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How the city of Kherson lives weeks after the liberation

On November 11, when the Ukrainian army pulled Russians out of the city, inhabitants could breathe a sigh of relief. It meant there was no longer a need to hide in their houses and basements in fear of being detained, tortured, deported, and even killed.

Photo: Serhii Korovayny / De Standaart

Locals enjoy freedom, but eight months of occupation left wounds on the city. And Russia is not going to leave them in peace now either.

Essential goods and services are returning

Before retreating, Russian forces destroyed the power grid, water supply, and central heating. As they looted the supermarkets and pharmacies, civilians were left without decent food, medicine, and drinking water.

Read more: The monologue of Olena who volunteered in the city when it was occupied.

Following the army, the Ukrainian public services returned to the city. Postal services, banks and supermarkets resumed their work. The residents could finally receive humanitarian aid and pensions that were delayed due to the occupation.

The Points of Invincibility were opened around the city. Locals can come there to find electricity, mobile connection, and the Internet, as well as get warm and receive a first-aid kit for free.

Municipal and emergency services work to meet the basic needs of civilians. As of November 29, energy supply has been restored for half of the city.

On November 19, the first train from Kyiv arrived to Kherson since the liberation. Now the railway connection allow civilians to return home or evacuate in search for a safer place to endure this winter. Among the evacuated are patients of the local hospital and children.

Photo: Dmytro Larin / Ukrainska Pravda

Russians leave only destruction after them

What makes the work of emergency services even harder is mass mining. Russians left an enormous amount of mines and unexploded ordnance around the region. Some of the premises had been mined so tightly that the only way to defuse the explosives was to blow up the entire building. It was the case for the Main Police Department of the Kherson region.

Nine torture chambers were revealed in the Kherson region, four of them — in the city. Russian forces unlawfully detained people and subjected them to physical and psychological violence. There is evidence of torture with electric shock and incandescent lamps. 432 bodies have been discovered so far.

Photo: Pete Kiehart for NPR

The local museums had significant losses: Russian military stole the most valuable artworks from the cultural institutions. In the Kherson region alone, up to 15,000 works have been plundered.

Russia did not stop terrorizing Kherson civilians even after retreating. Russian forces keep on shelling the Kherson region several dozens times a day. Just on November 24, 10 people were killed and 54 were injured.

Photo: Bernat Armangue / AP Photo