Russian forces have stepped up attacks on civilians in occupied Kherson in a battle against the city’s looms

Kiev, Ukraine

Russian forces have stepped up their scrutiny of civilians in the occupied areas of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, arresting locals, to root out partisan resistance, according to the Ukrainian military.

In the occupied city of Kherson, Russian troops are now in civilian clothes and living in civilian housing as they “reinforce internal positions for street fighting,” according to a resident of the city who exchanged messages between the Ukrainian military and CNN.

Ukrainian forces have recaptured much of the territory in Kherson that was seized by Russian troops shortly after the invasion began in late February. Kiev scored a series of stunning victories in the region in early October, but progress has slowed as Ukrainian forces close in on the regional capital, the city of Kherson. It seems that there will be an intense battle for the city.

“In the midst of the counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the occupiers have significantly increased infiltration measures,” the National Center of Resistance, a creation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said on Monday. “Attacks among the local population have increased in the temporarily occupied part of the Kherson region. The occupiers are actively looking for the underground movement.’

The National Resistance Center says it has heard of dozens of arrests in recent days. He called on the citizens to leave the occupied territories “if possible”, while the Ukrainian army pushes its counter-offensive.

Kherson is one of four regions Russia has said it will annex from Ukraine in violation of international law. Moscow’s immediate plans for the city of Kherson, however, remain unclear. Russian units have fortified their positions on both banks of the Dnipro River near the capital. A senior Russian-backed official in the city, Kirill Stremousov, said Friday he was “in defense of Russian soldiers.”

However, Stremousov said Thursday that Russian troops would “probably” withdraw from positions in the southern city, but Ukrainian officials suggested the statement could be a trap, a sentiment echoed by military spokeswoman Natalia Humeniuk on Saturday.

“Russian troops are trying hard to convince everyone that they are retreating, but at the same time we are seeing objective evidence that they are staying,” Humeniuk said in an interview with Ukrainian media.

Residents of Kherson have seen an increased military presence in the streets. A resident of the occupied city of Kherson told CNN through a third party on Sunday that Russian soldiers in the occupied towns are becoming more aggressive towards civilians.

“On the western edge, near Snihurivka, there are cases of squatters in local houses when people move to the city,” said the resident. “Many soldiers came to the villages, they settled in empty houses. But there are cases when people are evicted from their homes.”

CNN is not identifying the Kherson resident for their safety. The city of Kherson itself has been “relatively quiet,” he said.

“Occasionally at night automatic shots are heard,” said the neighbor. “There is a lockdown in the city, and no one goes out at night. The occupiers have created a kind of territorial defense in the city, which deals with security issues.’

Checkpoints inside the city have been removed, he said.

“There are only checkpoints at the entrance to the city. At the checkpoint they check the documents and check what is in the car. If it is public transport, the soldier enters the minibus. It can change, it all depends on the mood of the occupants. They can start checking phones and force men to undress to see tattoos.’

The neighbor said that most of the soldiers seem to be over 30 years old, but they are starting to see more young people, around 18 to 20 years old.

Water and electricity were temporarily cut off in the city of Kherson on Sunday after damage to the infrastructure there. Russian authorities said a trio of “reinforced concrete pylons for high-voltage power lines” had been damaged in an attack by Ukrainian forces, which Kiev blamed on Kremlin-backed forces occupying the city. CNN cannot independently confirm or verify the details of the claimed attack or who was behind it.

The Kremlin has stepped up attacks on civilian energy infrastructure across Ukraine in recent weeks. President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials said Moscow is trying to cut power across the country, so Ukrainians, both civilians and military, freeze when winter arrives.

As of Monday morning in Kherson, Russian authorities were still trying to regain power. Stremousov, the Russian-appointed deputy head of the Kherson region’s military administration, said he believed electricity and communications would be restored “in the near future.” There are no problems with the food supply and, although some pharmacies are closed, “it is not impossible to get social benefits”.

Stremousov said authorities were continuing to offer “evacuation” to the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, now including civilians who are bedridden or have reduced mobility.

Such evacuation offers have raised concerns that Ukrainian citizens may be forced to move to Russian territory against their will. Reports surfaced early in the war of tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians being forcibly sent to so-called “infiltration centers” before being taken to Russia. Moscow denounced the claims as false, saying Ukraine had obstructed efforts to “evacuate” people to Russia.

A resident of the city of Kherson who spoke to CNN saw the idea of ​​getting on the “evacuation bus” to Crimea as a “one-way ticket”.