Russia says it has completed the withdrawal of its troops from northern Ukraine’s Kherson region. Just a few days ago, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced a “maneuver”. The troops were to be moved from the city of Cherson, which was still occupied by the Russians, to the opposite left bank of the Dnipro River.

The Ukrainian military command said it could neither deny nor confirm information about the withdrawal of Russian occupying forces from Kherson to the left bank of the Dnipro.

Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine Anna Malyar said that the Russian occupiers in the Kherson region would dismantle all cellular base stations and also confiscate Wi-Fi routers to deprive people of any communication.

“In the settlements of the Kherson region, the enemy is setting up artillery positions, directly in residential buildings. He’s doing fortification work that destroys private homes,” Maljar said at a briefing.

Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office, fears that Russia could turn Kherson into a ruin with shelling from the left bank: “The Russian Federation wants to turn Kherson into a ‘city of death’. The Russian military mines everything it can – homes and sewers. The artillery on the left bank wants to lay the city in ruins. This is what the ‘Russian world’ looks like: They came to rob, to celebrate, to kill ‘witnesses’, to finally leave the ruins and run away,” Podoliak said.

Although there has been no stable mobile and internet connection in Kherson for days, Deutsche Welle has managed to communicate with several residents of the city. They all agreed to do so on the condition that they could remain anonymous.

Most of them are scared and desperate because due to the lack of access to the internet, nobody knows exactly what is happening and what to expect.

“We have neither electricity, water, heating nor information. I’m sorry, but I haven’t given any more information since they put a bag over my head,” said a man whose pro-Ukrainian attitudes made him suffer under the Russian occupiers.

A significant part of the people who remained in the city hope for liberation by the Ukrainian army. But even they do not believe that the Russian troops will simply give up the city.

“You only have an internet connection when you are standing on the banks of the Dnipro. The Russians have just approached us and warned us that it is advisable to leave Kherson as soon as possible because they will start shelling the city and turn it into another Mariupol. Everyone has to decide for themselves whether to believe their threats or not. But in the city there are practically no more occupiers,” said Tetyana, a resident of Kherson. In the meantime, all Russian flags have also been removed. “We eagerly await the armed forces of Ukraine,” she added.

According to Tetyana, the so-called “evacuation” of the population organized by the Russian occupation authorities has now been officially completed. However, there are residents of Kherson who are trying to leave the city on their own.

Many of them go to Skadovsk on the left bank of the Dnipro. From there they want to get further to European countries via the Crimean peninsula annexed by the Russian Federation, which is currently very dangerous and almost impossible.

The people who stay in Kherson suffer from a lack of basic things. Roman, who works as an engineer for a municipal utility, says the heating in the city’s high-rise buildings isn’t working. There are gas and power outages.

“But some shops in the Central Market are still open and minibuses continue to run around the city. Unfortunately, the Russians ‘evacuated’ the big city buses, which were purchased before the war, to the left bank,” reports Roman.

“We only have electricity and internet intermittently, it depends on the district,” said DW Serhij, who works as an administrative manager at an educational institution in the city. According to him, Ukrainian television can be received again in high-rise buildings. Even if there are now significantly fewer Russian soldiers in the city, there is a very strong feeling of insecurity among the people.

“It is getting louder and louder in the suburbs of Kherson, the sounds of explosions can be heard again and again. This raises hope that the Ukrainian armed forces will soon liberate the city,” Serhiy said.

Adaptation from the Ukrainian: Markian Ostapchuk

Author: Lilia Rzheutska, Ihor Burdyga

The original of this post “Residents of Cherson fear a second Mariupol” comes from Deutsche Welle.