped there would be no backsliding but “we have to make some very difficult decisions”.
On Friday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the fiercest fighting in the past week took place around Bakhmut and Soledar in the eastern Donetsk region, about 500 km northeast of Kherson.
“We maintain our positions in these areas and in a few other areas of the Donetsk region,” he said in a video address, accusing Russia of foolish stubbornness for sending “tens or hundreds of thousands more people at the meat grinder”.
During the day, Ukrainian forces shot down eight Iranian drones and two Russian missiles, Zelenskiy said.
Images have circulated on the internet showing the main administrative building of the city of Kherson with the Russian flag no longer flying on it. Kyiv was suspicious, saying such signs could be a Russian deception to lure Ukrainian troops into a trap.
A 24-hour curfew was imposed on the city on Friday, Stremousov said, adding the measure was necessary to defend Kherson against a likely Ukrainian offensive.
Ukrainian soldiers from a dug-in mechanized infantry company in a line of trees west of the city of Kherson were confident that the Russians would eventually retreat, but fought back.
Vitalyi, 48, the company’s deputy commander, said recent Russian efforts to bolster their defenses appeared aimed at protecting a withdrawal rather than holding back Kherson.
“They have large quantities of tanks and people, but I don’t think they have a realistic plan to stay longer than a week or two,” he said, as his men took advantage of a exceptionally mild weather to upgrade bunkers and clear weapons in the middle. intermittent artillery fire.
Vladyslav, a 27-year-old soldier, said he expected the Russians to fight: “We will fight too. We have nowhere to go. This is our home. This is our land. .”
The regional capital, on the west bank at the mouth of the Dnipro, is the only major city Russia has captured intact since its invasion in February. His loss to Russian forces would be one of the most severe blows of the war.
MORE US MILITARY AID AND OFFICIAL VISITS
The United States announced $400 million in additional security assistance for Ukraine, including refurbishment of the Czech Republic’s T-72 tanks and missiles for HAWK air defenses that could be used against Russian drones and cruise missiles.
The new aid brought the amount of US military aid sent to Kyiv to more than $18.2 billion since the invasion. As announced, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, met with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, in Kyiv.
Sullivan said Washington will continue to provide economic, humanitarian and military aid with the support of Biden’s Democrats and opposition Republicans.
“We fully intend to make sure that the necessary resources are there and that we will get votes from both sides of the aisle to make this happen,” he told reporters from the Ukrainian presidential administration. .
Sullivan’s remarks came days before the US midterm elections in which Republicans have a good chance of taking control of Congress. It has raised concerns that close allies of former President Donald Trump, known for his ‘America First’ agenda, could cut or even block aid to Ukraine, which must be approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate. .
Sullivan’s visit came a day after Democratic Senator Chris Coons and Republican Senator Rob Portman visited the Ukrainian capital in a bid to signal bipartisan US support.
Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Peter Graff, Frank Jack Daniel and Patricia Zengerled; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Gareth Jones and Daniel Wallis
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