Ukraine says Russian troops loot, occupy Kherson homes as battle looms

  • Kherson power outage
  • Ukraine accuses Russia of robbery
  • Russia strengthens zone ahead of battle
  • Missile attacks waned

Kyiv, Nov 7 (Reuters) – Ukraine on Monday accused Russia of looting vacant houses in the southern city of Kherson and occupying them with plainclothes troops in preparation for street fighting that both sides predict will be the crux of the war. One of the most important battles.

In recent days, Russia has ordered civilians to leave Kherson in case of a Ukrainian attack to retake the city, the only regional capital Moscow has occupied since the February invasion.

Kherson, which had a population of nearly 300,000 before the war, has been in cold and darkness after the surrounding area was cut off from power and water for the past 48 hours, the two sides said.

Officials at the Russian installation accused Ukraine of “sabotage” and said they were working to restore power. Ukrainian officials said the Russians had removed 1.5 kilometers of power lines and power may not be restored until Ukrainian forces retake the area.

Kyiv described the evacuation of the area as forced eviction, a war crime. Moscow said it was sending residents away for safety.

The city is located on the only Russian-controlled territory on the west bank of the Dnieper, which divides Ukraine in two. Retaking it has been the main focus of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south, accelerating since early October.

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The situation inside Kherson could not be independently confirmed. Ukrainian troops on the nearby front have told Reuters in recent days that they expect heavy fighting with Russian troops, which have no control over the city but are determined to pay a bloody price before being forced to withdraw.

“When Kherson residents were forcibly evicted from their homes, talking about ‘evacuations’, Russian military and FSB officials were doing what they like best,” Mikhailo Podoljak, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, tweeted on Monday. What they do – rob their houses.” “Robbery of the people they came to ‘protect’ – the best example of the ‘Russian world’.”

The Ukrainian military said in an overnight update that Russian troops “disguised themselves in plainclothes, occupied civilian homes and fortified internal positions, conducting street fighting”. It also said that Russian journalists were preparing a video accusing Ukraine of harming civilians.

Reuters is seeking comment from Russian authorities on Ukraine’s allegations.

Moscow has sent thousands of soldiers to reinforce the area in recent months, but has suggested in recent days that it may withdraw. Russian government vice-president Kirill Stremousov said last week that Russia could pull back across the river, despite his high-level reticence in Moscow.

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quiet monday

Elsewhere in Ukraine, Monday morning was without a large salvo of Russian missiles, a rare start to a relatively quiet work week that has become synonymous with fresh Russian airstrikes in Ukraine over the past month.

Russia has fired missiles at Ukrainian civilian infrastructure targets, acknowledging its goal of destroying Ukraine’s energy systems, in an intensive strike, often during the Monday morning rush hour, since Oct. 10.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned Ukrainians overnight to prepare for more strikes.

Ukraine’s power grid operator told consumers on Monday to brace for more blackouts in Kyiv and elsewhere as it tries to relieve pressure on energy infrastructure damaged by Russian missile and drone strikes.

Rotating power outages for the capital’s 3 million people are becoming the norm after Russia’s attacks on power facilities over the past month damaged 40 percent of its energy infrastructure.

“After the terrorist attacks in Russia, the country’s grid is still not fully operational. In some areas, we have to introduce power outages to avoid overloading the high-voltage infrastructure,” said the Ukrenergo grid operator.

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It said the scheduled shutdown from 6 a.m. local time until the end of the day would affect Kyiv and the regions of Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Zhitomyr, Sumy, Kharkov and Poltava.

In his nightly video address, Zelensky said more than 4.5 million consumers were without electricity.

Both the White House and the Kremlin declined to comment on the Wall Street Journal report that U.S. national security adviser Jack Sullivan held talks with aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed at reducing the risk of the war in Ukraine spreading or escalating into a nuclear conflict.

The Wall Street Journal reported following a Washington Post report that U.S. officials privately encouraged Kyiv to show a willingness to negotiate with Russia to retain international support.

After Putin announced the annexation of Ukrainian territory in late September, Zelensky ordered that Ukraine could not negotiate with Russia as long as Putin was president. Moscow has accused Ukraine of not engaging in peace talks, but has also said it will not negotiate its claims to annexed Ukrainian lands.

Reporting by Reuters Division; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Angus McSwan

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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