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Ukraine offers voluntary evacuation out of Kherson amid winter fears

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Russian forces withdrew from the southern city of Kherson last week – a major victory for Ukraine. But damaged electricity infrastructure and falling temperatures are making life difficult for civilians. The government will help evacuate anyone who wants to leave the city, a senior Ukrainian official said. Something is loading.

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Ukrainian officials are offering to help evacuate residents of the newly liberated city of Kherson, as they fear broken electricity infrastructure could lead to a devastating winter freeze.

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, told a televised press conference on Saturday that some people living in the cities of Kherson and Mykolaiv said they would like to leave the region and that Ukraine would help them, reports the New York Times. .

“Currently, we’re not talking about a forced evacuation,” she said, according to The Times. “But even in the event of a voluntary evacuation, the state assumes responsibility for transport. People must be taken to where they will spend the winter.”

Vereshchuk said evacuations will be possible in the coming days and said one option would be to use Mykolaiv as a transit point before sending people further west to safer areas of the country.

Mykolaiv, which has come under constant Russian bombardment, is about 65 kilometers northwest of Kherson.

Last week, Moscow ordered the withdrawal of troops from Kherson, the largest city occupied by Russian forces since the invasion began in February. This is one of Ukraine’s most significant victories since the Russian invasion.

But as the city celebrated its liberation, officials also expressed fears that the cold winter and lack of basic necessities, such as heat and water, could cause a humanitarian disaster.

Like the rest of the country, Kherson is facing extreme shortages of electricity, water and heat after Russian forces launched a series of airstrikes on power plants and critical gas and water supplies in the course of the last few months.

During their retreat from Kherson, Russian forces blew up two major power supply facilities in the area, plunging thousands into darkness, chief operator Volodymyr Kudrytskyi said last week. of the Ukrainian electricity network Ukrenergo.

In a Facebook post, Kudrytskyi called the Russians “a vile horde that knows only destruction.”

Some Kherson residents told the Guardian they were trying to collect as much wood as possible for warmth.

“I have already started using the burzhuika,” 71-year-old resident Kateryna Sliusarchuk told The Guardian, referring to the traditional Ukrainian home-made welded metal stove. “Of course, I will have to wave my arms and look for wood every day to protect myself from the cold. And that will not be easy at my age.”

But Ukrainian officials have already told them not to go into the woods without asking permission first, because they fear they will walk on mines, tripwires and unexploded shells left behind by Russian forces, reported The Guardian.

The first snow arrived in Ukraine last week, marking the start of what could be the toughest winter in the country’s history.

But it’s not just Kherson that’s in trouble. Officials in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, are bracing for the possibility of a full evacuation as they are unable to maintain their power grid.

“We understand that if Russia continues such attacks, we could lose our entire electrical system,” Roman Tkachuk, director of security for the Kyiv municipal government, told The New York Times earlier this month.

The World Health Organization said last month that lack of access to fuel or electricity in Ukraine “could become a matter of life and death”.

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