VOVCHANSK, UKRAINE, May 16 — In the northern part of Vovchansk, Kharkiv region, Russian troops take civilians prisoner and aren’t allowing them to evacuate, reported the Minister of Internal Affairs Ihor Klymenko.

According to the police, the Russian military, who were trying to gain a foothold in the city, did not allow residents to evacuate; people were abducted and forced into basements.

Vovchansk is the first big city in the way of Russia’s new assault on the Kharkiv Oblast and, potentially, Kharkiv. Its pre-war population was about 17,500 people. Russians occupied the city on the first day of the full-scale invasion, and the Ukrainian army liberated it during the Kharkiv counteroffensive in September 2022.

Klymenko said that the police knows about the first shootings of civilians by the Russian military. In particular, one of the residents of Vovchansk tried to escape on foot. He refused to obey the orders of the Russians, and they killed him.

Evacuation in the city is ongoing despite intense fighting. In total, according to Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Syniehubov, police, volunteers, and rescuers evacuated 8,770 people from the border communities of Kharkiv Oblast. 

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