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Chief collaborator in occupied Kherson asks Moscow to help ‘evacuate’ locals

Vladimir Saldo, the Kremlin-installed head of Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Kherson Region appealed to the central authorities in Moscow to help the residents of the Kherson Region to leave, pointing at the advancing Ukrainian counter-offensive. The announcement posted by Saldo on social media prompted his deputy to quickly issue a denial that any sort of “evacuation” was taking place.

“The leadership of the Kherson administration has decided to provide Kherson families with the option to travel to other regions of the Russian Federation to rest and study,” Saldo said, adding that people should “leave with their children”.

In a twist of irony, Saldo mentioned the “choice” the locals supposedly made in the sham referendum held in late September in favour of being annexed to the Russian Federation, implying that the Kremlin should now fulfil its promise of protection. This would suggest that Putin cannot protect these newly-made citizens of the Russian Federation in the places where they live, and even his local crony is having to ask for them to be allowed to flee to Russia proper. If he finds anyone willing that is, other than collaborators like himself.

Saldo’s deputy, Kirill Stremousov, was quick to step in with his own statement.

“There is and can be no evacuation in Kherson region,” said Stremousov, adding in a written comment: “Nobody is planning to withdraw Russian troops from the Kherson region.”

Ukrainians launch counteroffensive to retake southern Ukraine incl. Kherson

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Most of the Kherson Region was seized by Russia in the first few days after the beginning of the invasion. Since August, Ukrainian forces have been conducting a major counter-offensive to retake the area to the north and northwest of the Dnipro River, including the regional capital of Kherson. Although not advancing at a similar lightning pace as the counter-offensive in the Kharkiv Region in the northeast, Kyiv says it has retaken more than 1,170 sq km (450 sq miles) of land in the Kherson Region.

Russian occupiers open ferry across Dnieper to replace damaged bridge

According to the acting head of Kherson regional administration, Dmytro Butriy, the Russian forces have established a ferry to replace the nearby…

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In addition to a blow to Russian prestige should it lose the city of Kherson, the only regional capital in Ukraine it successfully managed to occupy in almost full eight months of the war, Russian occupiers face the risk of being cut off from retreating, as Ukrainian long-range artillery has damaged the few bridges that span the Dnipro between the Kakhovka Reservoir and the river’s mouth, where it exceeds 1,500 metres in width.

Not only has the destruction of the bridges made the eventual retreat a daunting task, but it also means trouble with resupplying the Russian troops in the area with fresh reserves but also with ammo, equipment, and provisions.

The moods among the occupiers are not being lifted by conflicting messages from the local collaborators, such as Saldo and Stremousov, about whether there is an evacuation or not.

Stremousov himself told the Russian state-owned RIA news agency on October 5 that Russian forces in the area were “conducting a regrouping in order to gather their strength and deliver a retaliatory blow”, an announcement that probably inspired little confidence in very few.

‘Leave with the children’

Children among 1.5 mln Ukrainians taken to Russian camps: Polish intelligence

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It should be noted that according to Kremlin sources, such as the TASS news agency, 4.5 million people, including 690,000 children, have arrived in Russia from Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion in February. Not all of them did so willingly, however. Many were unable to cross the frontline into Ukrainian-controlled territory.

US Ambassador Michele Taylor told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in late September, Russia may have forcibly deported between 900,000-1.6 million Ukrainians.

The number of children among them is not specified, but in June, independent Russian media outlet Verstka reported that more than 2,000 Ukrainian orphans and children separated from their parents by war were taken to Russia under the guise of providing humanitarian aid. Some have been placed for adoption in Russia.

A group of 37 Ukrainian children deported to Russia was returned earlier in October. However, it is just a drop in the ocean. In September, Moscow’s “children’s rights commissioner” claimed that children taken from the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol initially showed negative attitudes toward Russia, but now have developed “love for Russia” and do not wish to return.

Putin sends minorities to frontline to shield Russians from mobilisation: study

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Accusations have been levelled against the Kremlin of deliberately kidnapping Ukrainian citizens, especially women and young children, with the underlying motive being the catastrophic demographic situation of the Russian Federation, plagued by low birth rates, high abortion rates, rampant STDs, particularly HIV, epidemic-levels of alcoholism, and other factors.

Kyiv prosecutors have been working to build a genocide indictment against Moscow in the International Criminal Court over the alleged forced deportations of Ukrainian children, which is considered an act of genocide under international law when it is “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Simultaneously, Moscow has been sending Russia’s ethnic minorities, e.g. from North Caucasus, Siberia, and Russia’s Far East, to the frontline in disproportionate numbers. The situation has gotten even worse following the mobilisation, which some have even compared to ethnic cleansing.

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