Ukraine to expand mandatory evacuations on front lines

FILE PHOTO - Aftermath of shelling in Donetsk

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine plans to expand the number of districts on the war's front lines where civilian evacuations will be mandatory, as those areas could be occupied and face central heating problems this winter, a deputy prime minister said on Friday.

The Ukrainian government launched a campaign of mandatory evacuations in July for people in the eastern Donetsk region that it began implementing this month.

Ukrainian-controlled districts and towns in the industrial east are under constant shelling from Russia and its proxies.

"If they stay there, people will suffer, especially children," Iryna Vereshchuk said on national television, announcing the campaign's expansion.

She said evacuating women with children and elderly people would be a priority from some districts of the eastern Kharkiv region and the southern Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv regions.

"I'm not talking about the entire regions, but some parts will require mandatory evacuation and we are preparing for it," said Vereshchuk.

She urged residents not to resist, adding they also faced the threat of Russian occupation.

"I know very well what the enemy can do to force people to collaborate. That's why I call on people to evacuate so often and not to hope for the enemy to show mercy and... to follow international humanitarian law. This will not happen," she said.

Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians in an invasion that it refers to as a "special military operation" and that Ukraine and its Western allies consider a colonial-style power-grab.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; editing by Tom Balmforth and John Stonestreet)