Ukrainian authorities launched a number of raid alerts across the country after a fresh wave of Russian strikes in several regions. The high alert comes after Russia also ordered the evacuation of civilians around Europe’s biggest power plant, sparking fears of a catastrophe ready to unfold.
The evacuations ordered by the Russia-backed governor of Ukraine‘s Zaporizhzhia province, Yegeny Balitsky, raised fears that fighting in the area would intensify. Balitsky on Friday ordered civilians to leave 18 Russian-occupied communities, including Enerhodar, home to most of the plant staff.
More than 1,500 people had been evacuated from two unspecified cities in the region as of Sunday, Balitsky said. The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed the evacuation of Enerhodar was underway.
Moscow’s troops seized the plant soon after invading Ukraine last year, but Ukrainian employees have continued to run it during the occupation, at times under extreme duress.
Ukraine has regularly fired at the Russian side of the lines, while Russia has repeatedly shelled Ukrainian-held communities across the Dnieper River. The fighting has intensified as Ukraine prepares to launch a long-promised counteroffensive to reclaim ground taken by Russia.
Some of the fiercest ongoing fighting is in the eastern city of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian forces are still clinging to a position on the western outskirts despite Russia trying to take the city for more than nine months.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that Moscow’s forces had captured two more districts in the city’s west and northwest, but provided no further details.
International law prohibits the use of white phosphorus or other incendiary weapons — munitions designed to set fire to objects or cause burn injuries — in areas where there could be concentrations of civilians, though it can also be used for illumination or to create smoke screens.
In the south, an aide to the exiled Ukrainian mayor of the Russia-occupied coastal city of Mariupol said in a Telegram post on Sunday that there was evidence that Moscow’s forces had intensified their transfer of tracked vehicles through the city and into Zaporizhzhia province.
Petro Andryushchenko claimed that more and more vehicles were being spotted crossing Mariupol “every day.”
He posted a short video showing heavy trucks transporting armoured vehicles along an expressway, without specifying where or when it was taken.
In Enerhodar, the first residents evacuated were those who took Russian citizenship following the capture of the city by Moscow early in the war, the General Staff of Ukraine‘s armed forces said.
They were being taken to the Russia-occupied Azov Sea coast, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) to the southeast, which is where Mariupol is located, the General Staff reported on Facebook.