Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked civilians remaining in parts of eastern Donetsk, which is still under Kiev’s control, to evacuate as Russia has intensified fighting in the region.
In his nightly video address to the nation on Saturday, the President said: “There are hundreds of thousands of people, tens of thousands of children… Many people refuse to leave… But it really needs to be done. This decision will have to be made… And the sooner it is done, the more people leave Donetsk region, the fewer people the Russian army will be able to kill.
“The government has taken a decision to begin mandatory evacuation from Donetsk. It’s all been organised: full support, full assistance, both logistical and financial. We only need those people who have not yet made this decision to make this decision at last.
“We are not Russia. That is why every life is important for us. And we will use all available opportunities to save as many lives as possible and to limit Russian terror as much as possible.
“At this stage of the war, terror is the main weapon for Russia. And that is why the main task of every Ukrainian, every defender of freedom and humanity in the world is to do everything to isolate the terrorist state and to protect as many people as possible from Russian attacks.”
Earlier in the day, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced the government will introduce mandatory evacuation of residents from the unoccupied areas of Donetsk.
She added that if anyone refuses to leave, these people will be forced to sign a waiver form, that they understand all the consequences and are responsible for their life, reports Ukrayinska Pravda.
“There is absolutely no gas supply in Donetsk, we repaired all the gas pipelines that could be repaired, but, unfortunately, the enemy again and again destroys everything that would help keep people warm in winter. In short, there will be no heat in the Donetsk region in the winter.
“There are 52,000 children in Donetsk Oblast, they need to be evacuated, they cannot be exposed to mortal danger in the winter without heat, without light, without the possibility of heating,” the Deputy Prime Minister was quoted as saying.
The development comes as Moscow invited UN and Red Cross officials to investigate the deaths of 54 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) in another part of Donetsk region held by Russian-backed separatists.
The troops were killed in unclear circumstances during an attack on a prison in Olenivka, with both sides blaming each other.
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