Russian President, Vladimir Putin has declared martial law in the occupied regions of Ukraine as officials begin evacuating civilians from the city of Kherson, with a battle for control of the stronghold now looming.
Putin said the order will come into effect early Thursday in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions – giving him sweeping powers to curtail the freedoms of civilians and press-gang Ukrainians into his army to fight against their fellow countrymen.
He announced the decision shortly after Sergei Surovikin, Russia’s new commander in Ukraine, said the situation in Kherson is ‘tense’. Evacuations got underway today as Vladimir Saldo, the Kremlin’s man in Kherson, said up to 60,000 people will be moved in the next six days – suggesting the city could come under attack within a week.
The administration is also moving, Saldo added, though vowed Russia would ‘fight to the death’ to regain full control. If Putin’s army is forced to flee then the defeat would be the most humiliating it has suffered to date, raising fears of further escalation.
Speculation has been growing that Putin could be preparing some kind of nuclear show of force, potentially including the first open-air detonation of an atomic weapon since the 1960s