Ukraine on Monday accused Russia of looting empty houses in the southern city of Kherson and seizing them with troops in civilian clothes in preparation for street fighting, which both Both sides predict it will be one of the most important battles.
In recent days, Russia has ordered civilians to leave Kherson in anticipation of a Ukrainian attack to retake the city, the only regional capital Moscow has held since its invasion in February.
Kherson, with a population of nearly 300,000 before the war, became cold and dark after power and water were cut off in the surrounding area for the past 48 hours, both sides said.
Russian-installed officials blamed Ukraine’s “sabotage” and said they were working to restore power. Ukrainian officials say the Russians have dismantled 1.5 kilometers of power lines and that electricity may not return until Ukrainian forces recapture the area.
Kyiv has described the evacuation from the area as an act of forced deportation, a war crime. Moscow says it’s sending residents away for safety.
About 100 disabled children have been transferred from a medical facility in Dnipriany in the Kherson region to the Moscow region, the Ukrainian military said. Patients from the home of an elderly person in Kakhovka have also been transferred and Russian forces are taking over those facilities, it said.
Bitter fight expected
Kherson is located in the only Russian-held territory on the west bank of the Dnipro River, dividing Ukraine. Recapturing it is the main focus of Ukraine’s counter-offensive to the south, which has accelerated since early October.
The situation inside Kherson could not be independently confirmed. Ukrainian forces on the nearby front line have told Reuters they expect a tough fight against the Russian army with determination precisely at the cost of blood before being forced to take action.
Ukraine’s military said Russian forces, “disguised in civilian clothes, occupied civilian facilities and reinforced positions inside to conduct street battles.”
Russian forces have “engaged in looting and theft from civilians as well as from infrastructure and are bringing equipment, food and vehicles to the Russian Federation,” it said in an update. at the end of Monday.
Moscow denies abusing civilians.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday said the eastern Donetsk region remains the “epicenter” of the fighting, with hundreds of Russians being killed every day.
The towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka are at the center of the heaviest fighting in the Donetsk region.
The US and Russia are said to be holding talks
Diplomatically, both the White House and the Kremlin declined to comment on a Wall Street Journal report that US national security adviser Jake Sullivan held talks with aides to President Vladimir Putin, in an attempt to reduce the risk. war escalated.
The war has taken a toll on the global economy and raised fears of nuclear conflict.
“We have the right to speak directly at a high level on issues of interest to the United States,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said afterward. , adding that these conversations are “only focused on mitigating risk”.
US support for Ukraine will be “uncompromising and unwavering” regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s congressional elections, she added.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak says Ukraine is ready to negotiate an end to the war with a future Russian leader other than Putin, after the Washington Post reported that the United States had urged Kyiv to signal ready for peace talks to ensure the country retains Western support. .
“Ukraine has never refused to negotiate. Our negotiating position is known and open,” Podolyak said on Twitter, adding that Russia should first withdraw its forces from Ukraine. “Is Putin ready? Obviously not.”
Big obstacles for Moscow
Russia lost all of the territory it captured in northern Ukraine in the weeks following the invasion and in recent months has faced major defeats in the east and south.
Putin responded to the losses by calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists and announcing the annexation of occupied lands. He said on Monday 50,000 newly recruited reservists were ready to fight in combat units.
But as more and more troops were sent to the front and casualties increased with some new signs of growth, there was growing uncertainty within Russia about the conduct of the war.
The Russian Defense Ministry took the rare step of denying that an elite unit had suffered catastrophic losses in a senseless attack, after Russian military bloggers posted an open letter. from the surviving members of the 155th brigade of the Pacific Fleet.
In a letter to Oleg Kozhemyako, the regional governor of the unit’s Pacific coast base, the Marines said that in just four days their unit had lost 300 people killed, wounded or missing. and half of their equipment.