Moscow/Kiev: Sergei Surovikin, the new unified Russian battlefield commander in Ukraine, has admitted that the situation in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson is “tense”.
Kherson was the first big city captured by the Russians just days into the war in February and it is also the only regional capital to fall to Moscow.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, the commander said the Ukrainian side does not abandon attempts to attack the positions of Russian troops, reports Xinhua news agency.
He further claimed that the Ukrainian troops using Himars rockets were hitting the city’s infrastructure and housing.
“As a whole the situation in the special military operation zone can be described as tense… The Russian army will above all ensure the safe evacuation of the population (of Kherson),” Surovikin added.
The commander’s concerns were echoed by Kirill Stremousov, a Russia-appointed official in Kherson, the BBC reported.
In a social media post, he warned Kherson residents that “in the very near future” Ukrainian troops would launch an assault on the city.
“Please take my words seriously, I’m talking about evacuating as quickly as possible,” he said, adding that people on the Dnieper river’s west bank were most at risk.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally declared the annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson at a major event at the Red Square in Moscow following sham referendums held in the Ukrainian regions.
Russia’s declaration has been rejected internationally.
In Kherson, Ukrainian forces have been steadily retaking nearby territory for the past few weeks, said the BBC report.
They have pushed as far as 30 kmsouth along the Dnieper, threatening to trap Russian troops.
Kherson’s pre-war population was nearly 300,000, but Ukrainian officials estimate that about half that number have already fled the city.