- Deputy PM Vereshchuk says evacuation needed before winter
- Vereshchuk says natural gas supplies in the region have been destroyed
- Kyiv says more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed on Friday
- Ukraine: rail links to Kherson via the Dnipro cutoff
KYIV, July 30 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday his government was ordering the mandatory evacuation of residents of the eastern region of Donetsk, the scene of heavy fighting with Russia.
In a late-night televised address, Zelenskiy also said the hundreds of thousands of people still in combat zones in the greater Donbass region, which includes Donetsk as well as neighboring Luhansk region, had to leave.
“The more people leave (the) Donetsk region now, the less the Russian army will have time to kill,” he said, adding that residents who left would be compensated.
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Separately, Ukrainian national media quoted Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk as saying that the evacuation had to take place before the onset of winter since natural gas reserves in the region had been destroyed.
Zelenskiy said hundreds of thousands of people still lived in areas of Donbass where fighting was fierce.
“Many refuse to leave but it still needs to be done,” the president said. “If you have the opportunity, please talk to those who still remain in the Donbass combat zones. Please convince them that it is necessary to leave.”
This is not the first time that Ukrainian authorities have called on civilians to evacuate areas they control in Donetsk, and John Herbst, former US ambassador to Ukraine, told Reuters it could be due to more heavy fighting rather than fuel shortages.
“I don’t know why Zelenskiy made this call,” he said. “What I know is that there was fierce fighting in Donetsk. The Russians took (the oblast) from (neighboring) Lugansk several weeks ago. I expect more fierce fighting in Donetsk.”
Herbst said he did not expect Russia to capture the rest of Donetsk given the longer logistical lines it would need and the Ukrainian forces’ use of advanced artillery and rocket systems at long range supplied by the United States and others.
Earlier on Saturday, the Ukrainian military said more than 100 Russian soldiers had been killed and seven tanks destroyed in fighting in the south on Friday, including the Kherson region which is at the center of Kyiv’s counter-offensive in this part of the country and a key link in Moscow. power lines.
Rail traffic to Kherson via the Dnipro River has been cut off, the Southern Military Command said, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and to the east.
South of the town of Bakhmut, which Russia has cited as a main target in Donetsk, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces had “partially succeeded” in establishing control of the settlement of Semyhirya by storming it from three directions.
“He established himself on the outskirts of the settlement,” the army’s evening report said, referring to Russian forces.
British defense and intelligence officials, who have been one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies since Moscow invaded its neighbor on February 24, described Russian forces as struggling to maintain momentum.
Ukraine has used long-range missile systems supplied by the West to severely damage three bridges over the Dnipro in recent weeks, cutting off the city of Kherson and – in the assessment of British defense officials – leaving the 49th very vulnerable Russian army on the west bank of the river.
The pro-Ukrainian governor of the Kherson region, Dmytro Butriy, said fighting continued in many parts of the region and that the Berislav district, just northwest of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, was particularly affected. .
“In some villages, not a single house was left intact, all infrastructure was destroyed, people live in cellars,” he wrote on Telegram.
Just north of Lysychansk, which Moscow forces captured in early July after weeks of fighting, Ukrainian partisans destroyed a railway junction box near the Russian-held town of Svatove on Friday night, making it more difficult for Moscow transporting ammunition to the front lines. by train, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said in an online post.
Reuters could not independently verify reports from the battlefield.
Officials of the Russian-appointed administration that rules the Kherson region earlier this week dismissed Western and Ukrainian assessments of the situation.
On Friday, the British ministry described the Russian government as “increasingly desperate”, having lost tens of thousands of soldiers in the war. The head of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence agency, Richard Moore, added on Twitter that Russia is “running out of steam”.
DEATH IN PRISON
Ukraine and Russia have swapped accusations over a missile strike or explosion early Friday that appears to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the frontline town of Olenivka, held by Moscow-backed separatists in the east of Donetsk.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday released a list of 50 Ukrainian POWs killed and 73 wounded in what it said was a Ukrainian military attack with a US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) .
Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said “all political, criminal and moral responsibility” lay with Zelenskiy, “his criminal regime and Washington supporting them.”
The ministry said Russia had invited experts from the United Nations and the Red Cross to investigate the deaths “in the interest of conducting an objective investigation”.
Separatists put the death toll at 53.
Ukraine’s armed forces have denied responsibility, saying Russian artillery had targeted the prison to hide the mistreatment there. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Friday that Russia had committed a war crime and called for international condemnation.
Reuters could not immediately verify the various versions of events, but some of the deaths were confirmed by Reuters reporters who visited the prison.
The United Nations said earlier it was ready to send experts to investigate if it got consent from both sides. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was seeking access and had offered to help evacuate the injured.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his condolences in a Friday phone call with Kuleba and said Washington was committed to “holding Russia accountable for atrocities”, the US State Department said.
Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities against civilians and identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia denies targeting civilians and committing war crimes.
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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Jonathan Landay and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Lincoln Feast, William Mallard, Frances Kerry, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis
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