A senior Ukrainian official has warned that Russian forces are booby-trapping the city of Kherson, accusing them of trying to turn it into a “city of death”, local media reported.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head office of Ukraine’s president, tweeted that Russia “wants to turn Kherson into a ‘city of death'”, The Guardian reported.
He claimed that the Russian military “mines everything they can: apartments, sewers”, and that “artillery on the left bank” of the Dnieper River “plans to turn the city into ruins”.
He said that the Russian forces deployed to Kherson city “came, robbed, celebrated, killed ‘witnesses’, left ruins and left”, The Guardian reported.
The city – which Russian forces announced they would be retreating from on Wednesday – was one of the areas that the Russian Federation claimed to annex from Ukraine in September.
Ukraine sees no sign that Russia is leaving Kherson without a fight, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky has said, amid fears in Kiev that Moscow’s heavily stage-managed announcement of retreat is actually a carefully laid trap, Daily Mail reported.
Mykhailo Podolyak, one of President Zelensky’s most-senior advisers, said last night that Russian troops remain in the city and that Kiev believes reinforcements are on their way.
“Actions speak louder than words,” he tweeted, ‘Ukraine will liberate territories based on intelligence data, not staged TV statements.’
Oleksiy Arestovych, another senior adviser and former head of military intelligence, was a little more optimistic but still cautious – saying that Russian forces do appear to be leaving the region ‘but not as much as would be taking place if it was a full pullout or regrouping.’
The Russians are destroying bridges as they flee and mining roads, according to Arestovych, who added: ‘For the moment, we don’t know their intentions – will they engage in fighting with us and will they try to hold the city of Kherson? They are moving very slowly.’
Zelensky also voiced fears overnight that Russia may try to blow up a dam at Nova Khakovka, flooding the area around Kherson and draining a reservoir which the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant relies on to cool itself – potentially triggering a meltdown, Daily Mail reported.
Issuing a warning to Moscow, he added: ‘(This) will mean you are declaring a war on the whole world. Think what will happen to you then.’
Zelensky said his troops will ‘move very carefully, without emotions, without unnecessary risk’ into the area Russia claims to have abandoned, ‘strengthening our positions step by step’ to avoid any potential traps. “The enemy does not give us gifts,” he added.
Just two days ago, Ukraine’s generals said Russian troops dressed in civilian clothes are being positioned inside houses in Kherson and are “strengthening positions for street battles”.