Russian kidnappers put a bag over the head of the mayor of Melitopol, but they did not count on the mass demonstrations that followed

Kherson council member Sergey Khlan said Russian authorities had called local officials to see if they were willing to cooperate.

The southern port city of Kherson was captured by Russia last week and was the first major city to be taken in the invasion. Mr. Khlan called on his colleagues not to side with the invading forces.

He said: “Dear colleagues, I am sure you understand the consequences of your decision. The creation of the People’s Republic of Kherson will turn our region into a hole without hope, without life or future. Do not give them a single voice! Don “Don’t give them any opportunity to legitimize the People’s Republic of Kherson! Enter the history of Ukraine not as traitors whom no one wants, but truly as citizens whose names will be remembered by future generations.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Saturday: “Following the 2014 playbook, the Russians are desperately trying to organize a fake ‘referendum’ for a fake ‘people’s republic’ in Kherson. Since there is no popular support, it will be entirely staged.

He added: “Tough sanctions against Russia must follow if they continue. Kherson is and always will be Ukraine.

Constant bombardment of cities

As residents of Melitopol marched to secure the release of their mayor, those in other towns continued to face relentless shelling on Saturday.

Russian forces continued to shell the port city of Mariupol and captured the eastern outskirts. They also shelled a mosque housing more than 80 people, including children, the Ukrainian government said.

The port city has seen some of the most desperate conditions for civilians. On Friday, the death toll had passed 1,500 in a 12-day siege. The roadblocks thwarted repeated attempts to bring in food and water and to evacuate trapped civilians. The shelling is so heavy that workers have had to stop digging mass graves and the dead are not buried, the mayor said.

Concern for a group of Turkish citizens

The Ukrainian embassy in Turkey said a group of 86 Turkish nationals, including 34 children, sought refuge in the mosque in the city of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roksolana. There was no immediate word from casualties.

Russian forces have stepped up their attacks on Mykolaiv, east of Odessa, in an attempt to encircle the city and open a route to the Black Sea port.

Buses full of civilians have been evacuated from the city in recent days. “There is no water, there is no electricity and we have been in shelters for days,” said a woman who had fled with her daughter and granddaughter. “We couldn’t stay, they were bombing all the time,” she said.

A hospital in the Ingulskiy district in northern Mykolaiv came under fire.

“They fired on civilian areas, without any military objective,” hospital director Dmytro Lagochev told AFP.

“There is a hospital here, an orphanage and an eye clinic.”


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