- by theguardian
- 01 Apr 2023
Vladimir Putin has declared martial law in the four provinces of Ukraine where Moscow controls territory after Russian officials warned of a Ukrainian assault on the key southern city of Kherson.
The law, published on the Kremlin website, gives far-reaching emergency powers to the Russian-installed heads of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson provinces, which Russia recently proclaimed as annexed after sham referendums. Law enforcement agencies have been given three days to submit specific proposals.
Earlier in the day, the head of the occupying administration in Kherson spoke of plans to move up to 60,000 people across the Dnieper River and into Russia as Moscow attempted to cling to the city before a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Residents are under pressure to leave. A number have reported receiving mass text messages warning the city would be shelled and informing them that buses would be leaving from the port from 7am. Workers such as teachers and doctors were also being told to leave.
Russian television footage showed hundreds of people gathered at the port on Wednesday morning waiting to be removed. Russian officials have promised to help them buy property in mainland Russia, suggesting they were not planning for a return of civilians to the city in the foreseeable future.
Russian forces appeared to have resumed aerial attacks on Kyiv on Wednesday, with local people reporting explosions from anti-air defence systems in the skies over the Ukrainian capital.
The warnings are an attempt to avoid a repeat of the situation in Kharkiv province, where the Russian military was criticised for its chaotic retreat, in many cases leaving behind local Ukrainians who had collaborated with the occupation governments.
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