Civilians have begun to leave Kherson fearing a major urban battle between the occupying Russian garrison and an approaching Ukrainian counter-offensive.
The exodus came as posters of the US-supplied Himars weapons system appeared on city streets, urging Russian soldiers to leave the city.
“No one in Kherson feels safe,” said Alexander Smurikov, a 22-year-old who left with his mother and younger sisters on Wednesday. “There was a base 500m from my house. she [Russian soldiers] would walk around smoking our cigarettes and spitting. The Russians are marching like it’s their country, but I bet it won’t be long. Ukraine is coming back.
“I’m exhausted and afraid for my father, he stayed at home with us. There is no connection to him and my grandparents. It’s dangerous to drive through Ukraine, but we had to leave before the fighting got closer.”
Liza, a 26-year-old who remains in town, said “no one is happy” with the occupation and that locals are struggling with serious shortages of cash and cell phone coverage.
“I can’t say the city is alive. Most survive. There are several problems in the city now. Banks have practically stopped working. And in the end, these are loud explosions, especially at night. There are many elderly people and children in the city. They’re the most afraid,” she said. Nonetheless, she stressed, there is optimism about the approach of the Ukrainian army.
“I’m really glad that Ukrainian soldiers are around. It is very scary that there could be damage and casualties. But I would very much like to see our wonderful soldiers in our hometown as soon as possible,” she said.
“Our people have put up tremendous resistance since the first days of the military invasion. Of course there is no way to go to rallies now, but we keep fighting every day.”
Ukraine began urging civilians to leave Kherson earlier this month, warning of a “major battle” to retake the city. Yuri Sobolevsky, a deputy chairman of the Kherson regional council, has urged those unable to walk to prepare shelter and stock up on water and food.
The city has seen a flurry of leaflets and anti-occupation posters on its walls since its capture in March.
The latest appearance, written in Russian and accompanied by a picture of a rocket launcher, read: “Occupiers go now – or this Himars will help you.”
A second read: ‘The Himars can’t help? Then it will be the partisans.”
Serhiy Khlan, a lawmaker in exile from Kherson, said the “resistance movement” was behind the bombing of a police car in the city on Wednesday.
Another official said the attack killed a police officer.
It came a month after another car bomb killed Dmytro Savluchenko, a pro-Russian youth activist whom the Russians had made head of the local Agency for Families, Youth and Sports. He was the first casualty in a series of bombings against collaborators that began in May. For weeks Ukraine has been preparing a counter-offensive to retake Cherson, where Russia maintains its only bridgehead on the west bank of the Dnieper.
On Wednesday, it fired missiles at the Antonovsky road bridge across the river, which the Russian west bank garrison relies on for vital supplies.
Mr Khlan said yesterday the attack had rendered the road bridge completely unusable.
The Russians stopped using a nearby railway bridge after Himars recently attacked ammunition depots at railway heads, he said. The last remaining bridge under Russian control is the road over a dam at Nova Khakova, 50 km upstream.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in Kherson, said yesterday that a ferry is already operating at the Antonovsky Bridge site.
Videos on Telegram showed makeshift vehicles, consisting of military amphibious vehicles, towing sections of a pontoon bridge.
Meanwhile, the US has offered to release a convicted Russian arms dealer known as the “Dealer of Death” in a prisoner swap for an American basketball star and a former US Marine.
Viktor Bout has been cast as one of the most prolific arms dealers in the world for using his post-Soviet “air freight business” as an excuse to sell arms to militants around the world.
The smuggler was played by Nicholas Cage in the Hollywood film Lord of Warinspired by the stories of several real life arms dealers.
He would be swapped for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, according to plans released by Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, to put pressure on Russia. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/residents-of-russian-occupied-kherson-told-to-prepare-for-huge-ukraine-counter-attack-41875344.html Residents of Russian-occupied Kherson urged to prepare for a powerful counterattack by Ukraine