Tens of thousands of residents in Russian-controlled parts of Kherson, Ukraine, are expected to be moved, the region’s collaborationist government announced as Ukrainian officials said people from the annexed territory will be sent to Russia’s “depressed areas.”
Between 50,000 and 60,000 residents from four of Kherson’s right-bank districts are expected to be transferred to the left side of the Dnieper River, according to Volodymyr Saldo, the Russian-appointed “governor” of the occupied Kherson region.
Affected civilians will also be moved to regions in Russia, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported.
The announced transfer, which is expected to take six days, was done in preparation for a Ukrainian counteroffensive, Saldo claimed.
“In such a situation, I made a difficult but correct decision to announce the organized movement of the civilian population of Berislav, Bilozerka, Snihurivka and Oleksandrivka,” he said in a statement.
Russian-backed authorities began moving Ukrainian civilians out of Kherson region’s eponymous administrative center Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared martial law in Kherson and three other partially Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia, on the same day.
A number of powers, including forced resettlement and the internment of citizens from any country deemed to be waging war against Russia, were reportedly granted to Russian-backed officials when martial law took effect Thursday.
“Putin’s martial law in the annexed regions of [Ukraine] is in preparation for the mass deportation of the Ukrainian population to depressed areas of [Russia] in order to change the ethnic composition of the occupied territory,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, said in a statement.
Such an act is “a crime that should be condemned by the United Nations,” he said.
More than 1.6 million Ukrainians have been forcibly deported to Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky revealed earlier this month.
“They are dispersed across the territory of this state, scattered through remote Russian regions,” Zelensky said in a video addressed to participants of a session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States that took place in the Peruvian capital of Lima on Oct. 6.
Many of the deported Ukrainians had their documents taken away, while others were abused and intimidated as they passed through Russian “filtration camps,” the Ukrainian head of state alleged.
“These are people. But for Russia, [they are] also a resource,” Zelensky said.