The head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration on Monday urged civilians to evacuate, saying there were “no safe places left” in the eastern Ukrainian region.
Evacuate now, we can still save you,” Serhii Haidai said on Telegram.
Evacuations would be carried out Monday from Popasna, Rubizhne, Hirske, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, Haidai said, even if no official evacuation routes were agreed with Russian forces.
“We will proceed with evacuation no matter what,” he said. “We will take people with us from places we can get to. It is already very difficult to leave Rubizhne, Popasna, Hirske. To date, there are no safe places left in the region.”
Haidai’s comments come after attempts to agree safe evacuation routes for civilians trapped in fighting in southern and eastern Ukraine on Sunday failed, but local officials urged people to leave the area nevertheless.
While some Luhansk residents had previously felt relatively safe in some districts of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, the situation had “grown worse,” he said.
“Russian shelling is everywhere. Evacuate now, we can still save you. Do not [wait until] there is no safe way out of the area. Buses are waiting for you on April 18. Gather your things and come. Ukraine needs you alive!”
Some context: Extensive damage to civilian infrastructure was noted over the weekend following Russian strikes in the region. Haidai said in one day the Russians had damaged 10 infrastructure facilities and partially or completely destroyed another 26 buildings.
On Sunday, Russian shelling hit a church in the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, according to Haidai.