Kremlin proxy officials said Friday they were building defenses and turning the southern city of Kherson into a “fortress” as Kiev troops advance and Russia pulls residents from the region.
The claim came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow’s troops were preparing to destroy a hydroelectric dam in the southern Kherson region in what would amount to a “mass catastrophe”.
Kherson was the first major city to fall to Moscow’s forces since the February invasion began, and its recapture would be a crucial prize in Ukraine’s counter-offensive.
“Four people were killed,” pro-Moscow official Kirill Stremousov said on Telegram. “The city of Kherson is preparing like a fortress for its defense.”
Russian state media had broadcast footage in recent days showing citizens carrying bags taking ferries across the river from Kherson.
Kiev has labeled the organized relocation of Kherson residents to Russia and other Moscow-controlled regions as “deportations” of Ukrainian citizens.
Hundreds of thousands of people around the lower reaches of the Dnipro River are at risk of flash flooding if the dam is destroyed, Zelensky warned in a speech to European leaders on Thursday.
The nuclear facility is a major concern of Russia’s eight-month invasion, with both sides regularly accusing each other of shelling near it and endangering operations.
But Russian forces have continued to shell the region’s largest city, Kharkiv, and the presidency said Friday that “industrial infrastructure” in the city was hit, with six injured.
Energy-saving measures were taken across the country after Russian missiles and drones destroyed what Zelensky said was more than 30 percent of the country’s power plants in a week.
A 64-year-old Ukrainian, Vyacheslav, told AFP in Kiev that the nation would make it despite the restrictions.
Kyrylo, a 27-year-old retail salesman, said there was a stampede on the power banks after Russian attacks began on energy facilities in the capital.
The Ukrainian presidency said on Friday that Russian forces continue to shell sections along the entire frontline of Donbas in eastern Ukraine and that two people have been killed in the Donetsk region.