Lada Koslovska, like most Kherson residents, was thrilled when Ukrainian troops liberated the city. But the situation in the city is still grim, and now she and her child are leaving.
Koslovska, 47, said Russian shelling of the city with a pre-war population of 280,000, from the other side of the Dnipro River, is the main reason she and her son will close up their home and become refugees.
“Psychologically we were ready. It seemed that we could survive, but it is very scary. What the Russians cannot keep, they will try to destroy. This is one of the reasons,” said in responses to text questions sent Koslovska by Kyiv Post.
Russian troops captured by Russian Federation (RF) forces on Mar. 2 with minimal fighting, and abandoned it on Nov 11 without a shot. Ukrainian reconnaissance troops entered the city the next day, and within a week Russian artillery across the river was hammering Kherson homes and business, as local authorities have struggled to deliver food, electricity and heat.
At most locations in the city, there is “no electricity, no water (and) almost no telephone connection,” said volunteer Oleska Kotoslawksy, in a text message from Kherson to Kyiv Post.
Some strikes were with banned cluster munitions, said Oleksandr Leshchenko, a Kherson city spokesman, in statement. Kherson’s Dnipro River shore, still an important source of water for residents still without working faucets in their homes, is unsafe to approach, because of Russian forces able to fire from the other side of the river, a Kherson city police warning said.
Bombardment of Kherson’s riverside and inland suburbs has, news reports said, intensified in recent weeks.
On 24 Nov. a salvo of missiles or artillery rockets hit an apartment in Kherson’s Tavrisky district, blowing three-meter wide holes in an apartment building. Seven people were killed and at least 21 were injured, a Friday statement from the regional defense command said. From 20 to 24 Nov. Russian shells or rockets struck 45 times in or around Kherson city, said Halyna Luhova, Kherson regional administration spokeswoman, in a statement.
“They (Russian artillery) can reach anywhere: in the suburbs and areas closer to the river. From mortars, MLRS, and tanks,” Koslovska said. “People say Russians set up a mortar close to the river and fire and then run. They are hiding in Oleshky and Gola Prystan (on the left bank of the Dnipro River) inside the residential districts.”
Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, in Wednesday television comments said the Kremlin is likely to target cities like Kherson in future even more, because the Russian army is running out of long-range, precision-guided cruise missiles, but still has thousands of S-300 missiles – a weapon normally used to shoot at airplanes, but able to hit a ground target at medium ranges of 180-360 km. Kherson is in that range envelope and will almost certainly be hit again and again, he predicted.
“We see that they (the Russian army) do not particularly strive for accuracy. In many cases, a miss of a kilometer is normal and sufficient (accuracy) to hit…civilian houses and hospitals,” Yusov said.
“When we were under occupation, we adapted, we were partisans, but we knew for sure when the explosions happened, it was ours, and we were not afraid…(T)he Ukrainian army is very accurate, and when our army was firing at Russians (in Kherson) even the windows in the houses nearby were intact. But now – it is a matter of luck,” Koslovksa said.
Even without Russian bombardment, much of Kherson’s power grid, communications, logistics chains and civilian infrastructure are increasingly under pressure, as winter approaches and local authorities have struggled to deliver sufficient food and electricity for families like to survive.
According to news reports, only a few bank terminals operate in the entire city, phone communications are generally limited to text and voice, and the closest reliable fuel stations are outside Kherson on the Mykolaiv highway.
Transformer stations and power line rights-of-way for the Kherson, now at times under fire by Russian missiles fired from across the Dnipro River, were thickly mined by departing Russian troops, said
Volodymyr Kudriatsky, a spokesman for the state energy company Ukrenergo, according to an UNIAN news agency report. The mines and booby traps are so dense at some locations, he said, that demining a square meter of power grid territory can last an hour.
Generators, batteries and flashlights are at a premium, and buying one is often impossible, journalist Konstantyn Ryzhenko wrote in his Telegram channel.
Regional authorities were handing out packaged supplies to residents across the city, said Yaroslav Yanushevych, a Kherson city spokesman. Volunteer groups, some from afar, were moving to fill gaps. Ihor Kukobko, head of the NGO Iskra Dobra, said his group started delivering assistance to Kherson residents three days after the Russians left. The biggest demand at present, he said, is long-storage foods like potatoes and cabbages, candles and batteries, and wood-fired stoves.
Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the Kherson regional administration, in comments to the state-run Suspinske information platform said the national government has designated Kherson a front-line city and will transport citizens wanting to evacuate at government cost, by bus or by train.
Koslovska‘s plan is to get out of the city, move in with her son, and help out people worse off than herself.
“I plan to see the older son and take the younger child to a safer place. Because Kherson is a front-line city. If there were only problems with electricity and water, it wouldn’t be so scary, but shelling knocks me off track,” she said. “I want the child to spend a little while in a safer place. And secondly – as soon as I get to a place where I can participate, I will find a volunteer center.”
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