Panicked Russian officials 'urgently evacuating' from Crimea as Ukrainian forces close in

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Russian officials are urgently trying to sell their houses and flee Crimea as Kyiv’s troops close in, Ukraine has claimed.

Media outlet Ukraine NOW, which describes itself as the main verified source of official information about events in the country, reports that Russian officials based in Crimea are secretly trying to sell their homes.

Ukraine NOW wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging service: “Despite the assurances of the population that they are safe on the peninsula, representatives of the occupation administration of Crimea, FSB officers and commanders of some military units are secretly trying to sell their homes and urgently evacuate their relatives from the peninsula, the GUR reports.”

Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence agency reported on Tuesday (September 13) that occupying officials in Crimea were urgently trying to resettle their families in Russia.

Crimea

Kyiv says Russian officials in Crimea are trying to flee (Image: Getty)

 fire and smoke billowing from munitions depot in Crimea early on August

Fire and smoke billowing from a munitions depot in Crimea in August (Image: Getty)

Putin in trouble as Russia confirms soldiers retreating from occupied areas

A statement on the GUR website said Russian invaders have banned housing transactions and clamped down on access to information about the war.

Mr Zelensky has said Ukraine has seized back 3,100 square miles of territory occupied by Russia since its invasion began on February 24.

After being pushed back from the capital Kyiv soon after its invasion, the Kremlin refocused on capturing territory next to Crimea as well as in Donetsk and Luhansk in the industrial Donbas of eastern Ukraine, which separatists claimed in 2014.

Earlier this month, Kyiv told residents of Crimea to prepare bomb shelters and stock up on supplies as Ukraine pressed ahead with plans for a major counteroffensive to drive Russian troops out of occupied Ukrainian territory.

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Woman walking past a building destroyed by a Russian missile attack in the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine

A woman walks past a building destroyed by a Russian missile attack in the centre of Kharkiv (Image: Getty)

 A damaged Russian tank is seen after Russian Forces withdrawal as Russia-Ukraine war continues in Balakliia

A damaged Russian tank after Russian forces withdraw (Image: Getty)

The Black Sea peninsula was thought to be out of range of Ukrainian weapons, though explosions at Russian military sites in Crimea called that into question.

Meanwhile, in its latest update, defence intelligence analysts report Moscow is “increasingly sourcing weaponry from other heavily sanctioned states” as its own stockpiles are depleted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces are being forced to source equipment from North Korea and Iran as the impacts of sanctions and military losses bite.

An update published by the UK’s Ministry of Defence pointed to claims that Ukrainian forces had shot down an Iranian-made drone as evidence of Moscow’s use of systems sourced from Tehran.

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Russia versus Ukraine (Image: Express)

Ukraine claimed it shot down the drone near Kupiansk as part of an offensive which has smashed through Russian lines around Kharkiv on the eastern front.

The image suggested the Shahed “suicide drone” had been shot down by Ukrainian forces and had not detonated on impact as designed, though little information was released by the authorities in Kyiv.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said: “Russia has highly likely deployed Iranian uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) in Ukraine for the first time.

“On September 13 2022, Ukrainian officials reported that their forces had shot down a Shahed-136 UAV near Kupiansk, in the area of Ukraine’s successful ongoing offensive.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Image: Getty)

“The Shahed-136 is a one-way attack UAV with a claimed range of 2,500 kilometres (1553 miles).

“Similar Iranian-manufactured systems have likely been used in attacks in the Middle East, including against the oil tanker MT Mercer Street in July 2021.”

The MoD update said: “Russia is almost certainly increasingly sourcing weaponry from other heavily sanctioned states like Iran and North Korea as its own stocks dwindle.

“The loss of a Shahed-136 near the front lines suggests there is a realistic possibility that Russia is attempting to use the system to conduct tactical strikes rather than against more strategic targets farther into Ukrainian territory.”

Pressure has been growing on Putin in the wake of Ukraine’s advance with the Russian dictator facing dissent at home.

A group of local politicians in St Petersburg who called for Putin to be sacked over the war faces the likely dissolution of their district council following a judge’s ruling on Tuesday, one of the deputies said.

Nikita Yuferev said the judge decided a series of past council meetings had been invalid, paving the way for it to be broken up by the regional governor.

Another council member, Dmitry Palyuga, said the same court then fined him 47,000 roubles for “discrediting” the authorities by calling for Putin’s removal.

Four more members of the Smolninskoye local council were due to appear in court.

Last week, a group of deputies from the council appealed to the State Duma to bring charges of state treason against Putin and strip him of power, citing a series of reasons including Russia’s military losses in Ukraine and the damage to its economy from Western sanctions.

Another local deputy said 65 municipal representatives from St Petersburg, Moscow and several other regions had signed a petition she published on Monday calling for Putin’s resignation.

While posing no immediate threat to Putin’s grip on power, the moves mark rare expressions of dissent by elected representatives at a time when Russians risk heavy prison sentences for discrediting the armed forces or spreading deliberately false information about them.



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