The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kherson Ihor Kolykhaiev said that the Ukrainian army is no longer in the city and that its inhabitants must now carry out the instructions of “armed people who came to the city administration” – indicating that the city has now fallen under Russian control.
The announcement on his Facebook page follows several days of pressure exerted on Kherson by Russian forces who had surrounded the city.
Kherson is a strategically important city on an inlet to the Black Sea with a population of nearly 300,000. In Kiev on Wednesday, the mayor challenged Russian claims of control, saying Ukrainian forces were still fighting in parts of the city. The new assignment indicated that the Ukrainian forces had left.
The mayor also told The New York Times in an interview that a group of about 10 armed Russian officers, including the commander of the forces attacking the city, entered the city hall building on Wednesday. He said he was told by Russian officers that they planned to set up a new administration similar to those of two Russian-backed separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine, according to the NY Times interview.
What does that mean: If Kherson is now under Russian control, it would be a significant moment in the conflict, as it would mark the first major city seized by Russian forces.
Late Wednesday, Hennady Lahuta, the head of the Kherson regional administration, posted a message saying, “I ask everyone who is not at home now, or planning to go out, not to do so. The occupants are in all areas of the city and are very dangerous.
Without explicitly saying that the Russians controlled the city, Mayor Kolykhaiev said Wednesday evening that “there were armed visitors at the city’s executive committee today.”
“The team and I are peaceful people, we had no weapons, there was no aggression from our side.”
“I made no promises to them. I have nothing to promise. I’m only interested in the normal life of our town! I just asked not to shoot people.
In his Facebook post, he went on to say, “We have no armed forces in the city, only civilians and people who want to LIVE here!”
Kolykhaiev said there were now new rules in the city, which included a curfew and restrictions on transport in and out of town.
He said another rule was that “pedestrians walk one at a time, maximum two. Don’t provoke the military.
He finished: “Let it be for now. The flag above us is Ukrainian. And for it to stay the same, these requirements will have to be met. I can’t suggest anything else. »