Kidnappings, Propaganda and Other “Kremlin Practices”. Residents of Captured Kherson Are Screaming for Help under Fear of Reprisals

The material was written on the basis of conversations with volunteers and other people who continue to be in Kherson.

 Kherson (a city in southern Ukraine) has been under the complete control of the Russian military for more than a month. There are no active hostilities – instead, the occupiers staged a “quiet terror” for the residents.

The city was cut off access to the Ukrainian media and banned the work of media opposed to the Kremlin regime. Mobile service is periodically lost, and phone calls, according to locals, are wiretapped. In recent days, the Russian military began “to visit” the apartments of the townspeople, read personal messages and conduct “explanatory conversations”. Residents of Kherson who disagree with the regime are increasingly suddenly disappearing.

“The broadcasting of the Ukrainian media was turned off,  instead of them they are broadcasting Russian “pravda”. They (the Russian military – Ed.) want to make it look like no one here is against (their order – Ed.), that everyone is fine. Those who are not afraid (to express their disagreement – Ed.), then they are searched for in all public pages. Russian soldiers come early in the morning, break down the door, take out of bed and take him away. Who are these people, why did they take him, where, why, on what ground? They have one argument – the automatic weapon. We don’t have it, but the military has, so he is right according to their logic,” said local volunteer Kostyantyn Kosternyy.

Despite intimidation and kidnappings, Kherson residents continue to go out to rallies every day with the hope of showing the world their disagreement with the Russian regime. The military is trying to prevent this by force. Volunteer Kostyantyn Kosternyy says that rallies are dispersed like in Russia, as if according to a manual: first, people’s indignation is jammed with loudspeakers, after which shelling begins.

“They want to make something similar to the DPR and LPR from our region (self-proclaimed and unrecognized by the world “republics” formed in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine – Ed.). The soldiers are using a tear agent. But I can say that it does not help them much. There are no rallies at night, but shots and screams are heard,” said Aleksandra, a resident of Kherson.

This photo depicts Kherson residents on streets protest, chanting “Kherson is Ukraine” and “Ukraine above all”. Despite shots in the air and threats, people still finished their procession.

This picture shows the result of the rally, which was quickly dispersed. The Russian military had been throwing the protesters with grenades and fired with rubber bullets. As a result, several pensioners were injured, but survived.

(Video №1)

These shots show the morning after the March 2 massacre. Volunteers went out to look for the wounded, but found only the bodies of civilians, guys from the territorial defence (team) and Russian military at the side of the road.

“It was at the beginning of the occupation. Now we are hiding and organizing spontaneous rallies in random places so that the soldiers do not have the opportunity to fire at us,” Kostyantyn added.

Viktoriya, a resident of Kherson, says that the military uses weapons and tear gas against some, while others are simply caught and beaten.

 “I don’t know what’s worse: when active hostilities are going on in your city, but you know that they are at least trying to expel the Russian military from here, or when there is complete silence, but Kherson is just teeming with these bastards,” Victoriya added.

 There are no active hostilities in Kherson itself, but, according to the locals, they go beyond the city lines. Olexandra says that she is already used to explosions, because they are heard almost every day, especially at night. According to the girl, the Russians fired from the sky at a shopping and entertainment center and a local factory, windows were broken in some apartments.

Here is the largest shopping center in Kherson on fire due to a Russian shell hitting it. According to Kostyantyn, there was a petting zoo in the shopping center, so people evacuated the animals on pain of death.

 The village of Chornobayivka takes a special blow. There, the Ukrainian military destroyed Russian equipment 12 times during the month of the war, which the occupiers continued to bring in even after the strike.

“We see cruise missiles flying over our heads. We sleep in bathrooms and hallways, expecting this to be our last night. Our peaceful and quiet city, which saw the war for the last time during the Great Patriotic War, has now been turned into Baghdad,” Kostyantyn noted.

 (Video #2)

This video captures the moment a Russian shell hit a residential building.

These two photos show the house of Kostyantyn’s wife’s sister after the shelling by the Russian military. The photo shows how the bullets went through the walls and pierced the paintings tightly. According to him, after the shelling, they found about 15 bullets and fragments from shells in the house.

But if you die during shelling or an air strike – this is a quick death, but if from hunger – painful and lengthy one. Residents of Kherson say that the city is no longer on the verge of war, but inside a humanitarian catastrophe. There are almost no medicines left in pharmacies. You can still buy food, but the choice is not great. Mostly onions, potatoes and beets.

“People from the villages of the region bring what they once grew in their backyard and sell it. But what to buy? According to unofficial data, about a third of the population has left the city. People have nowhere to work and nothing to buy food for,” Kostyantyn says.

According to Victoriya, food prices have almost doubled, and stores that can still work are closed at lunchtime. The girl says that people try to quickly buy what they need in the morning and return home so as not to endanger themselves.

“Huge queues absolutely everywhere where there is food or money. After 15:00 p.m. on the streets you can meet either very brave people or people who have lost their houses after the shelling,” Olexandra says.

The Russian military does not allow Ukrainian humanitarian aid to Kherson. Instead, they distribute their products. Olexandra says that at first the locals refused it, but now many people take it, because there is no way to get other food.

“Why is that? Because Russian soldiers want to show us that Ukraine has forgotten about us, while Russia, on the contrary, takes care of us, brought free bananas,” Kostyantyn explains.

It is also impossible to get out of the occupation openly. According to Maryna (the girl left Kherson before the start of the war), her friends and relatives can’t escape, because the roads towards Mykolaiv are blocked by the Russian military.

“They (the military of the Russian Federation – Ed.) put cars on the queue. The other side is Crimea, so it’s impossible to get out of the city now,” says Maryna.

 Kostyantyn says that his sister was able to leave the city by “secret paths”, after which she went abroad. Now life in the captured Kherson is provided by a team of volunteers who collect donations from all over the world and buy food. After that, they take the food kit to the addresses of people who cannot feed themselves.

“In fact, the whole city now runs on good will of these people and those who are still not silent and somehow resist. We have no police, no other representatives of the order. Mainly, the order in the city rests on the moral qualities of its inhabitants,” notes Kostyantyn.

The volunteer admits that there are people who cooperate with the Russian military because they are trying to benefit from it. But these, according to the man, are still few in the city.