Russia-Ukraine War News: Live Updates


Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — The civilian administration installed by President President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in the strategically important southern port city of Kherson began to crumble on Monday, with proxy officials abandoning the government headquarters as Ukrainian forces continued to make progress advancing on the city.

Ukrainian officials, videos on social media and accounts from Ukrainian activists who have spoken to residents offered a glimpse of the chaotic situation on the ground in Kherson: Merchants are refusing to be paid in Russian currency, government offices have been emptied of essential equipment and civilians have been told by proxy officials loyal to the Kremlin to take “documents, money, valuables and clothes” and flee the city.

Accounts from Ukrainian officials and activists suggested the occupation administration was in disarray and the humanitarian situation was growing dire.

The reports were difficult to verify independently because internet and other communication services in Kherson have been almost completely severed, in what Ukrainian activists said was a deliberate effort by Russian officials to thwart Kyiv’s military.

But even as the situation in Kherson appeared to be increasingly unstable, Ukrainian officials said Moscow’s troops were preparing to stay and fight for a city that Mr. Putin illegally claimed as Russian territory less than three weeks ago.

There was no evidence that Russian soldiers were preparing for a mass withdrawal, Gen. Kyrylo O. Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, said in an interview published Monday by a Ukrainian news outlet, Ukrainska Pravda.

He added that the Kremlin proxy officials’ moves to evacuate civilians and pull their own workers out of the city could be an effort to ready Kherson for urban combat by Russian troops.

“They are not preparing to exit now,” General Budanov said of Russian soldiers. “They are preparing to defend.”

Serhii Khlan, the exiled deputy governor of the Kherson region, said Moscow’s forces and local proxies are engaged in “intense pillaging,” stealing “everything with archaeological and historical significance.” While his claims could not be independently verified, looting by Russian forces in other parts of the country has been widely documented.

General Budanov said the largest Russian bank operating in the city, Promsvyazbank, was withdrawing and clearing out the cash from its vaults. He also claimed that occupation officials were emptying hospitals of patients as part “a crazy information campaign” designed to show audiences in Russia that Moscow cares about civilians.

“In other words, they are creating the illusion that everything has gone,” he said. “At the same time, on the contrary, they are bringing in new military units there and preparing the streets of the city for defense.”

Located on the west bank of the Dnipro River, Kherson is the gateway to both Russian-held Crimea in the south and Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to the west, including Odesa. Its loss would be a severe military and symbolic blow for Mr. Putin, who has rejected requests from his commanders on the ground that they be allowed to retreat from the city.

While the billboards declaring “Kherson is forever with Russia” are still standing, local leaders loyal to the Kremlin said this weekend that “all departments and ministries of civil administration” must be moved across the Dnipro River to territory seen as safer from advancing Ukrainian forces. Occupation officials also said they would relocate as many as 60,000 civilians.

Moscow claims that as many as 20,000 people have fled, but Ukrainian officials put the figure at closer to 1,000 and say that most are pro-Kremlin collaborators.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

Kyiv has imposed a blackout on detailed information about its southern offensive, aiming to maintain an element of surprise as they fight to reclaim towns and villages around Kherson, which Russia seized in the first weeks of the war and is the only provincial capital in Ukraine to fall since Moscow’s invasion. The Ukrainian military’s southern command said on Monday that since it launched its counteroffensive at the end of August, its forces have retaken 90 towns and villages where more than 12,000 people were still living.

Russia’s hold on Kherson appears increasingly precarious. Last week, the top Russian commander in Ukraine, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, said the situation in Kherson was “already difficult” and that he was “not ruling out difficult decisions,” although he did not elaborate.

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