Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy, during a televised message on 30 July, has called on the residents of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region to evacuate, following fierce fighting and the increased risk of Russian reprisal against Ukrainian citizens.
According to the governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, six civilians were killed and 15 others wounded in attacks launched by Russian forces on the region on 29 July alone.
The Ukrainian leader has also called on citizens to leave areas within the greater Donbas region, which includes the Luhansk region. Fighting has been intensifying in the region as Russia attempts to assert control over the former industrial area.
“The more people leave the Donetsk region now, the fewer the Russian army will have time to kill,” Zelenskyy said. The Ukrainian government has promised to compensate those who are forced to leave the area. A logistical operation is already underway to help transport Donbas residents to safer parts of the country.
“We will help you. We are not Russia. We will do everything possible to save the maximum number of human lives and to maximally limit Russian terror,” Zelenskyy said.
On 29 July, a large explosion destroyed a Russian-controlled prisoner of war camp, killing over 50 Ukrainian soldiers and leaving an additional 75 wounded. Russian forces are increasingly committing war crimes against captured Ukrainian soldiers and civilians in the east of the country, where Russia is focusing its offensive.
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According to Ukrainian media, part of the decision to leave was prompted by the destruction of gas infrastructure in the region. Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that the evacuation was needed before the winter to prevent civilians freezing to death during the winter.
During his address, Zelenskyy estimated that there are still “hundreds of thousands” of people who, as of yet, have refused to leave areas where the fighting is most fierce.
“Many refuse to leave but it still needs to be done,” the Ukrainian leader said. “If you have the opportunity, please talk to those who still remain in the combat zones in Donbas. Please convince them that it is necessary to leave.”