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Zelensky calls for forced departure of civilians from Donetsk region

The Ukrainian president took this decision in the face of the harsh punishment suffered by the area besieged by the Russian army
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AFP/UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE  -   Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks at a map during a visit to a Ukrainian army position

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, ordered in the last hours the compulsory evacuation of civilians from the region of Donetsk in the face of the harsh military clashes with the Russian army just when 158 days have passed since the offensive began on 24 February last. The Ukrainian leader sent a message via Telegram in which he urged the mandatory departure of civilians still in the area, assuring that those who enter the evacuation process will receive the necessary logistical and economic support. 

"Trust me. The sooner you do it, the more people leave the Donetsk region now, the less time the Russian army will have to kill people," Zelensky stressed, admitting that there were still "hundreds of thousands of people, tens of thousands of children, many of whom refuse to leave".

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Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine via REUTERS - Rescuers free a man from the rubble of a residential building damaged by a Russian military attack in the Donetsk region

In a new address to the nation, Zelensky warned that thousands of people are still in combat zones in the Donbas region, which is the target of violent offensives by the Russian army along with the Lugansk region. These areas were recognised by Vladimir Putin as independent republics before the special military operation against Ukraine was announced under the pretext of "denazifying" and "demilitarising" the Ukrainian country, a situation that was considered a threat by the Russian president.

"There is already a government decision on the mandatory evacuation of Donetsk," Volodymyr Zelensky said, putting the spotlight on the authorities' calls to leave the region besieged by the invading Armed Forces. "Go, we will help you," said Zelensky, adding that "at this stage of the war, terror is Russia's main weapon".

According to official Ukrainian figures, the number of civilians still living in the besieged Donetsk region is estimated at between 200,000 and 220,000 people. 

The mandatory evacuation notice issued on Saturday night also indicated that this coming winter would be a matter of the utmost urgency, considering that there are still 50,000 children in the area. 

"They need to be evacuated, you cannot put these people in mortal danger in the winter without heating, light, without the ability to keep them warm," Kiev's Ministry for the Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories said in an official statement.

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AP/NARIMAN EL MOFTY - Rescue teams stand in the rubble after a Russian rocket hit a residential flat block in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

On the other hand, Kiev also asked the Red Cross and the UN to gain access to the soldiers held by Moscow's forces in this region.

Zelensky, in his speech, also once again pressed the international community, especially the United States, to officially declare Russia a "state sponsor of terrorism". The Ukrainian president called for this "more as an effective defence of the free world than as a political gesture".

Meanwhile, Pavlo Kirilenko, head of the Donetsk military administration, reported on Saturday that a total of 662 people have been killed in the region over the past month as a result of Russian attacks, and another 1,711 wounded, according to EFE news agency. 

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KREMLIN/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV via REUTERS - Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu in Moscow, Russia July 4, 2022

On the other hand, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence reported the murder of 50 Ukrainian prisoners in a prison of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in the town of Yelenovka (also known as Olenivka in Ukrainian), while Moscow totally denied this fact. It was also reported that 73 people were seriously injured in this offensive. In this case, Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of "deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war".