Russian President, Vladimir Putin, on Wednesday declared martial law in four regions of Ukraine recently annexed by Moscow as his proxy officials in a southern-held city pulled out with Ukraine troops advancing.
Putin’s decree to introduce military rule in the Moscow-controlled regions also gives additional power to authorities in Russian border areas and comes after a string of battlefield defeats.
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“We are working on solving very complex large-scale tasks to ensure security and protect the future of Russia,” Putin said.
The decree gives greater powers to limit movement to, from and within the areas and allows for the residents of those territories to be moved to “safe zones”.
Pro-Kremlin officials meanwhile said they were pulling out of the key southern Ukraine city of Kherson on Wednesday, as Kyiv’s forces advanced on territory in Russian hands since the war’s earliest days.
Kherson was the first major city to fall to Moscow’s troops since the February invasion began and retaking it would be a crucial prize in Ukraine’s counter-offensive.
“The entire administration is already moving today,” to the eastern bank of the Dnieper River, the Kherson region’s Moscow-installed head, Vladimir Saldo, told Russian state television.
But Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, called the moves a “propaganda show” and accused Russia of “trying to scare the people of Kherson”.
Ukrainian forces “do not fire at Ukrainian cities,” Yermak wrote on Telegram.
Kyiv’s recapturing of swathes of its territory in the east and parts of the south has however been followed by missile and drone strikes that have demolished large parts of Ukraine’s power grid ahead of winter.
On the third day of attacks on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said; “several Russian rockets” had been downed over the city after AFP reporters heard several loud explosions in the city centre.