Vladimir Putin on Friday, Nov.4, said civilians should be taken out of Moscow-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine, where Russian forces have been leading evacuations since mid-October as Kyiv’s forces advance.

“Those who live in Kherson should be removed from zones of dangerous fighting,” the Russian president told young volunteers from the occupied Ukrainian territories on Red Square as Moscow celebrated Unity Day.

“The civilian population should not suffer from shelling, an offensive, a counter-offensive or other such things,” he said.

The Russian army later said it was evacuating “more than 5,000 civilians” from the Kherson region each day.

Moscow’s occupation authorities in Kherson say they have helped tens of thousands leave the region and have vowed to turn Kherson city into a “fortress”.

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Kyiv has likened Moscow’s efforts to remove the civilian population from Kherson to Soviet-like “deportations” of its people.

Putin was speaking to volunteers involved in helping people leave Kherson, in remarks made after laying flowers at a monument honouring those who fought off a Polish invasion in 1612.

He said Moscow had mobilised 318,000 recruits since he announced a military call-up in September, which has since been completed.

“We already have 318,000 (mobilised),” Putin said.

That exceeded his target of 300,000 because “volunteers keep coming”, he added.

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The Kremlin chief said he wanted to restore historical monuments in the occupied territories so that those “who lived under crazy, idiotic propaganda for 30 years” would know “where their ancestors came from.”

He singled out the port city of Mariupol on the Azov Sea, which was flattened by weeks of battles over its steelworks, which fell into Russian hands in May.

“Mariupol is a very famous — an ancient, you could say — Russian city,” Putin said.

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“Peter the Great, as is well known, founded his first military flotilla there, had his first victories there,” he said of the 17th-century tsar.

General Alexander “Suvorov had his steppe campaigns there, and Catherine the Second built up these lands,” he added.

“There is a lot to work on,” he said, referring to reconstruction plans.

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