Ukrainian president declares mandatory evacuation of Donetsk . region

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday announced a mandatory evacuation for residents of the eastern Donetsk region amid intense fighting in the ongoing war with Russia.

The president said, “The more people leave… [the] Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill.” He noted that those who do leave would be compensated.

Zelenskyy also said in his speech that the hundreds of thousands of people who still occupy combat zones in the greater Donbas region must also leave. Donbas includes the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

“Many refuse to leave, but it still has to happen,” he said. “If you have the chance, talk to those who are still in the combat zones in Donbas. Please convince them that it is necessary to leave.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced a mandatory evacuation for the eastern Donetsk region on Saturday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced a mandatory evacuation for the eastern Donetsk region on Saturday.
(Ukrainian Presidential Press Service via AP)

According to Ukrainian media, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the evacuation had to take place before the start of winter because the natural gas reserves in the region had been destroyed.

But former US ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst said the evacuation may have more to do with anticipating fiercer fighting than fuel shortages.

“I don’t know why Zelensky made the call,” he said. “What I do know is that there was heavy fighting in Donetsk. The Russians took [neighboring] Luhansky [oblast] some weeks ago. I expect further fierce fighting in Donetsk.”

The Ukrainian army earlier on Saturday claimed that more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed and seven tanks destroyed during Friday’s fighting in the Kherson region. The Kherson region is the center of Kiev’s counter-offensive to the south and a crucial part of Moscow’s supply lines.

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The Ukrainian army earlier on Saturday claimed that more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed and seven tanks destroyed during Friday's fighting in the Kherson region.

The Ukrainian army earlier on Saturday claimed that more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed and seven tanks destroyed during Friday’s fighting in the Kherson region.

Ukraine’s southern command said train traffic to Kherson across the Dnipro River had been cut off, which could further isolate the Russian military west of the river from reaching supplies in Crimea and the east.

Western-supplied long-range missile systems have been used by Ukraine in recent weeks to damage three bridges over the Dnipro River, leaving the Kherson region.

“Due to a fire that has taken control of key transport links in the occupied territory, it has been determined that traffic over the railway bridge over the Dnipro is not possible,” Ukraine’s southern command said in a statement.

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Smoke rises behind ships on the Dnipro River during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Russian-controlled city of Kherson, Ukraine.

Smoke rises behind ships on the Dnipro River during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Russian-controlled city of Kherson, Ukraine.

Kherson Region Governor Dmytro Butriy said the Berislav district, which lies just across the river northwest of the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant, has been particularly damaged.

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“In some villages, not a single house has been left intact, all infrastructure has been destroyed, people live in cellars,” he wrote on Telegram.

Butriy said fighting continues in many parts of the Kherson region.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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