Russia Pushes Ukrainians to Relocate as Possible Battle for Kherson Looms

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Vitaly Kim, the Ukrainian head of the regional military administration in the embattled southern city of Mykolaiv, said that the Russians were clearing out civilians to provide places for newly mobilized troops to stay, hoping that by providing spaces to live with heat, water and power — conditions he said were better than at home — they would be more motivated to fight. In essence, he said, the Russians are turning the eastern bank of the river into a “militarized zone.”

In the city of Kherson, residents said the situation was growing more dire by the day. One resident, Katerina, 38, wrote in a text message that over the weekend they could hear “fighting on the outskirts of the city.”

“The city is empty, as if it were dying,” Katerina wrote. “But we are alive. We keep on and wait.”

Satellite imagery from last week indicated that Russian forces had abandoned their positions at the Kherson regional airport, about seven miles outside the city. Local proxies said Russian forces had begun engineering defensive positions in Bilozerka and Chornobaivka, also on the city’s outskirts.

And late Tuesday, the Ukrainian military high command said that the offices of the Russian occupation administration in Kherson had been relocated. Such a move had been expected for weeks, but instead of setting up on the Russia-controlled east bank of the Dnipro, occupation officials moved some 50 miles southeast to the city of Skadovsk, on the Black Sea.

Even as Russian forces prepared for what might turn out to be a critical battle in Kherson, Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, affirmed that a military mobilization order that prompted hundreds of thousands of Russian men to leave the country was no longer in effect.

“It has been completed, period,” Mr. Putin told reporters at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where he was meeting with the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and the prime minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan.


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