Russian authorities in the occupied Ukrainian region of Kherson said on Wednesday, Oct. 19 that they plan to evacuate around 50,000-60,000 people over the next six days amid escalating pressure from Ukrainian attempts to liberate the oblast, or province.
Kherson residents, some of whom took pets with them, were seen on Wednesday waiting to board boats to get to the other bank of the Dnieper river that bisects Ukraine.
Yevgeny Melnikov, a leader at the Kherson wing of the All-Russian People’s Front, said that boats would take people to Oleshky and Hola Prystan, from where residents could board buses to travel further – “to Crimea, Krasnodar or somewhere further.”
The Russian-installed governor of Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, said the authorities there were moving civilians to the left (east) bank of the Dnieper in order to “keep people safe” and allow the military to “act resolutely.”
“I drove through the regional centre this morning. On the surface, there was nothing to suggest there was a lot of pressure,” Saldo said.
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“But when I arrived at the river port, I saw that the boats were waiting and already being loaded with people ready to go to the left bank of the Dnieper,” he said, adding that the situation was “getting tense”.
He said an estimated 10,000 people a day would be moved over the next six days, and that some regions in Russia were being prepared to accept people.
Kherson residents have received text messages warning them of the urgent need to evacuate, Russian state TV reported. More than 5,000 have left in the last two days, Saldo said.
Russia took control of most of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region shortly after it started what it casts as its “special military operation” in February, and proclaimed it as annexed in September in a move that Kyiv and the West denounced as illegal.
Russian forces have been driven back by 20-30 km (13-20 miles) in the last few weeks, and risk being pinned against the western bank of the Dnieper as Ukraine wages perennial offensives to retake territory in the region.
Reuters contributed to this report.