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Civilians to be evacuated from Ukraine’s Kherson as new commander says situation ‘tense’ for Russian forces

Russian troops in gas masks. (Kremlin photo/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Russian-appointed head of Ukraine’s Kherson region has announced that the civilian population will be evacuated from part of the region as he warned of an expected escalation of hostilities.

Vladimir Saldo on October 18 announced an “organized, gradual displacement” of civilians from four towns on the right bank of the Dnieper River.

“I made a difficult but correct decision to announce the organized transfer of the civilian population of the Berislav, Belozersky, Snigiryovsky, and Aleksandrovsky municipalities to the left bank of the Dnieper,” Saldo said, adding that “where the military operates, there is no place for civilians.”

In a video statement, Saldo accused Ukrainian forces of planning to destroy a major dam at the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric power station.

“The Ukrainian side is building up forces for a large-scale offensive,” he said without citing specific evidence.

“There is an immediate danger of flooding…due to the planned destruction of the Kakhovka dam and the release of water from…power plants further up the Dnieper.”

The districts Saldo named are in an area where Ukrainian troops have been advancing in recent weeks. The regional center Kherson is also located on the right bank.

Saldo last week suggested residents should leave to protect themselves from missile strikes.

The Moscow-appointed figure’s comments came after the new commander of Russian forces in Ukraine acknowledged difficulties for Russian troops on the ground.

“The situation in the area of the ‘special military operation’ can be described as tense,” General Sergei Surovikin told the state-owned Rossia-24 television news channel in an interview on October 18.

“The enemy continually attempts to attack the positions of Russian troops,” he said. “First of all, this concerns the Kupyansk, Lyman, and Mykolayiv-Kriviy Rih sectors.”

Kupyansk and Lyman are in eastern Ukraine, while the area between Mykolayiv and Kryviy Rih lies in the northern part of Kherson region in southern Ukraine.

Surovikin also said Russia was preparing to evacuate civilians from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, which is occupied by Moscow and lies in one of four regions illegally annexed by Moscow three weeks ago.

“The Russian Army will above all ensure the safe evacuation of the population” of Kherson, Surovikin said in the interview, describing the situation as “very difficult.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry on October 8 named Surovikin as the new overall commander of Kremlin forces engaged in Ukraine.

The move marked the first official announcement of a single overall commander for all Russian forces fighting in Ukraine since its February 24 invasion of the country.