Russian forces have stepped up their scrutiny of civilians in occupied areas of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, detaining locals to root out partisan resistance, according to the Ukrainian military.
In the occupied city of Kherson, Russian troops are now largely wearing civilian clothing and living in civilian housing as they “strengthen positions inside for conducting street battles,” according to the Ukrainian military and a resident of the city with whom CNN exchanged messages.
“Amid the counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the occupiers have significantly intensified filtration measures,” the National Resistance Center, a creation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said on Monday. “Raids among the local population have intensified in the temporarily occupied part of Kherson region. The occupiers are actively looking for the underground movement.”
The National Resistance Center said that it was aware of dozens of detentions in recent days. It called on civilians to leave the occupied territories “if possible” while the Ukrainian military pushed its counter-offensive.
Fewer checkpoints, more aggressive behavior: A resident of the occupied city of Kherson told CNN through a third party on Sunday that Russian soldiers in occupied villages are behaving more aggressively towards civilians.
“On the west bank, near Snihurivka, there are cases of occupiers moving into locals’ houses when people move to the city,” the resident said. “Many soldiers came to the villages, they settle in empty houses. But there are cases when they kick people out of their homes.”
CNN is not identifying the Kherson resident for their safety. The city of Kherson itself has been “relatively quiet,” she said.
“From time to time you can hear automatic gunfire at night,” the resident said. “There is a curfew in the city, and no one goes out at night. The occupiers have created some kind of territorial defense in the city, which deals with security issues.”
Checkpoints within the city itself have been removed, she said.
“There are only checkpoints at the entrance to the city. At the checkpoint they check documents and look what is in the car. If it is public transport, then the soldier enters the minibus. It may vary, it all depends on the mood of the occupiers. They can start checking phones and force men to undress to check for tattoos.”
More young soldiers appearing: The resident said that most soldiers appear to be over the age of 30, but that they had begun to see more young men, around ages 18 to 20.
Russian authorities continued Monday to try to restore electricity after an outage on Sunday.
“I think electricity and communication will be restored in the near future,” Kirill Stremousov, the Russia-appointed deputy head of Kherson region military administration, said Monday morning in a video on Telegram. “There is no food problem in the city, there are foodstuffs. It’s true that some pharmacies are shut, but it is not impossible to get social benefits. We keep working on this too.”
Stremousov said that authorities continued to offer “evacuation” to the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, including now to bed-ridden civilians or those with reduced mobility.
Evacuation offers like this have sparked concerns that Ukrainian citizens may be forced to go to Russian territory against their will. 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.
The Kherson city resident who spoke to CNN viewed the idea of getting on an “evacuation bus” to Crimea as a “one-way ticket.”