Ukraine asks residents to leave occupied south due to plans for counter-attack

Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukraine’s deputy prime minister on Sunday urged civilians in the Russian-occupied southern region of Kherson to evacuate urgently as Ukraine’s armed forces prepared to launch a counterattack there.

Ukraine lost control of most of the Kherson region on the Black Sea, including its eponymous capital, in the first weeks after the Russian invasion on February 24.

“Obviously there will be fighting and there will be artillery … so we urge (people) to evacuate urgently,” Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshuk told national television.

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She said she could not say exactly when the counterattack would occur.

“I know for sure that there should not be women and children, and they should not become human shields,” she said.

The Russian-installed Kherson authorities say they want to hold a referendum on secession from Russia, but have not yet set a date. The Kremlin says the region’s future must be decided by its residents.

Kherson region includes the city of Kherson, which before the war had a population of about 300 thousand. It is not known how many residents of the city are still there.

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(Reporting by Max Hunder) Editing by Tom Palmforth and Frances Kerry

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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