Kupiansk: Ukraine orders people to leave city liberated last year

Ukrainian authorities say mandatory evacuation begins for families with children and residents having limited mobility.

A Ukrainian main battle tank runs on the road near Kupiansk
A Ukrainian main battle tank advances on the road near Kupiansk on February 13 [File: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]

Ukraine has ordered the mandatory evacuation of vulnerable residents from the front-line city of Kupiansk and adjacent northeastern territories as fears mount Russia will retake the key city and rail hub.

“Mandatory evacuation of families with children and residents with limited mobility began in Kupiansk community,” the Kharkiv regional military administration said on its website on Friday.

“The decision was made … taking into account the unstable security situation due to constant shelling of the territory of the community by Russian troops,” it added.

Ukraine made rapid gains in the northeastern Kharkiv region late last year, driving deep into Russian lines, but its forces have been on the defensive for three months.

In September, Russian troops retreated from key cities in the Kharkiv region, including Kupiansk.

The city has been an important rail centre used by Russia since it took control after its February 24 invasion.

Bakhmut surrounded

Kupiansk, home to about 27,000 people before the beginning of the war, is near the front line in eastern Ukraine and locals fear it could be taken over again.

Kharkiv region Governor Oleg Synegubov said on Thursday Russia “shelled” several settlements in the region with artillery, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, including the city of Kupiansk.

Meanwhile, Russian troops and mercenaries were closing off on Friday the last access routes to the besieged Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which is located about 130km (80 miles) southeast of Kharkiv.

The head of Russia’s Wagner private army said the city, which has been blasted to ruins, was now almost completely surrounded, with only one route left open for Ukraine’s troops.

Victory in Bakhmut, with a pre-war population of about 70,000, would give Russia the first major prize of a costly winter offensive after it called up hundreds of thousands of reservists last year.

It says it would be a stepping stone to capturing the surrounding Donbas region, an important war aim.

Source: News Agencies