Zelenski announces a mandatory evacuation in the areas of Donetsk that Russia does not control | International

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The President of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, announced this Saturday the approval by his Government of the mandatory evacuation of the population in the areas of Donetsk that Russia does not control. “The more people leave the Donetsk region now, the fewer people Russia will have time to kill,” the Ukrainian president said in a late-night address. Quoted by the local press, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister, Irina Vereshchuk, has indicated that the evacuation must be carried out before winter because natural gas supplies have been destroyed. This frontline province in eastern Ukraine is the scene of heavy fighting and its cities are under constant Russian bombardment.

“A government decision was made on the mandatory evacuation of the Donetsk region […]. Please evacuate”, insisted the president, who accused Moscow of using “terror” as the main weapon in this phase of the war, which began on February 24. Zelenski has specified that the residents will be compensated for the evacuation. “We are not Russia, precisely because every life is important to us […] And we will take every opportunity to save as many lives as possible and limit Russian terror as much as possible.”

Donetsk is – along with the already controlled by Russia Lugansk – one of the two oblast (administrative units) that make up the Donbas region, where Zelensky has estimated that there are still hundreds of thousands of people in combat zones. The president has asked for citizen collaboration to ensure that these civilians move to safe areas. “Many refuse to leave, but it has to be done,” he said before addressing his compatriots directly: “If you have the opportunity, please talk to those who are still in combat zones in Donbas. Please convince them of the need to leave.”

Since the war that began there in 2014, Donbas has been divided into two zones: the one controlled by Russian-backed separatists and the one still under the control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in the west. Kremlin-backed pro-Russian separatists, who claim all of Donetsk and Lugansk, only controlled a third of their area, some 10,400 square kilometers, at the start of the February invasion, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Its position on the border with Russia is strategic: Donetsk offers access to the Black Sea, whose waters allow access to the Mediterranean. Until the 2014 war, Donbas was known above all for its mineral wealth and for being an important center of industrial production of steel and coal.

This same Saturday, the Ukrainian authorities have also denounced several attacks in the south and east of the country, which have caused at least one death. A civilian died and six others were injured after a bombardment during the early morning in a residential area of ​​Mikolaiv, in the south of the country, explained the regional governor, Vitali Kim, in a message on the Telegram network. In Kharkov, in the east, three missiles also hit an educational center that caught fire at dawn, the city’s mayor, Igor Terejov, reported.

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The government decision comes as kyiv and Moscow accuse each other of the death last Friday of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners – between 40 and 50, according to different sources – in a prison in the Russian-occupied part of Donetsk. Ukraine calls for an international investigation into the matter, while Russian Defense Ministry sources say that Ukrainian forces launched the attack with a Himars-type missile (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, high mobility artillery rocket system) of American manufacture, according to the Reuters agency, citing Russian media. The same source added that 40 prisoners died and another 75 were wounded, as well as eight guards of the facilities.

As it has transpired this Saturday, the Secretary of State of the United States, Antony Blinken, has promised that Russia will pay for the lethal bombing in the prison, located in the town of Olenivka, and has conveyed his condolences to his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitro Kuleba. France has also expressed its “horror” at the bombing of the prison and pointed out that those responsible for these crimes “must answer for their actions.”

The evacuation order also occurs on the same day that the Russian giant Gazprom has announced the suspension of gas supplies to Latvia “for violating delivery conditions,” according to a statement. Latvia has responded that it has enough supply for the winter despite the cut. It is the sixth country to which Russia closes the gas tap, after Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark.

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