Kherson Mayor Ihor Kulekhayev said the Ukrainian army is no longer present in the city and that its residents now have to carry out the instructions of “armed people who came to the city administration” – noting that the city has now come under Russian control.
The announcement on his Facebook page came several days after Kherson was pressured by Russian forces besieging the city.
Kherson is a city of strategic importance at the entrance to the Black Sea with a population of nearly 300,000. On Wednesday, the mayor in Kyiv denied Russia’s claim of control, saying that Ukrainian forces were still fighting in parts of the city. The new publication stated that the Ukrainian forces had left.
The mayor also told the New York Times in an interview that a group of about 10 armed Russian officers, including the commander of the forces attacking the city, entered the town hall on Wednesday. He said he was told by Russian officers that they plan to create a new administration similar to those in Russian-backed separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine, according to an interview with the New York Times.
What does this mean: If Kherson was now under Russian control, this would be an important moment in the conflict, as it would be the first major city captured by Russian forces.
Late on Wednesday, Henadi Lahota, head of the Kherson regional administration, issued a message in which he said: “I ask everyone who is not at home now, or who is planning to go out, not to do so. The occupiers in all areas of the city are very dangerous.”
Without explicitly saying that the Russians control the city, Mayor Kulekhaev said Wednesday night that “there are armed visitors in the city’s executive committee today.”
“The team and I are a peaceful people, we had no weapons, and there was no aggression on our part.”
I didn’t make any promises to them. I have nothing to prepare. I am only interested in the normal life of our city! I just asked not to shoot people.”
He continued in his Facebook message, “We don’t have armed forces in the city, only civilians and people who want to live here!”
Kulekhayev said that there are now new rules in the city, including a curfew and restrictions on transportation in and out of the city.
Another rule, he said, is that “the infantry walk one by one, two at the most. Do not provoke the army.”
He finished: “So be it now. The flag above us is Ukrainian. To keep it as it is, these requirements must be met. I can offer nothing else.”
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