Ukraine will begin evicting people who want to leave the southern city of Kherson and its recently liberated areas, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk announced, citing the destruction of infrastructure by the Russian military that made life difficult for residents.
News of the escape came as Russian missiles reportedly hit an oil depot in Kherson on Saturday evening, officials said, the first time an oil depot had been hit in the city since Russia withdrew more than a week ago.
Vereshchuk said on Saturday that several people said they wanted to leave Kherson and the area around Mykolaiv, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) northwest.
“This is possible in the next few days,” he told a television conference in Mykolaiv when asked when people would begin to leave Kherson.
Vereshchuck said the state has already made preparations for the move. Some of those who wanted to leave were elderly and those who had been hit by Russian bullets, he said.
“This is a voluntary transfer. At the moment, we are not talking about forced deportation,” said Vereshchuk.
“But even in the case of voluntary migration, the government is responsible for transport. “People should be taken to where they live during the winter,” he said.
The government had several evacuation plans, one of which was to use Mykolaiv as a transit point before sending people west to safer parts of the country, he added.
In August, Vereshchuk said that Ukraine is planning to increase the number of frontline areas where civilians are to be evacuated, as these areas can be inhabited and will also face heat problems in Ukraine’s winter months.
Two missiles hit an oil depot in Kherson on Saturday, firefighters at the site told the Associated Press.
Anton Gerashchenko, a government adviser and deputy interior minister of Ukraine, posted a short video on Twitter that appeared to show heavy smoke after a powerful explosion in Kherson on Saturday.
He wrote: “Russia continues to be afraid every day.”
Local media report a powerful explosion in Kherson.
Russian fire started the fire.
Russia continues to fear every day.
Kherson was just liberated, there is no water and electricity. Russia has added bullets to it. People have gone through so much already. pic.twitter.com/wILWxYkdJO
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) November 19, 2022
Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of destroying Kherson’s military base before returning earlier this month.
Local officials also told the Associated Press that after Russian troops withdrew from the Kherson city area, they stole fire trucks and ambulances, and firefighters said they are now looking for resources to deal with missiles and other weapons.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other officials have accused Russia of trying to destabilize the country by destroying power plants in an attempt to silence the population and force millions of Ukrainians to flee westward, sparking a refugee crisis in the European Union.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy said on Saturday that the country’s electricity supply is working well despite Russian attacks on power generation equipment.
The Russian missile attack has knocked out about half of Ukraine’s power and Kyiv officials said on Friday that a complete shutdown of the capital’s power grid was possible.
“We assure you that the energy situation is difficult, but it is improving,” the Ministry of Energy said in a statement.
Authorities across the country have planned blackouts to help with repairs, the ministry said, urging households to reduce their energy use by 25 percent.
Maxim Timchenko, head of DTEK, the country’s largest energy company, said the military, power industry and Ukrainians themselves are doing miracles to save things and people should not flee the country.
“That is why there is no reason to leave Ukraine today,” a company statement quoted him as saying on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, the first train in nine months from Kyiv to Kherson arrived in the city after leaving the Ukrainian capital on Friday night – a trip made possible by Russia’s withdrawal.
Ukraine’s state railway network, Ukrzaliznytsia, said 200 passengers boarded the train, dubbed the “Victory Train”, which was painted by Ukrainian artists. Tickets were sold as part of a fundraising campaign.