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Ukraine accuses Russia of preparing for street fighting in Kherson ahead of offensive

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A view shows the Frigate monument to the first ships of the Black Sea Fleet, in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in the Russia-controlled city of Kherson, on October 31, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Ukraine has accused Russia of occupying empty homes in Kherson with troops in civilian clothes to prepare for street fighting, ahead of an expected Ukrainian offensive to recapture the southern city.

The Ukrainian military said on Monday the Russian forces "disguised in civilian clothes, occupy the premises of civilians and strengthen positions inside for conducting street battles".

It also accused the Russian forces of being "involved in looting and theft from residents and from infrastructure sites and are taking away equipment, food and vehicles to the Russian Federation."

Russia has denied the reports of abusing civilians.

In recent days, Russia has ordered evacuation of Kherson in anticipation of the Ukrainian offensive. Moscow says it is sending civilians away for safety, but Kiev sees it as a forced deportation, a war crime.

Since the start of October, the Ukrainian troops have intensified their attempts to recapture the city, which was the first to be fallen to Russian forces following Moscow’s special military operation in February.

In an early Tuesday statement, the Ukrainian military reported strikes on a Russian anti-aircraft facility, ammunition dump, and the destruction of Russian armor in the Beryslav district of the Kherson region. It claimed that 32 Russian military personnel lost their lives.

Ukraine has been the subject of a Russian military operation since February 24, with Moscow saying that the operation is aimed at “demilitarizing” the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.

Ordering the operation, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the mission was aimed at “defending people who for eight years were suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime.”

Back in 2014, the neighboring regions of Donetsk and Luhansk — which together form the Donbas — declared themselves independent republics, refusing to recognize Ukraine’s Western-backed government. The declaration of independence was ensued by a conflict between the region’s pro-Russian forces and the Ukrainian military.

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