Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine
Russian forces are preparing new defensive positions on the east bank of the Dnieper river in Kherson and telling local civilians they should move away from the area.
Kirill Stremousov, the Russian-appointed deputy head of the Kherson military administration, confirmed Wednesday that the evacuation of civilians has been extended to the east bank of the river, a move that Ukrainian officials describe as “evictions.”
Stremousov said in a video on Telegram that Ukrainian forces had made no progress in breaking through the defense line. But a zone of 15 kilometers (about 9 miles) on the east bank would be evacuated. “There is a certain list of settlements where there will be the line of defense,” Stremousov said.
“No one 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 being built directly on some people’s plots in villages. … If hostilities take place, then the soldiers will be forced to evacuate you, given that this may be dangerous.”
Stremousov also made a rare acknowledgment of reports of looting and drunkenness among Russian troops.
“Regarding the situation that may occur in the villages: we are talking about looting and drinking that some ignoramuses who represent the Russian army can do now. You can contact me directly … I need reports from you about all the facts — drinking, looting, humiliation or attempts at violence,” he said.
On the Ukrainian side, the Kherson regional military administration said that active hostilities continue. “The enemy shelled the recently liberated villages of Beryslav district [on the west bank]. Numerous damages and destruction of civil infrastructure were recorded,” it said.
The Ukrainian military’s General Staff asserted that the Russian occupation’s administration of Kherson had been transferred to the city of Skadovsk, much closer to Crimea and close to 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 being dug along the line of the east bank” over a distance of about 20 kilometers (about 12 miles).
The regional military administration also claimed that occupying forces “continue to kidnap residents of the Kherson region,” especially in Nova Kakhovka.
The displaced mayor of one community on the east bank — Eugene Ryshchuk, the mayor of Oleshky — said it was being turned into a “bridgehead for hostilities.”
“We were led 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 forcibly taken to Russia, remember the state of Ukraine will not leave its people.”
Ukrainian officials have frequently accused Russian forces of widespread and organized looting throughout Kherson, most recently alleging that much of the stolen property was being taken to the city of Skadovsk.
On Wednesday, Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the Kherson region administration, said Russian forces were looting the “largest light industry enterprise,” a company making uniforms.
Yanushevych said “the occupiers are taking out sewing machines, cutting tables, embroidery machines, office and computer equipment and other equipment with trucks.”
CNN is unable to verify the claim.