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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday announced a mandatory evacuation of residents of the eastern Donetsk region amid heavy fighting in the ongoing war with Russia.
The chief said, “The more people leave [the] Now the Donetsk region, the less time to kill the Russian army. ” He noted that those who leave will be compensated.
Zelensky also said in his speech that hundreds of thousands of people still occupying the combat zones of the greater Donbass region should also leave. Donbass includes Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
“Many are refusing to leave, but it still has to be done,” he said. “If you have the opportunity, please speak to those who are still in the combat zones in Donbass. Please convince them that you should leave.”
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According to Ukrainian media, Deputy Prime Minister Irina Verychuk said the evacuation should take place before the onset of winter because natural gas supplies in the region have been destroyed.
But former US ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst said the evacuation may have more to do with the anticipation of fiercer fighting rather than a lack of fuel.
“I don’t know why Zelensky made the call,” he said. “What I know is that there was heavy fighting in Donetsk. The Russians took [neighboring] Luhansk [oblast] Several weeks ago. I expect more fierce fighting in Donetsk.”
Earlier on Saturday, the Ukrainian military claimed that more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed and seven tanks were destroyed during Friday’s fighting in the Kherson region. The Kherson region is the center of the Kyiv counter-offensive in the south and an essential part of Moscow’s supply lines.
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Ukraine’s Southern Command said rail traffic to Kherson via the Dnipro River has been cut off, potentially further isolating the Russian army west of the river from accessing supplies in Crimea and the east.
Ukraine has used long-range missile systems supplied by the West to damage three bridges across the Dnipro River in recent weeks, cutting off Kherson region.
“As a result of the fire that imposed control of the main transport lines in the occupied territories, the passage through the railway bridge crossing the Dnipro River was not possible,” the Southern Command of Ukraine said in a statement.
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Kherson region governor Dmytro Putri said the Pereslav region, which lies across the river northwest of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, was particularly affected.
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He wrote on Telegram: “In some villages, not a single house was left intact, the whole infrastructure was destroyed, people live in basements.”
Putri said fighting is continuing in many parts of Kherson region.
Reuters contributed to this report.