Ukraine’s deputy prime minister urged civilians in the Russian-occupied southern region of Kherson Oblast and residents of the Russian-occupied southern part of Zaporizhia Oblast to urgently evacuate, ahead of a planned large-scale Ukrainian counteroffensive.
In a television appearance on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that “It’s clear there will be fighting, there will be artillery shelling… and we therefore urge (people) to evacuate urgently”. Vereshchuk said she could not disclose when the counteroffensive would begin, adding that “I know for sure that there should not be women and children there, and that they should not become human shields”.
In an interview with The Times, Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said that President Volodmyr Zelensky had ordered that efforts be focused on a counteroffensive in Ukraine’s south, due to the economic importance of the region’s coastal areas. In turn, Reznikov was now requesting that his counterparts in Western nations supply Ukraine’s military with equipment it needed to carry out the counteroffensive, in particular Western-made artillery to replace depleted stocks of Soviet-era ammunition.
While Kherson Oblast was quickly taken over by Russian forces in the early weeks of the Russian invasion, Ukrainian forces have been engaged in a counteroffensive in the area since June, driving back Russian advances. Ukrainian guerillas have also become increasingly active, assassinating local officials collaborating with Russian occupation forces and sabotaging infrastructure key to Russian logistics.
In recent weeks, Western-supplied artillery such as French CAESAR truck-mounted self propelled howitzers and American HIMARS multiple rocket launch systems have been delivered to Ukrainian units in the region, with the HIMARS in particular believed to have seen extensive use in a series of strikes on Russian ammunition stores and command centers in both Kherson and Zaporizhia oblasts.
Despite significant amounts of amateur footage and photographs depicting the spectacular results of alleged HIMARS strikes on Russian targets, Kyiv has remained largely silent on the progress of Ukrainian forces and territory retaken throughout the counteroffensive to date.