In early March, Russian forces seized Kherson, a city on the Dnipro River, in southern Ukraine. This was just days after the invasion began.
It is Russia‘s greatest victory and one of the few major cities its forces managed to capture.
However, Ukrainian forces struck three bridges across the river in recent weeks. This made them almost impassible for heavy vehicles. The goal was to slow down Russian supply lines and eliminate thousands of soldiers from the city.
It is believed that a full-on Ukrainian counteroffensive will be imminent.
It is difficult to contact anyone who remains in Kherson. Most people are either too scared or don’t have an internet connection.
The Ukrainian mobile phone networks were shut down and replaced by insecure Russian counterparts, which are bugged and don’t allow international calls.
Access to international news is nearly impossible because websites like YouTube, Instagram and Google are blocked.
One small area of the city is still connected to Ukrainian phone networks. People go there to send and get messages whenever they can.
People climb up to the roofs of villages around Kherson City in search for a signal. It takes courage and planning to meet friends or family.
One resident said that they had agreed in advance to meet at the exact time and place. It is difficult for us to cancel these agreements.
“We leave notes and write them.” We use coded languages.”
Recently, a resistance newspaper was launched. It is delivered through letterboxes at night and the Ukrainian resistance keeps the people informed about the locations of Russian checkpoints.
We spent many weeks talking to Kherson evacuees and hearing their stories about Russian occupation.
We were told by them of disappearances every day, and of Russian crematoriums to burn the corpses and bodies of soldiers. This was to cover up their losses as well as to dispose of the remains of Ukrainians they tortured or killed.
One resident stated that black cars arrive in the middle night to take people away. Many are never seen again, even though they return several weeks later.
We were told that basic services such as food and medicine are in short supply or too expensive, and that our lives are becoming increasingly “desperate”.
People have become vegetarians due to scarcity of affordable meat. One person we spoke with said that they are “on the brink of starvation”.
Liliya, Odesa, told us that there is not much medical care and medicines are a problem.
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After arriving from Kherson, she had to go through 19 Russian roadblocks in order to escape.
She said that they now import food products from [Russian-occupied] Crimea but it is very expensive. “This is the problem: the products are available, but it’s difficult to buy them because of lack of money.
All of them speak out about living in fear under the Russian occupation.
Olena says, “It is scary.” You don’t know what they are thinking. You don’t know what you will get from them. It is difficult to speak up. You always filter your speech because you can’t call a spade a spade. Perhaps a Russian soldier is sitting next to yours on a bench, listening to what you say.
It is prohibited to use exact addresses or names in correspondence and conversation. Sometimes, we can agree on code words in a personal meeting.”
Olena said, “If you mention enemy equipment’s movement, you should delete all correspondence so you don’t have anything on your phone.” Because your phone can be pulled out of your hand and you may be asked for it.
She shared stories about people being taken to basements and electrocuted because they are carrying the Ukrainian flag.
In defiance of occupation, yellow and blue colors from Ukraine were spray on walls and painted onto pillars.
We tried many routes and failed, but finally we were able to contact someone in Kherson.
Dmytro is not his real name. He is a journalist who was unable to tell his story so he asked us.
He pleaded with the world to not forget Kherson over a weak internet connection.
He said, “I can understand that it is far away for some people.” “Maybe they get tired of reading about Ukraine in the news every day. We want to reach every European citizen, every citizen of the globe, so they can talk about us and know more about Kherson.
He stated that Russian soldiers were seen walking through the streets of the suburbs drunkenly, with a bottle of vodka in one hand and a machine gun the other.
Dmytro stated that Russian soldiers’ behavior had changed over the past few weeks in anticipation of .
Russia is changing its tactics due to the US and UK sending longer range missiles
HIMAR: This is the new weapon of the United States that Ukraine uses against Russian targets
He continued, “There’s a checkpoint at nearly every intersection.” All buses and cars are checked. Everybody is asked to show their passports. They remove garage doors and gates. They are not looking for weapons but they are searching for equipment. They are afraid of partisans.
According to widely circulated reports, the families of Russian soldiers who fled Kherson after the capture have left the city now in fear of a counteroffensive. According to military sources, the Ukrainian military has confirmed that Russian commanders have fled Kherson city.
Dmytro stated that “To be fair, if maybe two generals, or five colonels, left Kherson it’s not too noticeable. The Russian occupiers have started to act very insolently, but the ordinary soldiers.
“It is clear that they have no discipline. This infers that top officers may have escaped. It is impossible to see, so no one was able to see it. It is impossible to imagine how they managed to get to the other side of the Dnipro River.
These accounts cannot be independently verified by Sky. Although the Russians deny these claims, they were sourced from multiple sources over several months.
The US and UK donated longer-range HIMARS missiles to Ukraine, which have enabled them to strike strategic targets farther away than ever before.
It was a deliberate strategy to block resupply routes and put fear in the hearts of Russian soldiers by targeting the three bridges on the Dnipro River crossing in Kherson.
It’s working. Slowly, the balance in Kherson is shifting in favor of Ukraine.