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Moscow-installed chief of Ukraine’s Kherson region asks Russia to evacuate locals

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The Moscow-installed head of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, which the Kremlin says it has annexed, asked Russia on Thursday to help evacuate civilians from the area, in a sign that a Ukrainian counteroffensive is advancing.

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“We suggested to all people of the Kherson region to, if they wish, leave to other regions to protect themselves from missile hits,” the head of the Russian-backed administration, Vladimir Saldo, said on Telegram.

“In addressing the leadership of the country (Russia), I ask you to help organize this work.”

He added: “We, the people of the Kherson region, know that Russia does not abandon its own.”

Saldo said the region was being hit by an increasing amount of rocket attacks bringing “serious damage,” claiming civilian infrastructure was being targeted.

He said those leaving would go to Crimea, a peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and southern Russian regions.

The call came a day after Kyiv said it had retaken five settlements in the Kherson region.

Last week Ukraine, which announced its counteroffensive in the south in August, said it had recaptured over 400 square kilometers (155 miles) in Kherson in less than a week.

Kherson is one of the four regions in Ukraine that Moscow recently claimed to have annexed.

The city of Kherson, which lies near Moscow-annexed Crimea, was the first major Ukrainian city to fall to Russian forces after the Kremlin launched its attack on February 24.

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