Russian forces prepare new defensive positions on the east bank of the Dnieper in Kherson and tell local civilians they must move away from the area.
Kirill Stremousov, the Russian-appointed deputy head of Kherson’s military administration, confirmed on Wednesday that the evacuation of civilians had been extended to the east bank of the river, a move Ukrainian officials call “expulsions”. .
Stremousov said in a video on Telegram that the Ukrainian forces had made no progress in breaking through the defense line. But an area of 15 kilometers (about 9 miles) on the eastern shore would be evacuated. “There is a certain list of settlements where there will be the line of defense,” Stremousov said.
“Nobody is talking about forced evacuation,” Stremousov insisted. “But we recommend that you listen to the military, because I myself see how the line of defense is built directly on the plots of some people in the villages. … If hostilities take place, then the soldiers will have to evacuate you, as it can be dangerous.
Stremousov also made rare acknowledgment of reports of looting and drunkenness among Russian troops.
“Regarding the situation that can occur in the villages: there is talk of looting and drinking that some ignorant people who represent the Russian army can do now. You can contact me directly… I need reports from you on all facts — alcoholism, looting, humiliation or attempted violence,” he said.
On the Ukrainian side, the Kherson regional military administration said that active hostilities were continuing. “The enemy shelled the recently liberated villages of the Beryslav district [on the west bank]. Much damage and destruction of civilian infrastructure has been recorded,” he said.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian army claimed that the administration of the Russian occupation of Kherson had been transferred to the city of Skadovsk, much closer to Crimea and the Black Sea.
Ukrainian officials said Russian troops are “preparing the territory of the Nova Kakhovka community for defensive battles. In this regard, trenches are dug along the line of the east bank” for a distance of about 20 kilometers (about 12 miles).
The regional military administration also claimed that the occupying forces “continue to abduct residents of the Kherson region”, especially in Nova Kakhovka.
The displaced mayor of an east bank community – Eugene Ryshchuk, the mayor of Oleshky – said it was being turned into a “beachhead for hostilities”.
“We were brought to a choice – a difficult LIFE in evacuation or DEATH in our homes”, he said.
He urged people to do everything possible to survive and assured that “if you are taken by force to Russia, remember that the Ukrainian state will not leave its people”.
Ukrainian officials have frequently accused Russian forces of widespread and organized looting throughout Kherson, alleging more recently that much of the stolen property was taken to the town of Skadovsk.
On Wednesday, Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the Kherson region administration, said Russian forces were looting the “largest light industry company”, a company manufacturing uniforms.
Yanushevych said “occupiers are moving sewing machines, cutting tables, embroidery machines, office and computer equipment and other equipment out with trucks.”
CNN is unable to verify the claim.