‘We survived:’ Kherson revives after Russian retreat

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dated: 2022-11-19 21:49:03 .

KHERSON, Ukraine — Weekly because southern Ukrainian the Kherson metropolis was liberatedresidents cannot escape the reminder of the terrifying eight months they spent under Russian occupation.

Individuals are missing. Mines are everywhere, closed shops and restaurants, shortage of electricity and water, explosions day and night Battle of Russian and Ukrainian forces simply through the river Dnieper.

You read: ‘We survived:’ Kherson revives after Russian retreat

Despite the difficulties, residents express a mixture of help, optimism and even satisfaction – not least because of their regained freedom to specify themselves in any respect.

“Even breathing became easier. Everything is completely different now,” said Olena Smoliana, a pharmacist whose eyes shone with happiness as she recalled the day Ukrainian troops entered the city.

The inhabitants of Kherson have decreased to around 80,000 compared to the pre-war close to 300,000, but the metropolis is slowly coming back to life. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy walked the streets in triumph on Monday, hailing Russia’s withdrawal – a humiliating defeat for Russian President Vladimir Putin – as the “beginning of the peak of the conflict”.

Individuals are now not afraid to leave home or fear that contact with Russian soldiers could result in prison or a torture cell. They gather in major city squares — adorned with blue and yellow ribbons on their bags and jackets — to charge phones, get water and talk to neighbors and family.

“If we survived the occupation, we will survive this without any problems,” said Yulia Nenadyschuk, 53, who took refuge in an apartment with her husband Oleksandr when the Russian invasion began, but now comes to the city center every day.

The worst deprivation was not having enough freedom to be who you were, which was like being in a “cage,” she said.

“You couldn’t say anything out loud, you couldn’t speak Ukrainian,” said Oleksandr Nenadyschuk, 57. “They were watching us all the time, you couldn’t even go looking.”

Residents of Kherson discuss the “silent terror” that characterized their occupation, which was completely different from the devastating military sieges that transformed various Ukrainian cities – recalling MariupolSievierodonetsk and Lysychansk — in ruins.

FILE – A Ukrainian security guard shows a Ukrainian flag to a resident of Kherson, southern Ukraine, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. Ukraine liberated Kherson a few weeks in the past, and the city’s streets have come to life for the first time in many months. People don’t sit on their properties now, worrying about gathering the Russians. Instead, they gather in the squares of the metropolis to charge their phones, get water and catch a connection to talk to their family. (AP Photograph/Bernat Armangue, File)

Russian forces entered Kherson in the early days of the conflict from near Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014, and quickly took over the city. The city was the only regional capital that Moscow captured after the invasion began on February 2. 24.

People in Kherson mostly speak Russian. At the beginning of the conflict, some residents were tolerant of neighbors who sympathized with Russia, but during the occupation there were tangible changes, said Smoliana, a pharmacist.

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“I’m even ashamed to speak Russian,” she declared. “They oppressed us emotionally and physically.”

Many individuals fled the city, but some simply disappeared.

Khrystyna Yuldasheva, 18, works in a shop across the road from a building used as a detention center by Russian police and where Ukrainian officers are investigating allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

“There is no one here anymore,” she advised the girl who arrived here not so long ago looking for her son.

Various individuals tried to leave, but could not. “We tried to leave 3 times, but they closed all possible exits from the city,” said Tetiana, 37, who could not be identified by final identification.

While individuals were euphoric immediately after the Russian withdrawal, Kherson remains a metropolis under maintenance. Russian troops left the metropolis without basic infrastructure — water, electricity, transportation and communications.

Many retailers, restaurants and homes are still closed, and many individuals are out of a job. Residents were drawn to the city center this past week by truckloads of meals arriving from Ukrainian grocery chains or to take advantage of organized web hotspots.

Russian goods may still be present in small traders who survived the occupation. And the city remains decorated with banners praising Russian propaganda such as “Ukrainians and Russians are one nation,” or encouraging Ukrainians to get a Russian passport.

Some Ukrainians swear loudly after walking through the remnants of the conflict.

The humiliating Russian withdrawal did not end the sounds of conflict in Kherson. About 70% of the wider area of ​​Kherson remains in the hands of Russia. Explosions are often heard, although locals are not always sure whether they are from demining work or Russian and Ukrainian artillery clashes.

FILE – A resident of the area removes a Russian flag from a billboard in the center of Kherson, Ukraine, November 13, 2022. Ukraine liberated Kherson a few weeks ago and the city’s streets are alive for the first time in many months. People don’t sit on their properties now, worrying about gathering the Russians. Instead, they gather in the squares of the metropolis to charge their phones, get water and catch a connection to talk to their family. (AP Photograph/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

On Saturday night, two missiles hit an oil depot in Kherson — the first time a depot in the metropolis has been hit since the Russians withdrew, according to firefighters. Related Press reporters noticed a burning fireplace and thick black smoke at the scene. Firefighters said Russians stole fire engines and ambulances as they retired, leaving local authorities scrambling for assets to respond to the attacks.

“There was a powerful explosion,” said Valentyna Svyderska, who lives nearby. “We were scared, everyone was scared… The result is an army that is in conflict with the civilian population.”

Earlier in the day, individuals were excitedly waiting for the primary practice to arrive in Kherson as it is the first days of the invasion. Mykola Desytniakov, 56, has not seen his wife since she went to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, with their two daughters in June.

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Desytniakov stayed behind to take care of his sick mother and father, he declared, holding a single rose and peering anxiously across the platform.

“She will scold me, she doesn’t like flowers,” he said of his wife. “I’ll give them to her anyway.”

Ludmila Olhouskaya had no one to please, but still went to the station to show her help.

“It’s the beginning of a whole new life,” said the 74-year-old, wiping away tears of satisfaction. “Or a bit, reviving the ex.”

A serious obstacle to bringing individuals back to Kherson and rebuilding efforts may be the removal of any mines placed by the Russians inside workplaces and around vital infrastructure, according to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.

“Demining is needed right here to bring life back,” said Mary Akopian, deputy secretary of the interior. Kherson has a much greater flaw with landmines than any other city that Ukraine has recaptured from the Russians because it has been under occupation for the longest period of time, she said.

Akopian estimated that it would take years to completely remove the mines from the city and the surrounding province. 25 people have already died while clearing residual mines and various explosives.

FILE – A resident of Kherson kisses a Ukrainian soldier in central Kherson, Ukraine, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. Ukraine liberated Kherson a few weeks ago, and the city’s streets came alive for the first time in many months. People don’t sit on their properties now, worrying about gathering the Russians. Instead, they gather in the squares of the metropolis to charge their phones, get water and catch a connection to talk to their family. (AP Photograph/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

Before the retreat, Russian troops looted shops and businesses — and even museums. Ukrainian authorities estimate that 15,000 artifacts were stolen from a museum in the Kherson region and shipped to Crimea, which itself was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

“Maybe there really isn’t anything there,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official at Zelensky’s workplace, wrote after a visit to the Kherson region. “The Russians killed, mined and looted all places and cities.”

Despite the continued fighting nearby, individuals in Kherson really do feel confident enough about their safety to ignore air raid sirens and gather in huge numbers on the streets — to greet each other and thank Ukrainian soldiers.

Like many residents, the Nenadyschuks don’t flinch when they hear explosions in the distance, and hate to complain about another problem they face.

“We’re holding on. We are ready to win. We won not to whine,” said Yulia Nenadyschuk. “The whole of Ukraine,” her husband added, “is now in this state.”

Sam Mednick contributed to this story.

‘We survived:’ Kherson revives after Russian retreat

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