A Russian serviceman and a dog standing guard near the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant on the Dnieper River in Kakhovka, near Kherson, Ukraine, on May 20. Russian-installed officials called for the evacuation of the region on Friday. File Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE
Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Ukrainian Kherson region official Serhii Khlan said Friday that Russian forces are in "agony" in Kherson as they try to evacuate civilians during Ukraine's military advance.
He told reporters that Ukraine has reclaimed tens of thousands of square miles of its occupied territory.
Khlan said it would be impossible for Russia to organize the evacuation of Kherson due to the Ukrainian military pressure on occupying Russian forces. He said Moscow wants "the evacuation for the traitors in the region who are under the attack of Ukrainian forces."
The Ukrainian military, in an operational update Friday, said it has destroyed a significant number of Russian weapons with an attack on a railway hub in the eastern Luhansk region.
The Ukraine General Staff also said Russian forces had been hit with substantial losses in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk.
CNN, citing the U.S. military, said Russian forces launched hundreds of missile strikes against Ukraine in the past week, using the missiles to hit civilian infrastructure targets like electricity and bridges.
And the World Health Organization warned in a statement Friday that Russia's invasion and attacks on civilian infrastructure means "The coming brutal winter could prove particularly dangerous for vulnerable people -- including the elderly, patients with chronic conditions, and those needing maternal and neonatal services, especially given the current reality of low coverage with vaccines against COVID-19 and other illnesses."
The WHO statement said that damaged infrastructure could become a matter of life or death as Ukraine civilians struggle to survive both the war and the winter conditions with 800,000 homes destroyed by the war, according to the Ukrainian government.
According to The New York Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that 16,000 of the roughly 222,000 Russians drafted in a military mobilization are deployed "in units that get involved in fulfilling combat tasks." Putin also said he has no regrets about invading Ukraine.
In Kherson the The Moscow-appointed leader of the occupied Kherson region has asked Russia for help evacuating the area in a sign its southern Ukrainian location may become the new battleground.
Vladimir Saldo, who served as Kherson mayor from 2002 to 2012, was installed in April by the Russian forces as head of the wider region. He called on the Kremlin's assistance in moving civilians.
"I want to ask you [the Russian leadership] for help in organizing such work," said Saldo, who is charged with treason in Ukraine, according to The Guardian.
"We, residents of the Kherson region, certainly know that Russia does not abandon its own, and Russia always lends a shoulder where it is difficult."
Moscow has occupied Kherson since early in the war and it became one of the four regions Russian President Vladimir Putin declared annexed into Russia.
During its counter-offensive, Kyiv forces broke through Moscow's front line in the Kherson region and have slowly marched to the city of Kherson in some of the heaviest fighting since Russia's invasion started in February.
Ukraine has regained 756 villages in the Kherson region, which had been previously controlled by the Russian military. Its counter-offensive throughout the country has allowed Ukraine to retain more than 600 towns and villages across the country.
The British Defense Ministry said Friday that it appears that Russia had made successful advances in eastern Ukraine this week.
"In the last three days, pro-Russian forces have made tactical advances towards the center of the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast," the ministry said on Twitter.
"Elements of 2nd Army Corps, the pro-Russia militia of the Luhansk region, likely advanced into the villages of Opytine and Ivangrad to the south of the town.
"There have been few, if any, other settlements seized by regular Russian or separatist forces since early July. Russia likely views seizing Bakhmut as a preliminary to advancing on the Kramatorsk-Sloviansk urban area which is the most significant population center of Donetsk Oblast held by Ukraine."