Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian forces are stepping up efforts to make life unbearable for civilians in the occupied southern Kherson region, which lost power on Sunday night and Ukrainian officials warned that Russian forces are digging up critical infrastructure even as they fight to win Their last bridgehead west of the Dnieper.
Fighting in the city of Kherson, the only regional capital occupied by Moscow, has raged for months since the late February invasion. The Ukrainian counteroffensive launched in late August has recaptured more than 100 towns and villages and steadily approached Kherson, while also attacking Russian supply lines, command centers and ammunition depots far from the front.
Kremlin-appointed authorities in Kherson ordered the “evacuation” of all civilians last month as the Ukrainian army advanced — a move Ukrainian officials say was less about saving lives than freeing up newly mobilized Russian forces space to occupy. Since then, Russian troops have been destroying critical infrastructure, shutting down essential services and looting the city, according to residents and Ukrainian officials.
Petro, 30, who lives in the area, managed to deliver a message on Sunday night, saying: “They are opening up a desert on the right bank of Kherson.” He did so on the condition of not giving his last name out of fear for his safety. communication.
“Today they blew up utility poles, so we have no light and no water,” Petro added.
Russian state media said the Ukrainian shelling had damaged power lines, while Yaroslav Yanushevich, head of the military administration of Ukraine’s Kherson region in exile, blamed the Russian army.
“Without a lack of experts and equipment, it’s impossible to repair power lines quickly,” he said Sunday night. “Furthermore, the Russian invaders would not allow this.”
Russian troops also placed mines around Belislav’s water tower. Yanushevich said he was referring to a town less than 50 miles from the city of Kherson, just north of a major dam.
In the first days of the war, Russian troops occupied the road on the dam near the town of Nova Kakhovka, the main artery across the Dnieper, still under the control of Russian troops. If Ukraine regained control of the area, they could prevent thousands of Russian soldiers from escaping.
Ukrainian forces continued to encounter fierce resistance as they continued to fight Russian forces deployed about 30 miles north of the dam.
Ukrainian and Russian officials have accused each other of planning to blow up the dam. But military analysts say doing so would be logistically challenging and not in the interests of either side, as it would lead to flooding and damage on both sides of the Dnieper.
Still, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator ordered an emergency review on Monday Safety risks upstream of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant if the dam is damaged.
Ukraine’s military high command said on Monday that the destruction of critical infrastructure was part of a coordinated effort to undermine its forces, and warned that Moscow had sent propagandists “to shoot videos in the city on the subject of so-called destruction of civilians.”
Senior government officials in Kyiv have also suggested that Moscow may be trying to create the appearance of leaving Kherson to lure Ukrainian troops into brutal urban fighting. On Monday, the Ukrainian military said it still saw no evidence that Russian troops were ready to abandon Kherson.
But Ukrainian authorities have warned that Russian forces are stepping up their search for someone to help direct the military strike. The National Resistance Center, a government agency that supports resistance movements in the occupied territories, said on Monday that the Russians had “intensified their attacks and filtering measures against the local population.”
Russia has set up so-called filtering centers to temporarily detain and screen Ukrainians and identify anyone deemed a threat to Russia’s occupation. In July, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Russian authorities had“Forcibly deported” 900,000 to 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens to Russian territory,
The National Resistance Center said it was aware of “dozens of detainees” being taken to the camps and said they were interrogated and tortured once they got there. This claim could not be independently verified.