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Russian occupation figure dies, bridge blown up as Ukraine presses Kherson advance

KYIV/NOVOOLEXANDRIVKA — The main bridge on a road out of Kherson city was blown up and one of the top figures in Moscow's occupation administration died on Wednesday (Nov 9) in what Russian state media called a car crash, bringing more turmoil to a Russian-held area where Ukraine's forces are advancing.

Ukrainian servicemen fire a Polish self-propelled howitzer Krab toward Russian positions, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, on a frontline in Donetsk region, Ukraine on Nov 8, 2022.

Ukrainian servicemen fire a Polish self-propelled howitzer Krab toward Russian positions, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, on a frontline in Donetsk region, Ukraine on Nov 8, 2022.

KYIV/NOVOOLEXANDRIVKA — The main bridge on a road out of Kherson city was blown up and one of the top figures in Moscow's occupation administration died on Wednesday (Nov 9) in what Russian state media called a car crash, bringing more turmoil to a Russian-held area where Ukraine's forces are advancing.

Images on the internet showed the span of the Darivka bridge on the main highway east out of the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine completely collapsed into the water of the Inhulets River, a tributary of the Dnipro River that bisects the country.

Reuters was able to verify the location of the images, though not how the bridge had been destroyed or by whom.

Ukrainians who posted the photos speculated it had been blown up by Russian troops in preparation for a retreat, but Mr Oleh Zhdanov, a Ukrainian military analyst, told Reuters it could have been destroyed by Ukrainian saboteurs to isolate Russian forces on either side and "cut the fighting unit in half".

Russian news agencies reported the death of Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian occupation administration in Kherson, saying he had been killed in a car crash, though giving no further details of the circumstances.

Stremousov, one of the highest profile occupation figures, had hinted in recent days that Moscow might pull its forces out of the Russian-controlled pocket on the west bank of the Dnipro, the most closely watched sector of the front line.

Russia has ordered the evacuation of civilians from the area — Ukraine calls the measures a forced deportation — in anticipation of a major battle, while also hinting that it could pull back to more easily defended lines across the Dnipro. Kyiv says it does not expect the Russians to leave without a fight.

Russia's military said it had repelled a Ukrainian advance at Snihurivka on the frontline 50km north of Darivka along the Inhulets. The Russian-installed mayor there was cited by Russia's RIA news agency as saying residents had seen tanks and that fierce fighting was going on.

"They got into contact during the day and said there were tanks moving around and, according to (residents') information, heavy fighting on the edge of the town," said the mayor, Mr Yuri Barabashov. "People saw this equipment moving through the streets in the town centre."

Mr Vitaly Kim, the Ukrainian governor of Mykolaiv region, which borders Kherson, suggested that Ukrainian forces had pushed the Russians out of the area.

"Russian troops are complaining that they have already been thrown out of there," Mr Kim said in a statement on his Telegram channel.

'THEY WON'T LET ME DIE IN PEACE'

Further east, in Novoolexandrivka, a village on a hilly bank of the Dnipro in territory recaptured by advancing Ukrainian troops last month, the thunder of near constant rocket and artillery fire echoed on Wednesday from the front 10 km away.

"We’re kicking them off this bank and we will kick them off the other bank," said Mr Oleh, a Ukrainian soldier.

Since pulling out, the Russians have pounded the area every day, villagers and soldiers said. Around a third of residents, some 230 people, have stayed behind.

"They won't let me die in peace. I want to be able to die in peace at the end of my life," complained Ms Mariia Lytvynova, 92, as she leant on a walking stick under a trellised archway hung with vines ripe with red grapes leading to her small home.

"I have already survived one war," she said, referring to World War II, when the region was occupied by Nazi Germany.

"What will happen with the young people? I am done with my life. But they have to carry on."

Her son Mykola, 67, a retired agricultural worker, said he only comes up to fetch water, and then heads straight back into the cellar for shelter: "You should do the same," he advised a Reuters reporter as crumps of artillery echoed over the village.

In Kherson city, the only regional capital Russia has captured since its invasion in February, power has been out for days. Russia blames Ukrainian sabotage. Kyiv says the Russians severed the power lines and have been trucking looted household appliances and building materials across the river.

Mr Alexander Kots, a Russian war correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, reported from Kherson that Russian flags had been taken down from municipal buildings and even the animals from the zoo had been evacuated. Kyiv has said it is wary of such reports that could be a trap to lure its troops to advance.

Eastern European countries are preparing for a possible new wave of Ukrainian refugees as Russia targets power and heating plants ahead of winter, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy saying about four million people are already without power.

Russian forces have targeted Ukraine's energy infrastructure with missiles and drone strikes in the run-up to winter. Millions fled Ukraine earlier in the war and nearly seven million people are believed to be displaced internally.

Mr Roman Dohovic, an aid coordinator for the eastern Slovakia city of Kosice, said refugee numbers were increasing and already up by 15 per cent. REUTERS  

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