Russia is preparing to order a "compulsory" transfer of tens of thousands of residents in the Kherson region as the fight for the south heats up. This could involve as many as 70,000 civilians in what would mark a large-scale Russian withdrawal from the occupied Ukrainian city.
Citing Russian officials, The Wall Street Journal reports that "starting Sunday they would begin relocating residents from the Kakhovsky district on the east bank of the Dnipro River due to what they claim is the possibility of a Ukrainian attack on a strategic dam nearby." Already evacuations have been ongoing for weeks from the city as fighting and heavy shelling encroach.
And the pro-Russian governor of Kherson Volodymyr Saldo confirmed preparations for a mandated evacuation ahead of advancing Ukrainian forces, which a Russian decree said will be "in a compulsory manner." Russian officials say this is necessary because Ukraine forces are plotting a "massive missile strike on the Kakhovka hydroelectric station" to flood Kherson.
Ukraine has denied these plans of course, and has in turn accused the Russian side of essentially using the large civilian transfer as one big "human shield":
"They want to create the impression that this is a civilian evacuation. Surrounded by civilians they understand that they have a degree of safety," said a spokeswoman for the southern command of Ukraine’s armed forces.
They say Russian military vehicles are intentionally mixing with civilian convoys as they exit the region.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian media sources are touting that the national armed forces have conducted at least 100 firing missions on Wednesday, conducted by artillery and missile units.
"The Armed Forces of Ukraine struck an extremely successful blow on the occupiers in Kherson, hitting the air defense systems at Spartak stadium, which were used to attack Mykolaiv," a statement from an official with Ukraine's Kherson Regional Council said on Facebook.
A report this week in the Associated Press said that many among the recently mobilized Russian recruits have been sent to Kherson front lines, despite official denials from the Kremlin.