Kherson Diary: “The Russians fire a warning shot. But people are not afraid’ | Ukraine


Since Tuesday, when Kherson became the first Ukrainian city to be captured since the Russian invasion, its population of more than 280,000 has been living under occupation. Two female journalists, whose identities we protect, document a week in which Russian soldiers entered the port city – sowing death, looting and fear – and the courageous resistance of its inhabitants.

monday 28 february

There are huge queues for bread. Flour and yeast disappeared from stores. I bake four loaves by mixing all the flour from the house – corn, rye – because there is not enough wheat. Then I bring bread to the volunteer center.

There is a crowd at the volunteer center. People bring food, clothes, bread, water, medicine, packing everything continuously. The atmosphere is very friendly and unifying. The coordinator, a member of the city council, takes sedatives and gives orders in a broken voice. We see many familiar residents – students make tank traps, someone makes molotov cocktails. Everyone is talking about the columns of enemy vehicles heading towards Kherson. Fierce fighting took place for several days on the Antonovsky Bridge, which connects the city with Oleshky. But nobody still believes that Kherson could be occupied. Adrenaline shots, I want to kiss everyone. And we do. Nowadays, people hug each other very often.

We are heading towards Potemkin Square. There, despite the siren, young and old walk around. The patriots hang a yellow and blue flag on the monument to Potemkin. It clings to the face of the “founder of Kherson” like a shroud. We sit on a bench, eat homemade bread and drink wine for our victory. There is a siren, a roar outside the city. Some head for the bomb shelters, we stay outside to enjoy the sunny day.

There are queues near pharmacies. You have to stand for several hours for the drugs. There are also a lot of people in the supermarket. We fill our backpacks with cookies, chocolate, butter and sausages. But without taking it all in — not yet knowing how quickly stocks would run out.

The craft beer shop is closing. The latest products are given away for free to people on the street. We received two liters of beer each – the last salute to a peaceful life.

In the evening, we meet up with friends. We still have light, heating, internet. And in the morning, Russian soldiers enter the city.

tuesday march 1

The first day of spring. It’s snowing. We sleep in our clothes with our anxious backpacks nearby. At night there was again shelling in the suburbs. I only sleep four hours. In the morning, we have tea and turn on the computers for the news.

Through the window I hear the hoarse cry “Private!” In line ! “. Thirty soldiers armed with machine guns parade in the courtyard. Russian soldiers entered my Kherson.

Almost everyone is staying at home. In discussions on Telegram, we learn that Russians hit a high-rise building. There are dead and wounded civilians. Several people who took to the streets were killed. Filming takes place in many areas of the city. Mayor of Kherson addresses citizens, urging them to stay at home. He assures them that Kherson remains a Ukrainian city.

Our fridges are still full of food, but soldiers from a foreign country are marching through our streets. A video of Russians robbing a supermarket has surfaced online. They walk with branded packages to their armored personnel carriers. We mock looters, shoot videos, post them to chats, watch their movements around the city.

In the evening, new videos are posted on Facebook – bodies in Purple Park. Nearby there are molotov cocktails. Unused. It’s the Territorial Defense guys. They wanted to stop the attack on the city with these cocktails. Everyone is dead.

Wednesday March 2

Total silence. Everyone stays at home, reading the news. The city council building was bombed at night. Some areas are without electricity or water. Nineteen civilians were killed.

The bomb hit the main commercial center of the city. Food and alcohol were taken away by Russian soldiers. The mayor of Kherson, Igor Kolykhaiev, calls for a “green corridor” for the evacuation of the wounded, women and children. People try not to panic.

Thursday March 3

We bury our dead. They were collected from the streets by a funeral service. The deceased priest in the purple park is buried by a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. We watch videos and cry.

We spend hours queuing to buy food and medicine, sharing it with neighbors who are sick and too weak to queue.

The Russians completely occupied the Kherson regional administration building. Their equipment is lined up on the Place de la Liberté.

A large column entered the city. Mainly buses and cars. This is a humanitarian convoy from Crimea to urge residents to receive this aid and to thank Russia for it. They bring in former prisoners to act as locals who greet Russian troops with flowers.

Friday March 4

They take over the television center and set up tripwires. Now we have Russian broadcast – Ukrainian broadcast is only available on cable TV.

Everyone is invited to a concert and the distribution of products from the Russian humanitarian convoy. The locals ignored him en masse. They had to use their former Crimean prisoners to put on a show.

People with Ukrainian flags come to the square and explain to the Russians that no one will take their products. The humanitarian convoy is ordered to “fuck you”. A rally on the Place de la Liberté is announced for the next day. Many people say they will.

Saturday March 5

In the morning, people start to go to Freedom Square. Russian machine gunners stand on the perimeter. Then people see soldiers dragging a detainee on the ground. Protesters jump over a road barrier and grab the inmate.

Gunners in front of the state administration building fire a warning shot. But people are not afraid, there are crowds of protesters of all ages. They came with posters that say “Kherson is Ukraine”, they shout “Putin asshole”, “Russian ship, fuck you”.

But among the crowd, men in dark clothes walk around, hooded, hiding their faces, registering those who are at the rally. We even whistle “Nazi pigs”.

A friend of ours, a doctor, spends the night at work. Kherson women even give birth in air-raid shelters: last night two babies were born.


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