Russian forces step up raids on civilians in occupied Kherson as battle for city looms

Kyiv, Ukraine

Russian forces have intensified their surveillance of civilians in occupied areas of The Kherson region in southern Ukrainedetaining residents to eradicate partisan resistance, according to the Ukrainian army.

In the occupied city of Kherson, Russian troops now largely wear civilian clothes and live in civilian accommodation as they ‘reinforce their positions inside to fight street battles’, according to the Ukrainian military and a townsman with whom CNN exchanged messages .

Ukrainian forces recaptured a significant portion of territory in Kherson that Russian troops had seized shortly after the invasion began in late February. Kyiv had a string of surprising victories in the region in early October, but progress has slowed as Ukrainian forces close in on the regional capital, the city of Kherson. It looks like an intense battle for the city is looming.

“In the midst of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ counteroffensive, the occupiers have significantly intensified the filtering measures,” the National Resistance Center, a creation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said on Monday. “Raids among the local population have intensified in the temporarily occupied part of the Kherson region. The occupiers actively seek out the underground movement.

The National Resistance Center said it was aware of dozens of detentions in recent days. He called on civilians to leave the occupied territories “if possible” as the Ukrainian army pushed its counter-offensive.

Kherson is one of four regions that Russia has announced it wants to annex to Ukraine in violation of international law. Moscow’s immediate plans for the city of Kherson, however, are unclear. A senior Russian-backed city official, Kirill Stremousov, said on Friday it was “under the defense of the Russian military.” Ukrainian officials said Russian forces continued to deepen their defensive lines in Kherson as Ukrainian units advanced along the west bank of the Dnipro.

However, Stremousov said Thursday that Russian troops would “most likely” withdraw from their positions in the southern city, but Ukrainian officials suggested the statement could be a trap – a sentiment echoed by military spokeswoman Natalia Humeniuk Saturday.

“Russian troops are trying to convince everyone that they are withdrawing, but at the same time we are seeing objective evidence that they are staying,” Humeniuk said in an interview with Ukrainian media.

Residents of Kherson reported seeing an increased military presence on the streets. A resident of the occupied city of Kherson told CNN through a third party on Sunday that Russian soldiers in occupied villages were behaving more aggressively towards civilians.

“On the western shore, near Snihurivka, there are cases of occupants moving into residents’ houses when people move into town,” the resident said. “A lot of soldiers have come to the villages, they are settling in empty houses. But there are cases where they evict people from their homes.

CNN is not identifying the Kherson resident for his safety. The city of Kherson itself has been “relatively calm”, she said.

“Once in a while you can hear automatic gunfire at night,” the resident said. “There is a curfew in the city and no one goes out at night. The occupiers have created a kind of territorial defense in the city, which deals with security issues.

Checkpoints in the city itself have been removed, she said.

“There are only checkpoints at the entrance to the city. At the checkpoint, they check the documents and see what’s in the car. If it is public transport, the soldier enters the minibus. This can vary, it all depends on the mood of the occupants. They may start checking phones and forcing men to strip to check for tattoos.

The resident said most of the soldiers appeared to be over 30, but they had started to see more young men, around 18 to 20 years old.

Water and electricity in the city of Kherson were temporarily cut off Sunday after damage to infrastructure there. Russian authorities said a trio of ‘reinforced concrete columns of high-voltage power lines’ were damaged in an attack by Ukrainian forces, while Kyiv accused Kremlin-backed forces of occupying the city . CNN cannot independently confirm or verify the details of the claimed attack or who carried it out.

The Kremlin has in recent weeks intensified attacks on civilian energy infrastructure across Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have claimed that Moscow is trying to cut power across the country so Ukrainians, civilians and military alike, will freeze as winter arrives.

Monday morning in Kherson, Russian authorities were still trying to restore power. Stremousov, the Russian-appointed deputy head of the Kherson region military administration, said he believed electricity and communications would return “in the near future”. He added that there is no problem with the food supply and that, although some pharmacies are closed, it is “not impossible to obtain social benefits”.

Stremousov said authorities continued to offer “evacuation” to the eastern bank of the Dnipro, now including bedridden or mobility-impaired civilians.

Evacuation offers such as this have raised fears that Ukrainian citizens may be forced into Russian territory against their will. Reports emerged early in the war tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians forcibly sent to so-called “screening centers” before being transferred to Russia. Moscow has denounced these claims as lies, alleging that Ukraine has obstructed its efforts to “evacuate” people to Russia.

Serhii Khlan, a member of the Kherson Regional Council, said Russian forces continued to drive civilians from their homes on the east bank of the Dnipro.

The Kherson city resident who spoke to CNN considered the idea of ​​getting on an “evacuation bus” to Crimea a “one-way ticket”.

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