Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

Ukraine will soon begin evacuating people who want to leave the recently liberated southern city of Kherson and surrounding areas, a senior official said on Saturday, citing damage by Russian forces.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said some people had also expressed a desire to move from Kherson and the area around Mykolayiv, about 65 km (40 miles) northwest.

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“It is possible in the next few days,” she said at a televised press conference in Mykolaiv when asked when the evacuation would begin, saying the government had already made the necessary preparations.

Among those who wanted to leave were the elderly and those who were hit by Russian shelling, she added.

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Kyiv says Russian troops destroyed critical Kherson infrastructure before leaving earlier this month.

“This is only a voluntary evacuation. We are not talking about a forced evacuation at the moment,” Vereshchuk said.

“But even in the case of voluntary evacuation, the state is responsible for transportation. People should be taken to where they will spend the winter,” she said.

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Ukrainian infrastructure bombarded with a new round of Russian missiles

The government had several options, one of which was to use Mykolaiv as a transit point before sending people further west to safer areas, she added.

In August, Vereshchuk said Ukraine plans to expand the number of frontline districts where civilian evacuations will be mandatory, as those areas could be occupied and face problems with central heating this winter.

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(Reporting by David Ljunggren Editing by Chris Reese)