| 22 February 2024, Thursday |

Russia extends evacuation zone in Ukraine’s Kherson region

Russian-installed officials in the Ukrainian region of Kherson announced on Monday that they would begin evacuating residents from the eastern bank of the Dnipro River. They were reiterating allegations that Kyiv had previously rejected, namely that Ukraine might be getting ready to attack the Kakhovka dam and flood the area.

Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-backed leader of the area, which is partially held by Russian forces, announced in a post on Telegram that he was expanding an evacuation zone in the area and – for the first time – requesting that residents on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River leave their houses.

The new area will cover an additional 15-kilometer (nine mile) zone around the Dnipro River, which splits the Kherson region, to include another seven settlements, Saldo said.

“Due to the possibility of the use of prohibited methods of war by the Ukrainian regime, as well as information that Kyiv is preparing a massive missile strike on the Kakhovka hydroelectric station, there is an immediate danger of the Kherson region being flooded,” Saldo said in a video message posted on Monday evening.

That could result in “the mass destruction of civilian infrastructure and humanitarian catastrophe”, he said.

“Given the situation, I have decided to expand the evacuation zone by 15 kilometers from the Dnipro… the decision will make it possible to create a layered defense in order to repel Ukrainian attacks and protect civilians.”

Kiev has refuted claims that it intends to attack the Kakhovka dam, a 100-foot-high, 3.2-kilometer-long structure that would release a reservoir the size of the Great Salt Lake across southern Ukraine, flooding towns and villages, some of which Russian forces had taken control of at the outset of the conflict.

Russia has repeatedly claimed that Ukraine is planning an attack on the dam, which controls water supplies to the Crimean Peninsula that it has annexed and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. According to Ukraine, this is a sign that Russia is considering staging an attack and attributing it to Kyiv and its Western backers.

Under the pressure of an approaching Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russia has started evacuating tens of thousands of civilians off the western bank of the Dnipro River in recent weeks.

According to Saldo, Russian-installed officials are granting one-time payments of 100,000 roubles ($1,628) to citizens who want to leave, and Moscow is also providing accommodation in other parts of Russia.

Even as recently as last week, certain local leaders who are supported by Russia in the area had disallowed the evacuation of residents from the eastern bank of the Dnipro river.

Following the staging of referendums in four Ukrainian districts that Kyiv and the West denounced as a sham and unlawful, President Vladimir Putin proceeded to invade Kherson last month.

  • Reuters