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Kherson: Inside the city liberated from the Russians

  • Published
    2 days ago

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Image source, Kathy Long/BBC

On Friday, Ukrainian troops entered Kherson for the first time since Russia began its occupation of the city in March.

Moscow had – just over a month ago – proclaimed it as Russia’s administrative capital for the Kherson region, following the illegal annexation of four regions in September.

At the time, Russia claimed almost all residents backed the move. But, having reached the liberated southern city, the BBC finds a community breathing a sigh of relief following months of terror at the hands of the occupying force, proud to once again wave their Ukrainian flags openly.

Short presentational grey line

A trumpeter played Ukraine’s national anthem as he stood on a plinth outside the main government offices in the central square in Kherson. Individuals and then groups joined in with the words.

In a big crowd, many were crying. Ukrainian flags are everywhere, on poles, dangling from cars, painted on faces. Even dogs have small flags tucked into their collars.

Reunions – some backslapping and cheery, others tearful – are everywhere as people run into old friends they haven’t seen for months.

A middle aged man called Yuri told how he spent 200 days in his house, keeping out of the way of Russians.

Tatiana and another woman stand in Kherson

Image source, Kathy Long/BBC

A market trader called Tatiana said a Sunday without Russians was the best Sunday there could be.

But then she took out her phone and showed images of her 20-something son after he was held by the Russians and beaten for nine days. When he was released from hospital, he managed to escape and leave Ukraine. Tatiana said they burnt all his documents and deleted all his photos.

The main emotions here seem to be patriotism and relief – as well as caution and some trepidation about what happens next.

Celebrations in the centre of Kherson

Image source, Kathy Long/BBC

The people of Kherson have been too close to the Russian military for too long to fool themselves about the hardships ahead.

From time to time, distant explosions come in from the edge of town. Some of it is shelling. The rest might be the sound of Ukranian engineers blowing up mines and booby traps left by the Russians.

At the market, some traders muttered furiously about collaborators, quietly pointing out some who they said had helped the Russians. People here want justice. They’re waiting for police and investigators to reach Kherson and start work.

But as one resident notes, if there’s no justice, people here might take the law into their own hands.


War in Ukraine: More coverage


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