KYIV – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday (July 30) his government was ordering the mandatory evacuation of people in the eastern Donetsk region, scene of fierce fighting with Russia.
In a late-night television address, Zelensky also said the hundreds of thousands of people still in combat zones in the larger Donbas region, which contains Donetsk as well as the neighbouring Luhansk region, needed to leave.
“The more people leave (the) Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill,” he said, adding that residents who left would be given compensation.
Separately, domestic Ukrainian media outlets quoted Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk as saying the evacuation needed to take place before winter begins since the region’s natural gas supplies had been destroyed.
Zelensky said hundreds of thousands of people were still living in areas of Donbas where fighting was fierce.
“Many refuse to leave but it still needs to be done,” the president said.
“If you have the opportunity, please talk to those who still remain in the combat zones in Donbas. Please convince them that it is necessary to leave.”
Earlier on Saturday, Ukraine’s military said more than 100 Russian soldiers had been killed and seven tanks destroyed in fighting in the south on Friday, including the Kherson region that is the focus of Kyiv’s counteroffensive in that part of the country and a key link in Moscow’s supply lines.
Rail traffic to Kherson over the Dnipro River had been cut, the military’s southern command said, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and the east.
South of the town of Bakhmut, which Russia has cited as a prime target in Donetsk, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces had been “partially successful” in establishing control over the settlement of Semyhirya by storming it from three directions.
“He established himself on the outskirts of the settlement,” the military’s evening report said, referring to Russian forces.
Defence and intelligence officials from Britain, which has been one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies since Moscow invaded its neighbor on Feb 24, portrayed Russian forces as struggling to maintain momentum.