Kherson is Ukraine!

Reports of Harsh and Oppressive Life Under Russian Occupation in Kherson

This letter from a 20-some-year-old woman in Kherson we will call Tanya (not her real name) paints a bleak picture of just how harsh and fearful life had become in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson in southern Ukraine. An important Ukrainian port on the Black Sea with a pre-invasion population of over 280,000, Kherson was the first major Ukrainian city to fall to the Russian onslaught. This description of life in Kherson under Russian occupation was passed on to Russi Leaks through Tanya’s friend “Valeria”. Tanya was unable to share her story with us directly since it would have potentially exposed her to Russian retaliation. This letter offers a glimpse into what life is like inside this Russian-occupied Ukrainian port city.

“Kherson is Ukraine” by Ukrainian artist Mariia Loniuk

From Tanya: “People have been saying in certain places that it is “calm in Kherson.” Are you serious? At first I was filled with anger and resentment at these words, but then I realized that this false narrative about the state of things in Kherson was formed in their minds because the media almost never reports on the real situation in Kherson. But the people of Kherson cannot scream about what is really happening themselves. Their screams are restrained by Russian soldiers that have filled the city.

It’s dangerous in Kherson! Leaving the house in Kherson you need to wipe your phone, or it is better to leave it at home. They check the phones of civilians to find out the location of the Ukrainian army. They read personal correspondence to find out people’s attitudes towards them. If you are against the Russians, you may have problems.

Some Telegram Texts Between “Tanya” in Kherson and Valeria
-How are you?
-I’m fine. They go into houses, they check everything, I’m thinking where should I hide my phone.
-Are the Orcs going into? Can you upload everything to the cloud and delete it from the phone?
-Checker is not dumb, he’ll find everywhere. I have a second phone, but I think where I should hide this one.
-They have been walking and checking for a long time, but they have come to our streets now.

People leave their homes in order to get basic necessities at the craziest of prices standing in kilometer-long queues: a dozen eggs – 100 UAH (normally 35 UAH), sugar for 120 UAH for 1 kg, cigarettes for 150 UAH (normally 70 UAH), gasoline (from the Crimea) 75 UAH for 1 liter. There was nothing left in the stores but empty shelves. There are simply no medications at all. Now the market is flooded with Crimean products and overdue humanitarian aid of the occupiers which they brought to make propaganda videos showing the “saving” of Ukrainians to show it on their Russian propaganda channels. But how can people buy these products if there is no work or money?

Russian invaders are just everywhere. They break into offices and apartments. They can come to any house and take everything they like. Most of the diesel cars were seized on the first day. Therefore, Kherson residents hid their cars and moved around the city by public transport or on foot, but they must do it quickly and only from 8 am until lunch while it is safe. After 16:00 the city dies out. People cover the windows of apartments with rags so that no light can be seen to avoid the arrival of uninvited guests.

“It is no longer possible to go to rallies, shots in the legs and missing activists have become “normal”. People don’t sleep at night. They just listen to the “arrival of a shell in Chernobaivka”, then the launch of a shell on Mykolaiv and so on until 5 in the morning, and then all over again, day after day.”

How “calm” is it really here in Kherson? That’s a matter of opinion, everyone can decide for themselves. But for me, I cannot stand how they are destroying my city, how people are disappearing.”