Ukraine’s deputy prime-minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Monday Ukrainians remaining in the occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhya should look for a chance to evacuate as soon as possible ahead of a counteroffensive Kyiv is planning to launch there.

The escape will not only save lives but can help them keep away from sham referendums Moscow plans to stage to legitimize the occupation of Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions.

‘The Russian Federation can see it is not perceived as the authority and is rushing to hold so-called referendums. It will put a squeeze, making [people] -by all means possible – come to vote. Our army will soon do all the possible to de-occupy the [seized] territories. And you must be in safety. So find an opportunity to leave,’ stressed Vereshchuk.

Both southern regions of Ukraine saw an exodus of people following the Russian incursion, but it remains unclear how many people are still stuck, meaning they can be potenially pushed into going to vote in Russia’s sham vote.