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Rallies for Ukraine do not stop. How does occupied Kherson live?

The other day on TV, the mayor of Kherson, Igor Kolikhayev, said that 40% of residents had already left Kherson, occupied by the russian military. This statement, of course, is not entirely correct, and the mayor seems to be judging by looking at the officials. Their numbers have been halved in this regional center. And the head of the region Gennady Laguta left the city before the occupation. According to Kolikhayev, about 20% of doctors and approximately 3,000 children left Kherson. How does the occupied city live? Read in the report, exclusive.

Photo: facebook

As it began

The russian military occupied Kherson on March 1st. The occupiers entered the city without any problems, although in front of the regional center, on Antonivsky Bridge, they were beaten up and detained by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Perhaps that is why the russians came here shooting. Tank shellings damaged a dozen buildings on the first day. A shell hit the entrance to a nine-story building in a residential area, killing a man who was helping residents hide in the basement. He was the first victim of the Kherson occupation.

A local terrorist defense group was shot dead in Kherson the next day. Several dozen people, armed with only a couple of Molotov cocktails, tried to stop the column of tanks from entering the city. They did not have time to do anything: tanks machine guns shot unarmed people at the close range. No one offered to surrender. Their bodies were not allowed to be picked up for several days.

In the terrorist defense group of Kherson, they say, there were 200 people - and no more than 50 machine guns! But the day before the occupation, local officials told defenders to go home because the command was leaving the city. They sent only 30 men with Molotov cocktails to stand guard on the two roads leading to Kherson.


On the same day, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) building was shelled for some reason, and russian troops seized the railway and river stations. Ukrainian flags remained on the buildings of the city and regional councils, although russians fired on them as they drove through the city.

And a day later, russians seized the offices of the radio company "Public Broadcasting: Kherson". For some time, there was no TV signal in the city, but in the evening, the russians launched their television, broadcasting from Crimea. Their hands have not yet reached the cable, and the occupiers only interrupted Ukrainian broadcasting. As a result, Kherson was left without television, as most citizens have cable TV. And the radio, too - it was jammed from the third day of the occupation, more and more effectively every day, but by April, Crimean radio started broadcasting in the FM band.

The Internet in the city worked all the time, from all providers and operators. It still works today - it is the only communication channel with unoccupied Ukraine, except for telephones.

Photo: Press Center of the National Guard

How the city lives now

As in unoccupied Ukraine, there is a curfew in Kherson - 20:00 - 6:00. However, it was established by occupiers. They prohibit the movement of groups of more than two people, and cars are allowed to travel only for food and medicine. Pedestrians should move only in unbuttoned outerwear, stop at the first request and allow to be searched.

But this, as they say, is a requirement of the "superiors", the russians do not follow the instructions. On the other hand, the requirement to "decorate" each vehicle with a white ribbon is met by all drivers. This is quite understandable: orks not only can stop the car but will open fire without warning. Unfortunately, there were precedents.

Photo: EPA/UPG

On the streets, the russian military selectively searches everyone indiscriminately. They check mobile phones: look at posts on social networks, personal correspondence. They can take away the device. So now people either go outside without a phone at all or hide it on their bodies. Russians know how to search as well as they can fight…

Everyone knows about the rallies, thanks to which Volodymyr Zelensky made Kherson a hero city. They are happening now - much less crowded than before, but they are still happening. And Kherson residents are not ashamed to announce where the russian warship should go. Therefore, at the first rallies, the military looked confused and scared. They brought police vans, military equipment, and several armored personnel carriers to the main square, but people still approached - and some even jumped on this equipment.

Currently, there are few soldiers in Kherson, mostly patrolled by the russian security guars. They are not so timid and have been trained to disperse demonstrations - this is probably their only skill. People have been beaten, shot (thank God, not to be killed), light-noise grenades and tear gas have been used. Accordingly, rallies for Ukraine have become less crowded. But did not stop.

Photo: Suspilne

In addition to monitoring the rallies, russian security forces are busy with raids. They go to the apartments of the Ukrainian military, SBU officers, police officers, members of the Defense Forces, journalists, and activists. In many residential buildings, all the entrance doors (and they are almost everywhere iron, with electronic keys) residents attached massive deadlocks. Orcs remove these doors with a chain - first from the main entrance and then the doors to the apartments.

If one can understand the logic of such raids, the detentions simply cannot be analyzed. Any Kherson resident can be detained on the street, “packed up”, and driven away. Earlier, people were taken to a pre-trial detention center, but now it is unknown where. But a day later (or sometimes two or three days), the detainees are released. Someone was “talked to” in a particular way, others were not paid attention at all: they were detained, imprisoned, then released. The question arises - why take them? There is no answer.

Photo: Oleksandr Gunko

What in stores and refrigerators

Some shops in Kherson closed even before March 1st. Since the day of the occupation, not a single supermarket ATB has been operating. Other shops - as God willing. For example, several "Eco-Markets" did not close - but some of them are open and empty, and others sell more than a suspicious product from Belarus and even "LDNR". It is useless to talk about any schedule - a place can open at 8 am, or at noon, or not open at all.

Kherson spent the whole beginning of March in long and chaotic queues. People often stood in queues without any idea what they were for.

It is quite interesting how store owners behaved at first. Some announced in advance that they would stop working, and arranged for the distribution of goods - often for free, sometimes at a symbolic price. Others did not say anything but immediately changed the price tags, raising the cost of goods by two or three times. It was also the case that the beer shop gave away the products so that they would not turn sour, but the next day the townspeople saw this free beer in a nearby store, at a price twice as high as before the war.


By April, the situation had "settled down" in many regards. Unfortunately, diabetics cannot buy insulin at the pharmacy or the food they need for their diet. And not only insulin was hard to find but in general with drugs, even banal painkillers, not to mention pills for hypertension and heart disease. However, it was easier with food, if there was money. Prices have also returned to normal.

It is not clear though how it became easier. Various fruits and vegetables are brought to the city by farmers from the region. Belarusian sausages and cigarettes - of course. But how eggs get from Dnepropetrovsk to Kherson is a mystery. After all, no humanitarian corridor in Kherson has worked so far. However, one way or another, Kherson residents do not go hungry if they have money. And they prefer to buy Ukrainian - when there is a choice. Unfortunately, sometimes there is no choice. 

Payments everywhere are in hryvnya; there are no rubles that MP Khlan frightened the locals with. You can get cash at the banks - they are almost the only places in Kherson where there are still huge queues. In addition, private individuals also transfer cash - some for symbolic interest, some for free. 

Another interesting thing: we didn't realize how delicious Ukrainian food was. Everything is known by comparison. From the first days of looting, orcs tasted Ukrainian sausages, beer, and cigarettes. And now, when they are trying to look civilized and buy something at a store (or market), they are often mockingly asked: "Which one - from the Crimea or Belarus?" And the answer is always: only Ukrainian …

Photo: TSN

Currently, it is difficult to find Ukrainian-made smoke in Kherson. But russian and Belarusian cigarettes are available, and also from "LDNR". When you want to smoke, you buy and smoke anything you can find. But how vile the cigarettes made and smoked in the under-republics are! Belarusian is a little better, but also disgusting, like russian "Java", "Cosmos" and other tobacco. And now the Kherson smoker is almost in happy tears for Ukrainian cigarettes of any brand, even if he never touched them before the war.

Prices in Kherson today are 30% higher than before the war for almost everything. For some products, they are up 50%.

But all this is very unpredictable - many stores have been emptied, and everything is sold primarily through markets. At the market, a beautiful chunk of pork can be found for 350 hryvnya per kilo, as well as for 70-80 hryvnya. Yes, yes, cheaper than before the war. This, of course, if you are lucky, and it depends on many factors - not the least role is played, for example, by the fact that distributors and resellers have partially disappeared from the food chain.

Chornobaivka before and after the popularity

Probably the whole world knows about Kherson Chornobayivka today. Even on the russian TV news dump, this place was given a lot of air time. However, there it was called a Kyiv village "somewhere in the triangle of Bucha, Kyiv, and Gostomel”. And according to their version, the russians shot the Armed Forces "ten or more times" there ...

Photo: CNN

But in Kherson and Ukraine Chornobayivka was well known before, and for a different reason: there is a very large poultry farm. From the beginning of the occupation, the farm was left without electricity. Three million birds needed to be fed and watered - meanwhile, after the invasion of the russian army, there was no food for birds, and the troughs do not work without electricity. The deaths of millions of chickens could turn into an environmental disaster. And then the poultry farm invited everyone to come and pick up the chicken. Volunteers took orders through the City Council and delivered chicken carcasses to high-rise buildings, orphanages, and hospitals.

In the first days of the occupation, the meat of Chornobayiv birds helped many Kherson residents. In some places, it was distributed free of charge, in some - for a symbolic 40-50 hryvnyas. And when the issue of the ecological catastrophe was taken off the agenda, Chornobayivka was talked about for a different reason.

According to Arestovich, columns of orcs have been bombed there 17 times today. Although locals will call a different number. The author of these lines has windows overlooking Chornobayivka, and since the beginning of April, russians have received “presents” from Ukrainian defenders almost every day. And several times on some days. So not 17 and not even 20; the russians were well served there.

Residents of Chornobayivka tell (that story is a week old) as one evening, about a dozen different military vehicles drove toward the airport. They stopped at the store to buy something. A group of local teenagers asked the soldiers: "Are you going to the airport?" They say yes. "Why are you going there?" The soldiers responded that they have an order. The boys started laughing and wished them good luck. The russians were surprised; they asked, "What's so funny?" and left. At dusk, three helicopters landed at the airport for the night. And when it finally got dark, the Ukrainian Armed Forces generously sent their flying gifts there, hitting not only helicopters and equipment but also the ammunition depot.

screenshot of the video of the Armed Forces
Photo: Strikes on the captured russian airbase in Chornobayevka
screenshot of the video of the Armed Forces

The russian "bearers of peace" are probably not laughing - they need Chornobaivka, of course, as the only suitable airport in the region for military helicopters. But the locals are having fun to the fullest. After all, it is only russian TV that tells how vicious Ukrainian neo-Nazis are shelling their own cities. In reality, the Armed Forces are working so precisely that Chornobaivka itself is intact - except for a few houses previously demolished by the russians.

How they are trying to create a "HereNer" in the South 

The other day, the head of the military administration of Kryvyi Rih, Oleksandr Vilkul, addressed the people of Kherson with the words that Ukraine has not forgotten about them. "My dears, we all remember you, we remember you, Ukraine loves you, Kryvyi Rih loves you ... We are waiting for you and we will always be together," he said. He and the chairman of the Nikolaev OVA Vitaly Kim often mention Kherson and send them their greetings, while the Kherson regional power doesn't communicate with people at all. See, talking to your Kherson people from Kyiv is not really difficult, but is shameful. Especially if you have nothing to say.

Due to the fact that the Kherson region is not often seen in the Ukrainian information space (apart from the mentioned appeals of Kim, Vilkul, and President Zelensky), people have the impression that the responsible officials simply “delivered” the region.

In Kherson, the russian occupiers removed the Ukrainian flag from the building of the regional state administration.
Photo: Suspilne
In Kherson, the russian occupiers removed the Ukrainian flag from the building of the regional state administration.

This opinion prevails among the locals. However, there is a small and diminishing number of supporters of the "russian peace" in Kherson. They were sparse here even before the war. However, with the beginning of the war, with the first explosions in the city, tank shelling of residential buildings, and other russian "attractions" in general, their numbers decreased even further. And even in the conditions of an information vacuum - it is not really a complete vacuum here - Kherson residents do not intend to meet "KhNR" with bread and salt.

It seems that the russians are already printing ballots, forms, brochures, posters, and booklets for voting on the creation of a pseudo-republic and recognition of the occupying power. But locals are convinced that the russians will not hold a real vote. Probably, there will be some illustrative polling stations for the "picture" for russian TV. And what kind of vote they are talking about if the orcs do not even have a database of population, addresses, and passports (only fragmentary data collected in the process of distribution of the humanitarian)?

On the other hand, everyone understands that the russians do not need a real vote.

They also can't rely on local collaborators in Kherson - due to their almost complete absence among local authorities. Stremousov, a well-known fan of the "russian peace" in Kherson, is a figure not only superficial but also completely unfamiliar with administrative work. It seems that the orcs also noticed the exceptional inadequacy of this character. But they are military, carrying out orders. They were ordered, and they found. And they don't care what comes out of it, it's above their salaries and powers.

Kherson, Ukraine, April 2022
Photo: Viktoria Roschyna
Kherson, Ukraine, April 2022

And Kherson residents understand this perfectly. Especially since 2014, everyone has two examples at once - Donbass territories "squeezed out" by the orcs. Therefore, people do not believe in the creation of the People's Republic of Kherson. The second "idea" of the russians - about administrative accession to the occupied Crimea - seems much more realistic to the citizens.

In fact, there is no open campaigning for the creation of a quasi-republic in Kherson. Instead, periodically - and quite en masse! - leaflets appear in the city threatening orcs with reprisals, and Kherson collaborators, if there are those who decide to "show up to vote", accountability. 

Be that as it may, things are paid for in hryvnyas, blue and yellow flags are flown, Ukrainian bank cards work, and postmen bring pensions from the Ukrainian pension fund.

Kherson remains Ukraine.

Ivan Pomidorov, Journalist
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