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Monday, November 14, 2022

Kherson diary: ‘We have more deaths from lack of medication than from bullets’ | Ukraine

As Kherson approaches one month under Russian occupation, residents continue to protest and resist. But as people continue to disappear, Russians open fire on protesters and medicines run low, two female journalists, whose identities we are protecting, say the people of Kherson are coming under increasing strain.

Monday 21 March

“21st, night, Monday …” This is the first line of Anna Akhmatova’s poem. We all know Russian literature very well. But now we cannot admire it. Russian culture cancellation is not just a trend, but a sincere feeling of rejection of everything Russian.

In the morning we are in a good mood, welcoming spring at last. There are about 100 people at the rally. We chat with friends, admitting we don’t really want to run away when we stand like this, together, among brave citizens … We are told we can buy wine nearby. Exactly five minutes after that, the shooting and explosions start, the siren sounds … We know we have to run straight to the museum – the closest place to hide.

The occupiers threw light and tear grenades at the people and started firing. An old man was wounded in his legs, bleeding heavily. The rest were beaten with rifle butts and boots, and three protesters were detained. We are very scared, but not ready to give up so easily yet.

Journalist Oleg Baturin is with us again. Again he writes bold critical posts on social media. We promise to meet each other after the war.

He said he spent more than a week in Russian captivity. Even though he omitted the more terrifying details, it was scary. It’s good that he had a thick, warm jacket – it softened the blows. They were interested in who organised the rallies in Kherson.

The fate of many of the abductees is still unknown. Many village heads and mayors of small towns who refused to cooperate with the occupiers were arrested. It’s especially hard for the ATO members – they are subjected to brutal beatings. Russians say they will spare no one.

At night, for the seventh time, our army hit Russian military hardware in Chernobaevka. The whole world is laughing – with what persistence Russians get there in order to lose everything.

Tuesday 22 March

Gritting our teeth, we went to protest. Unfortunately, we forgot the water. We stood for literally 10 minutes when the shooting started and teargas reached us. The scarf did little to help, we swallowed smoke; tears flowed.

But when the next grenade fell right at my feet – cinematically spinning, I made a jump worthy of a world champion of high jump. I successfully landed next to the office door and a strong guy pulled me inside. I came to my senses, cleared my throat, and decided to rush outside, striving to be back, but my eyes burned badly, so I listened from a distance as the daredevils returned and continued to send Russians to hell. Grenades flew around for a long time.

The Russians defiantly and brutally beat those who were leaving the rally, detaining several men. People decided not to protest openly in the main square.

The deputy of Kherson regional council, Sergei Khlan, wrote on his Facebook account that the invaders plan to introduce their currency, roubles, into circulation in the territory of the temporarily occupied Kherson region from April.

Russian soldiers continue to loot. They robbed another store on the outskirts of Kherson at night.

Children are born in Kherson. The whole city donated to buy a stroller for a newly born little Kherson citizen. But because of the blockade, the city lacks baby food.

Demonstrators running
Demonstrators run from stun grenades and gunfire by Russian troops at a protest against the Russian invasion in Kherson. Photograph: Social Media/Reuters

Wednesday 23 March

Today a director of a local theatre, city deputy and opinion maker, Alexander Kniga, was kidnapped. According to his family, at 7am, nine cars drove up to their house and took him away in an unknown direction. Closer to 10pm, Alexander was returned home. He is all right. He said they demanded he name the organisers of the rallies. The Russians cannot believe that the people of Kherson themselves go to Freedom Square to express their wish to remain Ukrainian.

Today only about 50 people came to the rally. The Russian Guard attacked protesters with batons.

They try to apply a combination of sticks and carrots. In Chernobaevka, the Russians tried to distribute their humanitarian aid. No one got tempted. They left the aid in the village. The locals burned it down. Mighty people!

On the website of Kherson City Hall, you can apply to search for the missing.

Thursday 24 March

Exactly a month ago, at 5am, we were informed that the war had begun. Since 1 March, Kherson has been occupied and time has stopped here.

A new state flag of Ukraine was hung out at the Kherson City Hall today. The old one suffered in battles – the cable on which it was attached was broke, and the flag itself burned out and frayed.

The whole country shares memories of the first day of the war. I have a personal story: on the first day of the war, my son, a doctor, returned heartbroken from the hospital, where they tried to save the lives of our soldiers who fell under the shells. “Mum, they are torn to shreds, they shouted so loudly …” You can’t get used to the horrors of war.

People are leaving the villages that are completely looted. Before that, they release cows and goats so that the cattle will not die on their leads. At home, farmers leave jars with jam and a note in Russian for invaders: “Guess where the poison is?” Occupiers continue to search and loot activists’ homes.

At 5pm I am slowly walking home and see that a Z-car is driving along. I slow down even more – and it slows down, too. It’s tinted glass, so I don’t see who’s having fun there, but this game of nerves triggers adrenaline and we move at that pace for another five minutes until I turn the corner … They could abduct me easily.

Friday 25 March

I left the house and immediately came across the Russian Guard. I walked in the opposite direction, feeling their gaze on my back.

We listened to our news on the radio and suddenly Ukrainian broadcasting disappeared and was completely replaced by Russian.

From April, they want to start teaching the Russian syllabus in schools. They are going to remove Ukrainian fiction and historical literature from libraries. Let’s see how this experiment ends.

Finally, it became clear how people manage to get out of the siege. It’s just a matter of money. Departure price is $800 to $1,500. There is a Telegram channel where people discuss the details of the deal, share stories of checkpoints, expose fraudsters who take money and disappear. There are secret trails and guides.

Those who decide to leave on their own are at great risk. It’s a roulette wheel. A friend dared to leave. Her route was Kherson-Stanislav-Aleksandrovka-Nikolaev-Odesa-Moldova (Chisinau).

The humanitarian disaster continues. According to volunteers, we have more deaths from lack of medication than from bullets.

Saturday 26 March

Kherson residents whose houses were hit by shelling will be supplied with new windows at the expense of the city.

The UN promises to agree on the opening of a humanitarian corridor to Kherson on 26 March to bring in medicines and food.

On the night of 26-27 March, Ukraine switches clocks to summertime. We begin the countdown to our victory.

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