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A woman watches a burning oil depot that local residents said had been hit by a Russian rocket in Kherson, Ukraine on Nov. 19, 2022.FINBARR O'REILLY /The New York Times News Service

Ukraine will soon begin evacuating people who want to leave the recently-liberated southern city of Kherson and the surrounding areas, a senior official announced on Saturday, citing damage done by Russian forces.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said some people had expressed a wish to move away from both Kherson and the area around Mykolaiv, around 65 km to the northwest.

“This is possible in the next few days,” she told a televised news conference in Mykolaiv when asked when the evacuations would begin, saying the government had already made the necessary preparations.

Among those who wanted to leave were the elderly and those who had been affected by Russian shelling, she added.

Kyiv says Russian troops destroyed Kherson’s critical infrastructure before leaving earlier this month.

“This is only a voluntary evacuation. Currently, we are not talking about forced evacuation,” Vereshchuk said.

“But even in the case of voluntary evacuation, the state bears responsibility for transportation. People must be taken to the place where they will spend the winter,” she said.

The government had several options, one of which was to use Mykolaiv as a transit point before sending people further west into safer areas, she added.

In August, Vereshchuk said Ukraine planned to expand the number of front line districts where civilian evacuations will be mandatory, as those areas could be occupied and face central heating problems this winter.