Russian troops clean up Kherson hospitals: Ukrainian military officials

Russian troops have moved large numbers of sick and injured comrades from hospitals in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, Ukrainian military officials said on Saturday as their forces fought to retake a province overrun by soldiers invaders at the start of the war.

Kremlin-installed authorities in the mainly Russian-occupied region have previously urged civilians to leave the city of Kherson, the region’s capital. Moscow-appointed authorities in Kherson also reportedly abandoned the city, joining tens of thousands of residents who fled to other Russian-held areas ahead of an expected advance by Ukrainian forces.

“The so-called evacuation of invaders from the temporarily occupied territory of the Kherson region, including medical institutions, continues,” the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said in a morning update. “All equipment and medicines are removed from Kherson Hospitals,” the update read.

The military’s claims could not be independently verified. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an overnight video address Friday that the Russians were “dismantling the entire health system” in Kherson and other occupied areas.

“The occupiers have decided to close the medical establishments in the cities, to take away equipment, ambulances. quite simply,” Zelenskyy said. “They pressured the doctors who still remained in the occupied areas to move to the territory of Russia.”

Kherson is one of four regions in Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month and later declared martial law. The others are Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.

As Kyiv forces sought to gain ground in the south, Russia continued its shelling and missile attacks in the east of the country, Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday. Three civilians died on the last day and eight others were injured in the Donetsk region, which has again become a frontline hotspot as Russian soldiers attempt to capture the town of Bakhmut.

Western analysts have long identified Bakhmut as an important target in the stalled Russian offensive in the east. Capturing Bakhmut would pave the way for forces from Moscow to threaten Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the two largest cities under Ukrainian control remaining in the long-besieged Donbass region.

Donetsk and the neighboring province of Lugansk form the Donbass. Pro-Russian separatists have controlled parts of both provinces since 2014.

In the area northeast of Kharkiv, where Russian troops withdrew last month and Ukrainian troops recovered large swathes of territory, Russian shelling injured three civilians overnight, according to the Ukrainian governor of the region.

Governor Oleh Sinehubov wrote on Telegram that two women in their 40s and a man in his 60s were injured near Kupyansk, a town that served as a supply hub for Russian forces in the region before Ukrainian troops retook the control.

A Russian bombardment on Saturday also hit “critical infrastructure” in the Zaporizhzhia region of southern Ukraine, the Ukrainian governor of the illegally annexed province said. About a quarter of the region, including the local capital, also called Zaporizhzhia, remains under Ukrainian military control.

Writing on Telegram, Governor Oleksandr Starukh said the damage was being assessed. He did not specify what was hit and did not mention any casualties.

In addition, the authorities installed by the Kremlin in Crimea reported Saturday a drone attack on Sevastopol, the largest city of the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

“Ships of the (Russian) Black Sea Fleet repel a drone attack in the waters of Sevastopol Bay,” Russian-appointed Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev wrote on Telegram. He did not immediately assign responsibility for the attack.

Last month, Ukraine’s army chief claimed responsibility for a series of missile and drone attacks on Russian airbases in Crimea, including one that destroyed a military installation. Kyiv and Moscow said Ukrainian partisans were active in the region.

Political pressure for efforts to broker an end to the war is mounting in parts of Western Europe. Zelenskyy had said his country would not negotiate with Russia as long as Moscow insisted that the annexed areas were Russian territory.

In remarks to Yale University students on Friday, the Ukrainian leader reiterated his reluctance to negotiate with the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin because of its “lack of respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity “.

In his overnight remarks, the Ukrainian leader noted that about 4 million Ukrainians live in areas prone to blackouts after weeks of Russia targeting power plants and other infrastructure. He warned that emergency power cuts were possible elsewhere in Ukraine.

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Christi C. Elwood