The Daily Telegraph

Ukraine tells Crimea to prepare bomb shelters for ‘de-occupation’

- By Joe Barnes

‘We wanted to have a referendum in the near future, but because of all the events that have happened, for now we will pause’

‘Ukrainian forces have made enough progress to [evoke] more realistic commentary from the Russian milblogger­s’

UKRAINE yesterday warned residents in occupied Crimea to start preparing bomb shelters and supplies as Kyiv’s counter-offensive to reclaim the south gathers pace.

The warning came as Moscow admitted it had been forced to pause preparatio­ns for a sham referendum in Kherson to formally join Russia due to security concerns.

In a sign the assault has made progress, a top aide of Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, said the Crimean peninsula should prepare for “de-occupation”.

Despite the attack said to be focused on southern Ukraine, Kyiv yesterday warned residents in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, to brace for the potential of fierce fighting. Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to Mr Zelensky, wrote on Twitter: “We ask residents of occupied territorie­s, including the Crimean peninsula, to follow [Ukrainian] officials’ recommenda­tions during de-occupation measures.

“In particular, to prepare a bomb shelter, stock up with sufficient amounts of water and charge power banks. Everything will be Ukraine.”

Russian military bases on the Black Sea peninsula were rocked by devastatin­g explosions in the build-up to the counter-offensive, but Ukrainian officials refused to publicly take credit for the attacks. Crimea, a strategica­lly vital stronghold for Russia and home to its Black Sea naval fleet, was always thought to be out for Ukraine’s arsenal of precision weapons.

But as Ukrainian forces move closer to the southern city of Kherson, more targets will fall into range of Us-provided Himars and other Western longrange rocket launchers.

Meanwhile, Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the puppet authoritie­s in Kherson, said: “We wanted to have a referendum in the near future, but because of all the events that have happened now, I think that for now we will pause.”

A few hours later, he posted a video denying that Russian-installed authoritie­s had paused plans for a referendum.

Western analysts said Kyiv had increased its bridgehead over the Inhulets River near Kherson.

Russian air strikes on Sukhy Stavok, Bezimenne and Kostromka around the grounds may show that Kyiv’s “forces have advanced up to 12km south-east of the bridgehead”, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank. After Ukrainian forces liberated Vysokopill­ya, there were reports of Russian attacks on the settlement­s of Olhyne, Potomkyne, Doryanka, and Novovoznes­enske nearby, suggesting Moscow’s forces had left the area.

Pro-russian sources said Ukraine’s offensive was being carried out east and west of Vysokopill­ya, near the Ukrainian bridgehead, near Snihurivka, some 37 miles east of Mykolaiv, and northwest and west of Kherson.

“Ukrainian forces have made substantia­l enough progress to begin evoking more realistic commentary from the Russian milblogger­s, who had been hewing very closely to the Kremlin’s optimistic rhetoric until today,” ISW added.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom