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Russia "evacuating" officers’ families as Ukraine targets next key outpost

Russia is evacuating officers’ families from the Ukrainian city of Tokmak as Kyiv’s forces advance on the southern Zaporizhzhia front, an official said on Wednesday.

“‘There is no panic’, but there is panic,” Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of Ukraine’s occupied southern city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region, said in a post on his Telegram channel of the situation in Tokmok, which Kyiv is hoping to liberate as part of its ongoing counteroffensive.

Tokmak is a small, strategic city just a few miles behind the current front lines in Zaporizhzhia that currently serves as a key rail and road hub for Moscow’s occupying forces. It lies on a key route that Kyiv may use to cut off the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from other occupied territories.

The British defense ministry said last month that Russian troops have been scrambling to fortify that area because of “growing concern” over Kyiv advancing through Russian lines in the occupied region.

“The occupiers on the Melitopol front are preparing for a hot autumn. It is already scorching in Tokmak: a few weeks ago the occupiers began to evacuate ‘authority’ bodies, and a few days ago the Russian officers began intensively evacuating their families,” said Fedorov.

Russians have begun to “move” educational institutions—schools, academies and colleges, Fedorov said. “Yesterday evening it was announced that ‘administrative institutions’, shops, and the market will not operate today.”

“Whatever we are preparing for, the enemy is definitely not happy,” the exiled Melitopol mayor added.

Melitopol, which had a pre-war population of 150,000, was among the first regions to fall to Russian forces after the full-scale invasion began last February. Fedorov was captured and detained by Russian special services in March 2022 for six days until he was freed in a prisoner exchange.

Newsweek has contacted Russia’s defense ministry via email for comment.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank reported on September 26 that Russian forces —including the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division, the 71st Motorized Rifle Regiment and the 70th Motorized Rifle Regiment—rushed to fortify the Tokmak area as Kyiv’s troops were gaining ground.

The U.S. think tank said the move suggests “the Russian command has not manned the multi-echeloned defense in southern Ukraine in depth.” Most Russian forces in the area appear to be deployed “to immediate frontline areas,” it said.

“The deployment of the 70th and 71st Motorized Rifle Regiments as far back as Tokmak suggests that elements of the same Russian formations and units defending at forward positions are holding positions, likely in smaller numbers, in subsequent defensive layers,” the ISW added.

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