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Russian Officials Flee Kherson as Russian Troops Dig In for a Battle

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Russia-Ukraine war

Kyiv, UKRAINE — The first city to fall in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was in chaos on Monday as Moscow-appointed officials began fleeing across the river to safer areas.

Government offices in Kherson are empty of essential equipment. According to Ukrainian officials, social media videos, and accounts of Ukrainian activists who have spoken to residents, civilians were evacuated with “documents, money, valuables and clothing” from proxy officials loyal to the Kremlin. It is said to

And a few months after residents began complying with Moscow’s demands to adopt the new currency, some of Kherson’s merchants delivered a new message to their customers. No more rubles.

Within a week of invading Ukraine on February 24, Russian forces had secured the southern city of Kherson. And late last month, the Kremlin went one step further, announcing that it had annexed the entire Kherson region and three of his other regions. President Vladimir V. Putin has said they are now part of “Mother Russia”, but most world leaders have rejected this claim.

Billboards all over the city still proclaim that “Kherson is with Russia forever,” but there is a big gap between the grandiose declaration and the reality on the ground.

It was difficult to know exactly what was happening in the city on Monday, as internet and other communication services in Kherson were almost completely cut off. However, pervasive reports added evidence that the Russian civilian government was proceeding with plans to abandon its headquarters as Ukrainian forces continued to fight fiercely on the offensive to the south.

However, Russian forces appeared to be holding their ground despite previous reports that their leaders had asked permission to redeploy to the east bank of the Dnipro River.

“They are not preparing to withdraw now,” said General Kirillo O. Budanov, head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, in an interview with Ukrainian news agency Ukrainian Pravda published Monday. Told. “They are preparing to defend.”

He said the evacuation order for civilians suggested that Moscow may be preparing for an urban battle.

“They are creating an illusion that everything is gone,” said General Budanov.

Losing Kherson would be a severe blow to Putin, both militarily and symbolically. Putin has rejected a request from his commander-in-chief on the grounds that it would allow a withdrawal from Kherson. Located on the western bank of the Dnipro River, Kherson is the gateway to the Russian-controlled Crimea peninsula to the south and to the Black Sea ports of Ukraine to the west, including Odessa.

Over the weekend, local leaders loyal to the Kremlin said that “all branches and ministries of administration” must be moved to the Dnipro River. Occupation authorities also said they would move as many as 60,000 civilians.

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Moscow claims as many as 20,000 have fled, but Ukrainian officials put the number closer to 1,000, saying most were pro-Kremlin collaborators.

The exiled vice-governor of the Kherson region, Serhiy Klan, said that Moscow’s army and local agents were engaged in “fierce looting”, stealing “everything of archaeological and historical significance”. said he was. Although he was unable to independently verify his claims, looting by Russian forces in other parts of the country is widely documented.

Kyiv has imposed a blackout on detailed information about its southern offensive, but the Ukrainian military’s southern command Monday has more than 12,000 people still living there since it launched a counteroffensive at the end of August 90. said the army had recaptured towns and villages in

The military operation is supported by weapons provided by the United States and other Western powers, increasing tensions with Moscow.

US and Russian top military commanders met by phone on Monday, followed by high-level talks between Moscow and NATO allies as Russia continues to foment fears of nuclear escalation in Ukraine. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark A. Milley spoke with his Russian counterpart General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the Russian General Staff, according to Pentagon officials.

In an emailed statement, Colonel Dave Butler, a spokesman for Gen. agreed,” he said.

In recent days, Western officials have been concerned by Russia’s baseless allegations that Ukraine plans to use so-called dirty bombs on its territory. to spread the radioactive material.

Over the weekend, top diplomats from Ukraine’s powerful allies France, Britain and the United States made unusual statements. Joint statement He dismissed the allegation, saying it was a pretext that Russia had concocted to escalate the war.

In a statement, the three governments confirmed that their respective defense ministers had spoken with their Russian counterpart, Sergey K. Shoigu, denying “clearly false claims by Russia.”

Russia has not publicly provided any evidence to support its dirty bomb accusations, which Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleva called “lies.”

Russian officials had been smearing Ukrainians and their leaders even before the invasion, presumably to lay the groundwork for public support, but on Monday, even Russia has its limits. It looked like

On Monday, a Russian talk show host was suspended from the state-run broadcaster, seen by many as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin, after suggesting that Ukrainian children should be drowned or burned at home. After receiving it, I apologized.

“I apologize to everyone who was surprised by this,” said Anton Krasowski, RT’s broadcast director.

“It was just tasteless,” Krasowski said on two separate occasions. Statement posted on Telegramcalling comments he made last week “wild and unthinkable.”

Mark SantoraReported from Kyiv, Eric Nagany from New York. Helen Cooper Contributing to the report from Washington, Cora Engelbrecht from London.

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