February 3, 2023

Scores flee for their lives ahead of Russia’s sham independence vote in Kherson

5 min read

More than a hundred miles away, in a central hall in the Kremlin, the hometown of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, local officials are welcoming the resettlers.

A man and his son tell of his wife and mother being killed by a bomb that struck his spine and back in several places.

Even in comparative security, they did not want to be identified for fear that the Russians might target other family members left behind.

“If they see us, they’ll shoot everyone left,” the son told CNN. “We walked over the river.”

Occupied Territories Around Kharson – Will be taken first The advance of Russian forces in the early days of the war – last week’s advance to the second phase of Moscow’s aggression – has sent shockwaves through the country, but there are also fears of a referendum on Wednesday.

Ukraine has said Russia intends to hold a vote in the region. – There is widely seen as a fraudulent referendum – Trying to show public support for the creation of a new entity called the Kherson People’s Republic, which will reflect similar institutions in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine. (After Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized his independence, Moscow sent troops into the self-proclaimed republic – and started its war in Ukraine.)

Several locals and several Ukrainian officials told CNN that the vote was scheduled for April 27.

The Russian military uses rape as a

A day earlier, Russian-backed officials announced a series of new government officials in the occupied city, leading some observers to believe the referendum on the new appointments had been postponed.

Fear of an impending vote and its implications – a possible strengthening of Russian control – have forced many residents to flee quickly.

Oleksandr Wilkul, head of the military administration of CMR Kryvyi Rih, told CNN that the Ukrainian army had “helped evacuate about 7,000 people from this area of ​​the 100-mile front line, some by bicycle, some by wheelbarrow.” , Or on foot. “

“People don’t want to and can’t be occupied,” Volkol said.

CMR Oleksandr Wilkul says the army helped about 7,000 people leave the front line.

The road leading out of Kherson and the surrounding villages has been treacherous.

Over the past week, a long line of cars – estimated by many locals to be in the hundreds – drove toward the occupied town of Sinehorioka, as residents of Kherson, who had managed to escape from their own town, were attacked by Russian troops. Stopped again. .

In another video made by a fugitive Kherson resident, seen by CNN, a long line of vehicles lined up on another exit road, northeast of the city, towards the crevice.

During the Easter weekend, evacuations accelerated, officials told CNN. They began falling on Tuesday when locals said Russian checkpoints had stopped allowing them out of the occupied territories. Locals said some frustrated evacuees left their cars behind and walked into the fields.

A large number of bicycles were abandoned when locals arrived at Ukrainian-administered checkpoints, according to several locals quoted by CNN.

Kherson’s mother, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, told CNN she had expelled her two sons and daughter “as soon as possible” before the referendum, fearing that A large number of men between the ages of 18 and 60 will be recruited.

“We are in complete control. There is no food, no money. We have nothing. They will hold a referendum and take our children. My son is 18 years old and they will take them as cannon fodder. Will. ” He said there were two attempts to escape. He said that for the first time, Russian troops opened fire on cars in their convoy.

In the busy co-ordination of Kryvyi Rih Hall, food and medicine are distributed, from which migrants can access a wide coat rack of donated clothes. In this safe haven, migrants describe the horrors and barbarism of occupation.

Kryvyi Rih looks at the evacuation of donated clothes racks in the hall.

Mikhailo, a Kyiv resident who went to the village of Velika Oleksandrioka to pick up his wife and child, said he was tortured by Russian soldiers for several days after entering the village.

Mikhailov said soldiers were searching for Ukrainian men with possible military experience, and they saw his rough hands, from his construction work, as a sign that he was a soldier.

In a basement, he was tortured, he said, and CNN was shown a medical report confirming his injuries.

“One pulled out a gun,” Mikhailo said of the two soldiers who shot him. “A real one. I saw it was cocked. Two bullets. They hit a concrete wall. I think it was an early pistol,” he said.

Mikhailo said that after the mock execution, two more soldiers came in.

“He spoke less. He was drunk – a boxer must have been there because he hit me right there. On my ribs, six of them broke, one of the lungs exploded.”

Mikhailov laughed to himself as he spoke to soldiers about what he said could be used to obtain Ukrainian military intelligence. He told them that he could expect at least 150 checkpoints from his village to the next town, and that there were some roads in the countryside south of Krevi Reh – saying that it was just endless mud. And there are fields. Several days later, Mikhailo said his parents came and successfully demanded his release.

Mikhailo said he was beaten when he went to fetch his wife and child from the village of Velika Oleksandrioka.

Kharsan’s expulsion is not just about the referendum. Russia’s advance in the vast expanse of rural areas north and east of the city of Khursin is also fueling residents moving north.

Over the course of two days in and around the villages south of Kherson, CNN noticed that the shelling was having an effect, forcing the locals to flee the villages so that during the war, now Are proudly left in the second month of

In the village of Kochubioka, a man helping to evacuate his 74-year-old mother, Antonina, said shelling had intensified in his hometown of Nova Schisternia over the past two hours.

“We wanted to stay, but the Grad rockets changed that,” he said, adding that a woman was injured in the attack.

Once upon a time, Bakulok became an escape route from the countryside of southern Ukraine, where a slower pace of life is now emerging, as Russia’s brutal advance changes the landscape they have known for decades.

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