Ukraine urges Kherson residents to evacuate amid Russian shelling.

Dozens of people wearing coats and hats stand in line outside a store.
Kherson residents wait in line to shop with subsidized food vouchers in February.Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

Residents should evacuate Ukrainian-controlled parts of the Kherson region because of relentless shelling by Russian forces, the authorities said on Tuesday, in a tacit acknowledgment that efforts to restore normal life to the area have been thwarted.

Russian forces stationed on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River have rained down thousands of shells in recent weeks on the Ukrainian-controlled city of Kherson and nearby towns and villages on the west bank of the river, regional authorities say. On Monday alone, 354 shells fired from multiple rocket launchers and other forms of artillery landed in the region, hitting houses and apartment blocks and wounding four people, the City Council and the regional military administration said.

Shelling has killed at least four people this month, and one day last week there were almost 500 blasts from shelling, the authorities said.

In a letter posted on the Telegram messaging app on Tuesday, the Kherson City Council called on residents to accept offers of free evacuations so as “not to endanger your own lives and your families’ safety.” Buses would take residents west to the city of Odesa on the Black Sea coast.

Ukraine recaptured the city of Kherson and the land on the west bank of the river last fall in one of its biggest victories since Russia launched its full-scale invasion. Ukraine had advised residents who had remained in the city of Kherson through the months of Russian occupation to leave, given that the city lacked power and water. But many stayed and, as utilities were gradually restored, some people returned.

After their retreat, Russian forces almost immediately began lobbing a barrage of shells at the western side of the Dnipro. Earlier this week, the regional Ukrainian military authorities in Kherson said on Telegram that Russian forces at Nova Kakhovka, a town on the eastern bank of the river, had placed artillery on residential buildings and were in effect using civilians as human shields.

Moscow says that its forces do not attack civilian areas. On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said in its daily update that it had destroyed three Ukrainian armored fighting vehicles, eight motor vehicles and a howitzer.

Ukraine is likely to launch a counteroffensive in the coming weeks to try to claim back territory on the eastern bank of the river, according to two senior Ukrainian officials and military analysts. That territory comprises parts of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions that have been under Russian control for nearly a year.

New York Times – March 7, 2023