Russia tells people in occupied Kherson to 'save your lives' and leave

OLESHKY, Russia-controlled Ukraine (Reuters) - Russia told people in the occupied Ukrainian city of Kherson to flee for their lives on Sunday as more residents joined an exodus to escape an anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive.

Russia's proxies in the southern region are trying to evacuate up to 60,000 people who live on the western bank of the Dnipro river.

"The situation today is difficult. It's vital to save your lives," Russian Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov said in a video message. "It won't be for long. You will definitely return."

The Kherson region sits to the north of the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. It is a key gateway for Russian military supplies.

Moscow-backed authorities reported a shortage of vessels to ferry people across the river at one point on Sunday, due to a "sharp increase in the number of people wishing to leave the city".

Around 25,000 people have been evacuated since Tuesday, the Interfax news agency cited the Russian-installed deputy head of the region, Kirill Stremousov, as saying.

"We again recommend you to leave the city and the western bank of the Dnipro," Stremousov said in a video message published on Telegram.

He said an improvised explosive device had killed one person and wounded another in a blast in the city on Sunday. Reuters was unable to independently verify the incident.

Despite the warnings, officials insisted any relocation would be temporary from territory Russia has officially proclaimed its own following what it called referendums and which were decried as sham, coercive votes by Kyiv and the West.

"We are not going to give up Kherson," Stremousov said.

More Kherson residents packed themselves and their belongings on Sunday onto ferries and repurposed school buses leaving the city.

"Of course we are afraid for our lives," Vera, 44, told Reuters, who did not give her last name. "But I think everything will be OK. Kherson will hold out."

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Edmund Blair)