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Calls for evacuation, removal of monuments and half-empty store shelves: how Kherson is preparing for the Ukrainian invasion

Military correspondent Alexander Kots said that monuments to Russian commanders were being taken out of Kherson

Military correspondent Alexander Kots said that monuments to Russian commanders were being taken out of Kherson

A photo: Alexander KOTS

ROUTE THROUGH THE NEW TERRITORIES OF RUSSIA

This trip also had an applied purpose. Is it possible to get from one Russian region through several republics and regions at once to another. And it’s not about the Moscow-Yalta trip. I started in Belgorod, where I left the special operation zone to repair the car and understand that the Belgorod region has become as much an integral part of the NVO as the Donbass.

Stop in Lugansk, then in Donetsk.

I left the capital of the DPR the next morning to the roar of artillery and the noise of garden blowers, which “blow” the fallen leaves from the sidewalks onto the lawns. War is war, and, as my army platoon commander used to say, “order must be in the unit.”

Throw on Mariupol along the highway, which was the front line for 8 years. This can be seen today from rusty gas stations overgrown with weeds, and already patched up holes in the asphalt. And here it is – the entrance to the Zaporozhye region. Through an ordinary checkpoint, where a queue of trucks and cars with Russian numbers connects the mainland with the “new territories”. There are no more borders. But martial law provides for the verification of documents and cargo.

The first impression is that Kherson is very similar to Donetsk.  Not on the outside, but on the feel.

The first impression is that Kherson is very similar to Donetsk. Not on the outside, but on the feel.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

My route ran through the entire Zaporozhye region. Russia has already managed to “treacherously break in” here, leaving behind an almost perfect autobahn, on which my spare wheel, which reacts to the slightest bump, has stopped rattling. Refueling ended exactly in front of the Kherson region. Along with the autobahn. The last gas station playfully blinked its neon lights, urging them to stop. But I decided that a 100-liter reserve in canisters in the trunk, plus hope for the best, is not a reason to fill half a tank 140 km from the target. In the end, I did not know that this was the last gas station, after which the perfect canvas was replaced by a washboard. And the faceless roadside was “painted” with burnt Ukrainian equipment.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DNIEPER

“Just don’t drive on the bridge,” the Rosgvardeytsy advised at the entrance to the Dnieper.

At one point of the Antonovsky Bridge, Kyiv managed to plant more than 50 high-precision American missiles, disrupting communication between the two banks. And to get to the other side, now you have to stand in line at the ferry crossing. 10 minutes of “water excursion”, and I enter Kherson.

There are not very many people on the streets - more than 70 thousand people have left here in recent days.

There are not very many people on the streets – more than 70 thousand people have left here in recent days.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

The first impression is that it is very similar to Donetsk. Not on the outside, but on the feel.

Somewhere in the distance, explosions hoot, and an old trolleybus serenely passes by in the opposite direction. There are not very many people on the streets – more than 70 thousand people have left here in recent days. But those who remain evoke the already familiar feeling of amazement.

The scale of the calls for evacuation and their importunity clearly hint that in the coming days in that city there will be no time for the usual peaceful routine.

The scale of the calls for evacuation and their importunity clearly hint that in the coming days in that city there will be no time for the usual peaceful routine.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

Well, what else needs to happen so that you still take your children and the elderly under your arms and urgently go to the safe zone? Moreover, all the possibilities for this have been created. There are options for temporary accommodation on the left bank, there are subsidies for the purchase of housing in other regions of Russia. The scale of the calls for evacuation and their importunity clearly hint that in the coming days in that city there will be no time for the usual peaceful routine.

But on the right bank, it seems, they are not yet fully aware of the risks that threaten Kherson in the coming days.

Yes, at first glance the shelves are filled with goods.  But in the dairy department it is clearly empty, a meager assortment of sausages ...

Yes, at first glance the shelves are filled with goods. But in the dairy department it is clearly empty, a meager assortment of sausages …

A photo: Alexander KOTS

“WAIT” AND STORE SHELVES

I saw the first harbingers of trouble immediately, at the entrance to the supermarket. The shelves in the pharmacy kiosk were half empty. Against the backdrop of Ukrainian shelling, the supply of goods from the left bank was seriously disrupted. The day before, the Minister of Defense of Ukraine happily announced that he was controlling all crossings across the Dnieper with artillery fire. And although this is not entirely true, but the consequences of this are felt. Starting with drugs and ending with food. Yes, at first glance the shelves are filled with goods. But in the dairy department it is clearly empty, a meager assortment of sausages …

And yet there is no reason for optimism. Shops and cafes are gradually closing in the city. Transport stops working. The gradual deprivation of the usual comforts creates the illusion of their temporality. I remember this from Slavyansk, Donetsk, Lugansk… Many later regretted that they had not left on time and taken their families away.

Shops and cafes are gradually closing in the city.  Transport stops working.

Shops and cafes are gradually closing in the city. Transport stops working.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

Although from Kherson, after all, most of the pro-Russian residents left. Therefore, the concentration, as they say here, of “waiters” (people waiting for the return of Ukrainian power) has increased. It is expressed, for example, in the overvaluation of the hryvnia against the ruble. Or completely refusing to accept Russian currency. My colleague, who has been working in the Kherson region for the past 8 months, counted several dozen such points. This is not an indicator of political preferences – pure economics. It just seemed to someone that now the ruble mass will begin to sag. In the same way, during the Russian offensive, traders preferred the promising ruble. The commandant’s office, of course, is now trying to take action. But she has enough worries without it.

Nevertheless, most of the pro-Russian residents left Kherson.

Nevertheless, most of the pro-Russian residents left Kherson.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

POTEMKIN WILL RETURN HERE

In recent days, monuments to Russian commanders have been removed from Kherson, which could be shelled during the alleged Ukrainian offensive. The monuments of Fyodor Ushakov, Alexander Suvorov were already moved from the city to the left bank … Among the sights of Kherson was the monument to Grigory Potemkin, the Russian field marshal, who actually annexed Crimea and Novorossia to the Russian Empire. By decree of Catherine the Great, Grand Duke Potemkin-Tauride was buried in Kherson.

In recent days, monuments to Russian commanders have been removed from Kherson, which could be shelled during the alleged Ukrainian offensive.

In recent days, monuments to Russian commanders have been removed from Kherson, which could be shelled during the alleged Ukrainian offensive.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

– Here is his tomb, – Father Peter, rector of the Catherine’s Cathedral of Kherson, shows me the tombstone.

The monuments of Fyodor Ushakov, Alexander Suvorov have already been moved from the city to the left bank ...

The monuments of Fyodor Ushakov, Alexander Suvorov have already been moved from the city to the left bank …

A photo: Alexander KOTS

Together with him we raise heavy stones hiding the burial place of the field marshal. Below them is a narrow passage to the crypt, in which until recently the coffin of the Prince stood. After it became clear that Kyiv would not stand on ceremony, the coffin with his ashes, like the monument, was evacuated from the city by ferry.

By decree of Catherine the Great, Grand Duke Potemkin-Tauride was buried in Kherson.

By decree of Catherine the Great, Grand Duke Potemkin-Tauride was buried in Kherson.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

But he will definitely come back here. After all, Kherson was founded by Potemkin-Tavrichesky. Like Sevastopol, and Nikolaev, and Dnepropetrovsk (Ekaterinoslav) …

After it became clear that Kyiv would not stand on ceremony, the coffin with the ashes of Potemkin, like the monument, was evacuated from the city by ferry.

After it became clear that Kyiv would not stand on ceremony, the coffin with the ashes of Potemkin, like the monument, was evacuated from the city by ferry.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

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