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Ukrainian officials are urging the remaining residents in the Donetsk region to evacuate to safer areas, as Russian forces inch closer to the eastern territories.
“Russia has turned the entire Donetsk region into a hot spot where it is dangerous to remain for civilians,” the head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko said, commenting on a missile strike in Toretsk on Wednesday.
“I call on everyone to evacuate. Evacuation saves lives,” he added.
Ukraine still controls 45% of Donetsk, but after taking over Lysychansk in the neighboring Luhansk region, Russian forces are now pushing toward Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. Renewed strikes have increased the pace of evacuations but most people have already left the city, according to the head of the Sloviansk military-civilian administration, Vadym Liakh.
“Those who saw (what happened in Severodonetsk or Lysychansk) left a long time ago. Now there are approximately 23,000 residents of Sloviansk (out of around 100,000) which remain in the city,” Liakh said. “The number of people willing to leave has increased. We are working on evacuation in two directions: to Lviv, Dnipro or Rivne.”
Due to the increase in the flow of passengers leaving Donetsk, Ukrainian Railways said it would add additional wagons to facilitate the movement of people.
Although some are resisting calls from officials to evacuate, most people have already left the Ukrainian-controlled Donetsk region. Only around 340,000 people — out of 1,670,000 before the war — remain, according to Kyrylenko.
“It is difficult to persuade people to evacuate,” Kyrylenko said on Friday, “We are working on that all the time. People are starting to leave more actively, as there is chaotic shelling of civilian infrastructure.”
Some background: The General Staff of the Ukrainian military said on Monday that after taking over the last remaining Ukrainian-controlled city in the Luhansk oblast, Russian forces were preparing to continue their move toward cities in Donetsk still controlled by Kyiv.
Sloviansk and Kramatorsk are the two largest population centers in the area.
After taking Lysychansk, Russian forces now control nearly the entirety of the Luhansk region, barring a few pockets of resistance.