Russian forces have tightened their control over civilians in the occupied areas of southern Ukraine’s Kherson region, detaining locals in a bid to root out partisan resistance, the Ukrainian military said.
In the occupied city of Kherson, Russian troops are now mostly dressed in civilian clothes and living in civilian quarters while “strengthening internal positions to conduct street battles,” according to the Ukrainian military and a resident of the city, with whom CNN exchanged messages.
“Amid the counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the occupiers significantly intensified filtering measures,” the National Center of Resistance, an agency of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said on Monday. “The raids on the local population in the temporarily occupied part of the Kherson region have increased. The occupiers are actively looking for the underground movement.”
The National Resistance Center said it was aware of dozens of arrests over the past few days. She called on the civilian population to leave the occupied areas “if possible” while the Ukrainian military stepped up its counter-offensive.
Fewer checkpoints, more aggressive behavior: A resident of the occupied city of Kherson told CNN through third parties on Sunday that Russian soldiers in occupied villages are behaving more aggressively towards civilians.
“On the west bank, near Snihurivka, there are cases of occupiers moving into local people’s houses when people move to the city,” the resident said. “Many soldiers came to the villages, they settled in empty houses. But there are cases where they throw people out of their homes.”
CNN is not identifying the Kherson resident for their safety. The city of Kherson itself was “relatively quiet,” she said said.
“From time to time, automatic shots can be heard at night,” the resident said. “There is a curfew in the city and nobody goes out at night. The occupiers have created a kind of territorial defense in the city that deals with security issues.”
Checkpoints within the city itself have been removed, she said.
“There are only checkpoints at the city entrance. At the control point, they check documents and see what’s in the car. If it is public transport, the soldier will board the minibus. It can vary, it all depends on the mood of the occupiers. They can start checking phones and making men strip naked to check for tattoos.”
More young soldiers appear: The resident said most of the soldiers appear to be in their 30s, but that they have started to see more young men in their 18s to 20s.
Russian authorities continued on Monday to try to restore power after a power outage on Sunday.
“I think that power and communications will be restored in the near future,” Kirill Stremousov, the Russian-appointed deputy head of the military administration of the Kherson region, said in a video on Telegram Monday morning. “There is no food problem in the city, there is food. It’s true that some pharmacies are closed, but it’s not impossible to receive social benefits. We are also continuing to work on that.”
Stremousov said authorities continued to offer “evacuation” to the east bank of the Dnipro River, now including for bedridden civilians or those with reduced mobility.
Evacuation offers like this have raised fears that Ukrainian citizens could be forced into Russian territory against their will. Early in the war, reports surfaced of tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians being forcibly sent to so-called “filtration centers” before being transferred to Russia. Moscow has condemned the claims as lies, claiming that Ukraine has hampered its efforts to “evacuate” people to Russia.
Speaking to CNN, the resident of the city of Kherson viewed the idea of boarding an “evacuation bus” to Crimea as a “one-way ticket.”