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Life Under Occupation: Kherson Residents Report Struggles

In our first newsletter, Vlad shares the news from Ukraine you might have missed...

While Putin has prioritised distributing Russian passports to the residents of Kherson and Zaporizhzha, areas that have been held for three months by Russia, the local population continue to struggle under the occupation. Ukrainian Channel 24 recently released an interview with a young woman in Kherson, a regional capital and the biggest town seized by the Russian invaders. Sofia, the interviewee, reports that no campaigning to adopt Russian citizenship has been observed in Kherson so far, despite Putin’s decree. It remains unclear whether the city’s new de-facto authorities are avoiding Moscow’s instructions due to the fear of backlash, or merely waiting for final orders from the Kremlin.

Yet it is not passports, but the simplest aspects of everyday life that are currently plaguing residents of Kherson. One of the biggest disruptions is the limited ability to shop for the simplest food items, as Russia forcibly introduced rubles and has limited the exchange of Ukrainian currency, hryvnia, making the population reliant on “humanitarian aid” - Russian handouts - with only some willing to accept them.

Sofia’s testimony describes a city enveloped in fear, where protests and demonstrations against the occupation, initially powerful and inspirational, have subsided due to the threat of persecution or abduction.

According to Sofia, some locals lose hope or even blame Ukraine for “surrendering” Kherson, but others accept the military situation, understanding the Ukrainian army’s limited capacity in the South at the beginning of the war, and remain hopeful about the prospects of future liberation. When asked what she would tell the world’s leaders if given a chance, Sofia replies, “Save us. Just save us. It’s impossible to endure this, because [the occupation] exhausts you emotionally, takes away your strength, like a leech. Fear erodes everything.”

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