Vladimir Putin declares martial law in the annexed Ukrainian regions

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday introduced martial law in four Ukrainian regions he says belong to Russia, as some residents of the Russian-held city of Kherson fled by boat after Moscow warned of an impending attack.

The images of people fleeing Kherson were broadcast by Russian state television, which portrayed the exodus – from the right bank of the rover Dnipro to the left bank – as an attempt to rid the city of civilians before it became a combat zone.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the local Russian-backed administration, appealed via video after Russian forces in the region were pushed back by 20 to 30 km (13 to 20 miles) in recent weeks. They risk being pinned down on the west bank of the 2,200 km long Dnieper River that bisects Ukraine.

In a move aimed at helping Russia consolidate its grip on four Ukrainian regions it is partially occupying and trying to control fully — including the Kherson region — Putin told his Security Council he would introduce martial law in them .

Aside from much tighter security measures on site, it was unclear what the immediate impact would be.

Putin also issued a decree restricting movement in and out of eight regions bordering Ukraine.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, accused Russia of staging a propaganda show in Kherson.

“The Russians are trying to scare the people of Kherson with fake newsletters about our army’s shelling of the city and are also arranging a propaganda show with evacuation,” Yermak wrote on the messaging app Telegram.

Eight months after its invasion, Ukraine is conducting major counter-offensives in the east and south to try to take as much territory as possible before winter, having routed Russian forces in some areas.

Kherson is the largest population center Moscow has captured and held since it began its “military special operation” in Ukraine on February 24. The city sits on territory that President Vladimir Putin says is now officially incorporated into Russia, a move Ukraine and the West are unaware of.

The conflict has killed thousands, displaced millions, pulverized Ukrainian cities, rocked the global economy and revived geopolitical rifts from the Cold War.

Ukrainian cities have also been hit by drones and missiles in recent days, and Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the capital’s air defenses were deployed again on Wednesday.

In Kherson, Stremousov said the city, and particularly its right bank, could be shelled by Ukrainian forces, adding that residents who left the city would be housed in Russia.

“I ask that you take my words seriously and interpret them as a request to evacuate as soon as possible,” he said.

“We have no plans to give up the city, we will stand until the last moment.”

Russia’s appointed Kherson region chief, Stremousov’s boss, said about 50,000 to 60,000 people would be evacuated over the next six days. The city of Kherson had a population of around 280,000 people before the war, but many of them have since fled.

“The Ukrainian side is building forces for a large-scale offensive,” official Vladimir Saldo told state television. “Where the military operates, there is no place for civilians.”

Saldo, who said Russia has the resources to hold Kherson and even counterattack if necessary, also said he was banning civilians from entering the region for seven days.

Employees of the Russian-backed Kherson administration would also be relocated to the left bank of the Dnieper, he said.

The evacuation calls followed a gloomy assessment of Russia’s prospects in the region by General Sergei Surovikin, the new commander of Russia’s forces in Ukraine.

“The situation in the area of ​​the ‘special military operation’ can be described as tense,” Surovikin told state news channel Rossiya 24. “The situation in this area (Kherson) is difficult. The enemy is deliberately attacking infrastructure and residential buildings.”

Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-installed council that governs Zaporizhia, another southern region, said Ukrainian forces intensified shelling at Russian-held Enerhodar overnight. Many employees of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant live there.

Artillery fire has hit the outskirts of the city and there have been 10 strikes around a thermal power plant, he said on the Telegram messaging app on Wednesday.

Dmytro Orlov, whom Ukraine recognizes as Enerhodar’s mayor, blamed Russia for the shelling.

“The shelling, first on the industrial area and then on the city itself, started around midnight and didn’t stop in the morning,” he wrote on Telegram.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he expected a return to Ukraine soon amid negotiations to establish a safe zone around the Zaporizhia plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

The facility is located in one of four Ukrainian regions that Russia has declared annexed but only partially occupies. The other three are Kherson and the eastern border provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk – collectively known as Donbass.

Putin declared them regions of Russia after holding referendums in September that Moscow described as referendums condemned as illegal and coerced by Kyiv and Western governments.

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/vladimir-putin-declares-martial-law-in-annexed-ukrainian-regions-42079321.html Vladimir Putin declares martial law in the annexed Ukrainian regions

Fry Electronics Team

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