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After being released, Kherson lives a new reality

When Ukraine regained the city of Kherson of the Russian occupiers nearly a month ago, it was a moment of glory and pride, heralded as the beginning of the end of the war, but the hardships for the city’s residents are far from over.

Though freed from Russian control, the southern Ukrainian city and its environs are still reeling from nearly nine months of occupation and the deadly proximity of Russian forces now stationed across the Dnieper River.

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Taken early in the war in March, parts of the Kherson region were under Russian control until November, when the Ukrainians swept through the area and retook control of the main city — the namesake Kherson, population 200,000 before the war. war—and other areas controlled by Russian troops.

The liberation came weeks after Russia illegally annexed Kherson and three other regions after sham referendums, but the Russians dug in across the Dnieper River, with Kherson within their artillery range.

Since then, almost daily attacks and power and water cuts have become the new reality. In the cold, people line up to receive rations of food or water. They mourn their dead and cover the bodies of the victims of the new attacks, which lie in pools of blood. Some draw water from the Dnieper River, risking being hit by Russian bullets fired from the other bank.

Unlike the villages and towns directly on the battlefront, Kherson appeared to be relatively unscathed. When they retook control of the city in mid-November, the Ukrainian authorities organized concerts and the city rejoiced, momentarily forgetting about the war. Residents greeted the arriving troops like heroes and wrapped themselves in Ukrainian flags that the soldiers autographed. They all radiated pride and happiness.

Barely a few weeks later, the sirens give away the ambulances that transport the wounded in the last cannonades. Evidence of possible atrocities committed by the Russian occupiers has emerged, with accounts of alleged torture. Faced with frequent blackouts, people line up to recharge their phones at community electricity points in municipal parks. At night, residents with flashlights search through the rubble of their bombed-out homes.

Some can’t take it. They pack their belongings in their cars, take their pets and go to safer places, hoping that the war will soon end and they can return home.

Those who stay are defiant and prepared to endure hardship. Children play at abandoned checkpoints, waving Ukrainian flags despite nearby explosions. Some residents seek to shame those they claim to have been Russian collaborators by handcuffing them in public.

Elsewhere, a framed photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin lies on the floor, its glass broken.

Source: Elcomercio

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