Monday was the last day of Russia’s “organized evacuation” offer for civilians from the west bank of the Dnipro River in the occupied portion of Ukraine’s Kherson region, according to a Russian-backed official.
“Most residents who decided to stay in Kherson are only now beginning to realize the gravity of the situation and my warnings,” Kirill Stremousov, the Russia-appointed deputy head of the Kherson region military administration, said on Telegram.
His comments come as an intense battle for the southern city of Kherson appears to be looming, with Ukrainian forces edging closer to the regional capital as part of a push to retake territory seized by Russian forces shortly after their invasion began in February.
Anyone who leaves the Kherson region will be given “a one-time payment of 100,000 rubles” (about $1,600) “and a housing certificate,” Stremousov added.
Some context: Evacuation offers like this have sparked concerns that Ukrainian citizens may be forced to go to Russian territory against their will.
A Kherson city resident told CNN over the weekend they viewed the idea of getting on an “evacuation bus” to Crimea as a “one-way ticket.” CNN is not identifying the resident for their safety.
Reports emerged early in the war of tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians being forcibly sent to so-called “filtration centers” before being moved to Russia. Moscow denounced the claims as lies, alleging that Ukraine has hindered its efforts to “evacuate” people to Russia.
Kherson is one of four regions Russia has said it will annex from Ukraine in violation of international law.