Russian forces are attempting an advance toward the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, said the city's Regional Council on Wednesday, as fighting escalates across the east of the country.
"The situation at the frontline suggests that the enemy is trying to advance in direction of Zaporizhzhia, but suffers losses and focuses its main efforts on maintaining the occupied frontiers," the council said in a statement.
"Russian troops continue to shell the positions of our troops and conduct offensive operations in the direction of Pokrovske - Huliaipole," the council added.
Women, children, and the elderly would be evacuated from the southeastern port city toward Manhush, onward through the Russian held-city of Berdyansk and then toward Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
Russian forces occupy the southern part of the region, and according to the council they have established a base in the city of Melitopol, near residential areas.
Sham referendums: The council claims Russian forces are planning to hold sham referendums in occupied territory, similar to those carried out in the separatist-held parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014.
Earlier this week, Russian-backed separatist leader Denis Pushilin said that the separatist Donetsk People's Republic would support a Russian-occupied district in the Zaporizhzhia region.
Pushilin alleged that Zaporizhzhia had made "an appeal" to secede from Ukraine and join the breakaway republic.
Ukrainian officials have said Russian forces appear to be preparing for a similar sham referendum in southern Kherson region.