Putin approves the evacuation of the Ukrainian region of Kherson | Russia–Ukraine War

Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly approved the evacuation of civilians from parts of the Kherson region in southern Ukraine amid conflicting reports of a curfew being imposed in the area controlled by the Russia.

“Now, of course, those living 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 on Friday as he marked the Day of the unity of Russia.

Russia could prepare to give up his military footing on the west bank of the Dnieper, including the regional capital of Kherson, in what would be one of the largest Russian retreats of the war.

Kherson, a city that had a population of about 284,000 before the conflict, is the only major city Russia has captured intact since its invasion in February. The surrounding province controls land access to Russian-occupied Crimea and securing it was one of the few successes in an otherwise disastrous Russian campaign.

Ukraine said the evacuations included the forced displacement of civilians, a war crime, which Moscow denies.

Ukraine has been wary of glaring signs of a Russian defeat, including footage circulating the internet showing the Russian flag no longer flying atop the main administrative building in the city of Kherson, claiming that these signs can be a trap.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed occupation administration in Kherson, said Thursday that 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”.

Stremousov also said on Friday that a 24-hour curfew was imposed on the city to defend it against a likely Ukrainian offensive, but backtracked soon after.

“In the city of Kherson there are absolutely no restrictions that would limit the life of the city,” Stremousov said on Telegram after a previous post announcing a curfew on the same channel was deleted.

The Russian authorities claimed to have officially annexed Kherson with three other provinces on September 30, although Moscow does not have full control on the ground.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister last week declared the counteroffensive against Russian forces in Kherson was more difficult than it was in the northeast due to wet weather and terrain.

Kyiv pleaded for greater military assistance from Western allies to advance past Russian fortified positions towards the city of Kherson.

The United States announced on Friday the refurbishment of T-72 tanks and HAWK surface-to-air missiles as part of a roughly $400 million security assistance program for Ukraine.

The T-72s fall short of more modern tanks such as the German Leopard or the American Abram sought by Kyiv.

The “tanks come from the defense industry of the Czech Republic, and the United States pays for 45 of them to be refurbished, and the government of the Netherlands matches our commitment” for a total of 90 T-72, the Pentagon’s deputy press secretary said. Sabrina Singh told reporters.

The Soviet-era tanks will be fitted with “advanced optics, communications and armor packages”, with some ready by the end of December and others due for delivery in 2023, she said. .

Singh cited factors such as ease of use and cost as reasons for not providing more modern equipment.

The package also funds the refurbishment of HAWK missiles from US stockpiles, an important asset as Ukraine seeks to counter Russian drone and missile strikes targeting its cities and energy infrastructure.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that the Group of Seven (G7) countries were focusing more of their security support on helping Ukraine defend against Russian attacks on its energy grid. .

“The G7 agreed to create a new coordination group to help prepare, restore and defend Ukraine’s energy grid, the very grid that President Putin brutalized,” Blinken said after a two-day G7 meeting in the city. from Münster in western Germany.

He accused Russia of trying to “freeze [Ukrainians] in submission.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said four million people across Ukraine were affected by continuous power cuts.

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