Evacuate battleground, civilians told

KYIV Ukraine (AFP) — Ukraine’s president urged civilians on Saturday to evacuate the frontline Donetsk region, the scene of fierce clashes with the Russian military, as Kyiv called on the Red Cross and UN to gain access to its soldiers being held by Moscow’s forces.

The eastern Donetsk region has faced the brunt of Russia’s offensive since its assault on Kyiv failed weeks into the invasion launched on 24 February.

President Volodymyr Zelensky warned in his daily address that thousands of people, including children, were still in the region’s battleground areas, with six civilians killed and 15 wounded on Friday, according to the Donetsk governor.

“There’s already a governmental decision about obligatory evacuation from Donetsk,” Zelensky said, underscoring authorities’ calls to leave the besieged region in recent weeks.

“Leave, we will help,” Zelensky said. “At this stage of the war, terror is the main weapon of Russia.”

Official Ukrainian estimates put the number of civilians still living in the unoccupied area of Donetsk at between 200,000 and 220,000.

A mandatory evacuation notice posted Saturday evening said the coming winter made it a matter of urgency, particularly for the more than 50,000 children still in the region.

“They need to be evacuated, you cannot put them in mortal danger in the winter without heating, light, without the ability to keep them warm,” Kyiv’s Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories said in a statement.

Crimea drone strike

A drone attack on the Russian fleet in the Crimean port of Sebastopol on Sunday wounded five people, the Russian-annexed city’s mayor Mikhail Razvozhayev said.

“This morning, Ukrainian nationalists decided to spoil the Day of the Russian Fleet” being celebrated on Sunday, he said on Telegram, adding that five people, including employees of the army staff, had been wounded.

All festivities had been “canceled for security reasons,” he said, asking residents of the city to remain indoors “if possible.”

Huge celebrations are due to take place in Russia, including a naval parade in Saint Petersburg that will be attended by President Vladimir Putin.

Ukrainian forces have in recent weeks retaken territory seized by Russian forces since the invasion.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian strikes partially destroyed a major bridge in the city of Kherson, occupied by Russian forces.

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