In Kherson, they drink coffee, barbecue and argue in Russian: what can be seen and heard in the liberated territories during the referendum

Posters for the referendum in Kherson

Posters for the referendum in Kherson

A photo: Igor EMELYANOV

If there is a desire to better understand how the liberated territories treat the special operation, Russia and to a referendum on membership (which runs from September 23 to 27. – Ed.), you should not get there by organized groups as part of proven pools.

Kherson, the city of Russian glory, founded by Prince Potemkin of Tauride, is worth arriving from the Russian capital on your own. For example, having waved almost 2,000 kilometers from Moscow behind the wheel – through the Potemkin Crimea.

Yes, it is tedious, but very instructive.


In order to understand why the Russian order is better than the Ukrainian one (forgetting about two Russian troubles in this place), you need to drive on a September night along the Crimean bridge and the Taurida highway, and on a clear day through the “Crimean-Ukrainian” Chongar checkpoint and on the road to Melitopol , then turning to Kakhovka, and then to Kherson.

Two worlds – two Shapiros.

Entrances to the Crimean bridge, he himself, and further Tavrida – this is … the European level! Ukrainian roads (Kherson region), which were under the patronage of the President of Ukraine (which is indicated by the remaining signs on the roadsides) are a washboard mixed with almost smooth glass (the latter is clearly less). On the “goodbye suspension” highway, I met KamAZ, where two local middle-aged drivers, swearing in Russian, changed a punctured tire, but for some reason they explained the way to Kherson to me in Ukrainian. The route was “decorated” with spots from burned-out vehicles on the roadsides and broken gas stations (at 180 kilometers from Chongar to Kherson) there is simply not a single gas station operating.

Route to Kherson

Route to Kherson

A photo: Igor EMELYANOV


The men at one of the dozen checkpoints on the highway from Kakhovka to Kherson and Odessa were calmly rummaging through the Niva engine when I decided to look into their concrete bunker lined with a camouflage net and decorated with a tricolor and the banner of Victory.

– How many are here?

– Seventh month without replacement.

– Why not on the block?

– So there is no orientation to specific machines. And the sabotage groups of crests have recently cleaned up well.

– Where are you from?

– We are miners (they name three mines near Donetsk and ask them not to shoot).

Refueling on the highway to Kherson

Refueling on the highway to Kherson

A photo: Igor EMELYANOV

Refused to take at least one picture and Seryoga from Shakhtersk, who since the end of February guards the bridge and the ferry to Kherson. Ukrainians smashed his house in 2014, he fell under the first mobilization in the DPR, his family lives in a hostel in the Kuban, his son, who was supposed to go to demobilization, was offered a contract…

Seryoga saw close up how the unfortunate Antonovsky bridge that connected Kherson with the “mainland” was hit by Ukrainian troops with American rocket systems “Hymars”, which is why now only crazy people drive along this half-broken concrete crossing.

Why are the Hymars so scary?

– They fall almost silently and break through the concrete, layer by layer. I removed the fragments from the road so that the cars would not gouge the rubber.

Fragments from the “Haymars” flew to the house where the Donetsk fighters stopped – and he was half a kilometer away.

Serega complains that some in Kherson are still intimidated by Ukraine and its saboteur agents.

– He asked to sell salo in the market for rubles (and I was in uniform) – no, they say, only for hryvnias. Changed, came – they say, everything was sold. And the saleswoman went behind the curtain and from there points her hand to her throat – they say, the neighbors are watching me. They can deliver.

Well, what to do with it? Only clean out the Bandera underground and show success at the front that Ukraine will not return to Kherson.

For example, while I was driving around the Kherson region, I saw a lot of ads in Russian on tidied melons “I will sell watermelons for rubles.”

Broken bridge to Kherson

Broken bridge to Kherson

A photo: Igor EMELYANOV


In front of the pontoon crossing, located at the damaged bridge that connects Kherson with the rest of the region, double control. Here the Russian Guards serve together with the military.

Jokes, jokes, along with conversations about life and whether there is truth in the telegram channels of bloggers who write about the war.

While waiting for a ferry across the Dnieper for several hours, I also spoke with the locals. Sasha moved to Kherson from the Voronezh region in the early 1990s and now carries bundles of onions for sale at one of the four Kherson markets.

It’s amazing how a Russian person who has lived for almost 30 years in Ukraine, when he answers without hesitation, now and then gets lost in language. Everything is already mixed up in the head and habits. Complains that many have lost their usual jobs. This is where you go to the markets.

– But in Kherson, they say, there is both light and water, – I object to Sasha. – Even ladies with dogs on the streets …

– That’s how it is … And it seems to rumble far away, but … You don’t leave the car anywhere. There are people with different moods.

party cinema "Ukraine" in Kherson

Party cinema “Ukraine” in Kherson

A photo: Igor EMELYANOV

In Kherson itself, on the endless Perekopskaya street, indeed, ladies walked with Labradors and Pekingese. Two cyclists in very expensive models and decent equipment were pedaling towards the park. The approaching twilight diluted the lighted lanterns. On the terrace of the cinema “Ukraine” opposite the regional administration, tightly boarded up and already overgrown with grass on the steps, young people drank coffee, beer and discussed the latest news in Russian.

For several evening hours on the streets of Kherson, I never heard Ukrainian speech – neither from taxi drivers, nor from sellers, nor from a guard in the parking lot who offered payment: either 30 hryvnias or 50 rubles (such is the national exchange rate here), nor from ladies at the reception in a once luxurious hotel on the banks of the Dnieper, where they said that at 10 pm the TVs go out – “so that there is no color music for the gunners of the Ukrainian artillery.”

Store shelves in Kherson

Store shelves in Kherson

A photo: Igor EMELYANOV

They themselves watched some kind of soap opera on one of the five channels in a completely dark lobby on the ground floor, where very polite guys in bulletproof vests at the entrance checked the bags and asked them to come up with a call sign – so as not to get into the documents every time.

Somewhere far away it was already roaring.

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