Ukraine says Russia will force looting and occupy Kherson house before battle

KIEV—Ukraine has accused Russia of looting empty houses in the southern city of Kherson and occupying them with plainclothes troops to prepare for street fighting.

In recent days, Russia has issued orders to civilians from Kherson in anticipation of a Ukrainian offensive to retake the city, the first city seized by Russian forces after the February invasion.

Kherson, which had a pre-war population of about 300,000, remains cold and dark after power and water to the surrounding area were cut off for the past 48 hours, both sides said.

A Russian-installed official accused Ukraine of “sabotage”, with Ukrainian officials saying the Russians had dismantled 1.5 kilometers of power lines.

Kyiv has described the evacuation of the region as deportation and a war crime. Moscow says it is evicting residents for safety.

The Ukrainian military announced on Monday that about 100 disabled children had been transferred to the Moscow region from a medical facility in Dnipriyan, Kherson region. Patients from nursing homes in Kakhovka are also being transferred, and Russian troops are occupying these facilities, it said.

Kherson is in the only pocket of Russian-held territory on the western bank of the Dnipro River, which bisects Ukraine. Retrieving it has been the main focus of the Ukrainian counterattack in the south, which has accelerated since the beginning of October.

The situation inside Kherson could not be independently verified. Ukrainian forces on the front lines nearby told Reuters that heavy fighting is expected before they force the Russian occupiers to abandon the city.

The Ukrainian military said Russian forces “disguised themselves in civilian clothes, occupied civilian sites and fortified their internal positions to engage in street fighting.”

The Russian military “has been involved in looting and theft from civilians and infrastructure sites, taking equipment, food and vehicles to the Russian Federation,” it said in an update Monday.

Reuters had requested comments from Russian officials on Ukraine’s allegations. Moscow denies any abuse of civilians.

The Ukrainian military reported earlier on Tuesday that Russian anti-aircraft installations, ammunition depots and Russian armor had been destroyed in the Belislav district of the Kherson region. 32 Russian military personnel have died.

Ukrainian forces around the recently liberated village of Nova Kamyanka counted four Russian airstrikes in the neighborhood.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that the eastern Donetsk region remained the “epicenter” of the conflict.

The towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka have suffered the most intense fighting in the Donetsk region.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podlyak said Ukraine was ready to negotiate with a future Russian leader, but not with Vladimir Putin.The Washington Post reported that the United States He urged Kyiv to show its readiness for peace talks to ensure it maintains Western support.

“Ukraine has never refused to negotiate,” Podoljak said on Twitter, adding that Russia should first withdraw its troops from Ukraine. “Is Putin ready? Clearly not.”

In his Monday night speech, Zelensky said Russia should be forced to participate in “real” peace talks.

Russia’s Defense Ministry took the rare step on Monday of denying elite units suffered devastating losses, after a Russian military blogger posted an open letter from a surviving member of the Pacific Fleet’s 155th Marine Brigade. stepped forward.