Russian occupation figure dies, bridge explodes as Ukraine urges Kherson to advance

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KYIV/NOVOOLEXANDRIVKA — The main bridge over a road in the city of Kherson was blown up and a top figure in Moscow’s occupation administration died on Wednesday in what Russian state media described as an accident car, causing further unrest in an area under Russian control where Ukrainian forces are advancing.

Internet footage showed the Darivka Bridge span on the main road east of the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine completely collapsed into the water of the Inhulets River, a tributary of the Dnipro river which crosses the country.

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Reuters was able to verify the location of the footage, but not how the bridge was destroyed or by whom.

Ukrainians who posted the photos speculated that it was destroyed by Russian troops in preparation for a retreat, but Oleh Zhdanov, a Ukrainian military analyst, told Reuters it could have been destroyed by Ukrainian saboteurs to isolate the Russian forces on either side and “cut the fighting unit in half.

Russian news agencies reported the death of Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian occupation administration in Kherson, saying he was killed in a car accident, but gave no further details of the circumstances.

Stremousov, one of the occupation’s most prominent figures, had hinted in recent days that Moscow might withdraw its forces from the Russian-held pocket on the west bank of the Dnipro, the line’s most closely guarded sector. head on.

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Russia has ordered the evacuation of civilians from the area – Ukraine calls the move a forced expulsion – in anticipation of a major battle, while hinting it may retreat to more easily defended lines across the country. Dnipro. Kyiv says he doesn’t expect the Russians to leave without a fight.

The Russian army said it repelled a Ukrainian advance at Snihurivka on the front line 50 km (30 miles) north of Darivka along the Inhulets. The Russian-installed mayor was quoted by Russian news agency RIA as saying residents saw tanks and fierce fighting was taking place.

“They got in touch during the day and said there were tanks moving and, according to reports (from residents), heavy fighting on the outskirts of the city,” Mayor Yuri Barabashov said. “People have seen this equipment moving around downtown streets.”

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Vitaly Kim, the Ukrainian governor of the Mykolaiv region, which borders Kherson, suggested that Ukrainian forces pushed the Russians out of the area.

“The Russian troops are complaining that they have already been driven out of there,” Kim said in a statement on his Telegram channel.

“THEY WON’T LET ME DIE IN PEACE”

Further east, in Novoolexandrivka, a village on a hilly bank of the Dnipro in territory recaptured by advancing Ukrainian troops last month, the thunder of near-constant rocket and artillery fire rang out Wednesday from the front in 10 km away.

“We are kicking them out of this bank and we will kick them out of the other side,” said Oleh, a Ukrainian soldier.

Since their withdrawal, the Russians have shelled the area daily, villagers and soldiers said. About a third of the inhabitants, some 230 people, remained in place.

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“They won’t let me die in peace. I want to be able to die in peace at the end of my life,” complains Mariia Lytvynova, 92, leaning on a cane under a trellis arch adorned with ripe vines of red grapes leading to her small house.

“I’ve survived a war before,” she said, referring to World War II, when the area was occupied by Nazi Germany.

“What will happen with the young people? I’m done with my life. But they must continue. »

His son Mykola, 67, a retired farmhand, said he only climbed to fetch water and then went straight back into the cellar for shelter: “You should do the same,” a- he advised a Reuters reporter as artillery crumbs echoed over the village.

In the city of Kherson, the only regional capital captured by Russia since its invasion in February, the power has been out for days. Russia blames Ukrainian sabotage. Kyiv says the Russians cut power lines and trucked looted household appliances and building materials across the river.

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Alexander Kots, Russian war correspondent for the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, reported from Kherson that Russian flags had been removed from municipal buildings and even animals from the zoo had been evacuated. Kyiv said he was wary of such reports which could be a trap to entice his troops to advance.

Eastern European countries brace for possible new wave of Ukrainian refugees as Russia targets power and heating plants ahead of winter, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy saying around 4 million people are already without electricity.

Russian forces targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with missiles and drone strikes as winter approached. Millions of people fled Ukraine at the start of the war and nearly 7 million people are believed to have been internally displaced.

Roman Dohovic, aid coordinator for the town of Kosice in eastern Slovakia, said the number of refugees was increasing and had already increased by 15%.

(Additional reporting by Peter Graff, Pavel Polityuk and Reuters bureaus; Writing by Peter Graff Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Michael A. Bynum