A resident of Kherson described the situation in the Russian-occupied city as tense, with people “emotionally exhausted”, streets empty after mid-afternoon and Russian soldiers often seen in civilian clothes.
The woman, reached by CNN through a third party, was speaking shortly before the city’s Russian-appointed administration ordered civilians to leave.
On Saturday, the administration said, “Due to the tense situation on the front, the increased risk of massive bombing of the city and the threat of terrorist attacks, all civilians must immediately leave the city and move to the eastern bank of the Dnipro!”
Authorities had previously advised people to leave; It looks like Saturday’s announcement goes beyond that.
On Friday, a civilian woman from the city of Kherson said: “Unfortunately, many residents of Kherson had to think about leaving the city. Everyone had their own reasons, concerns and fears. But I am 100% sure that no one wanted to go.”
CNN is not identifying the woman for security reasons.
He said that Kherson had become a ghost town. Tens of thousands of residents have left since the Russian occupation began in March.
“At night you can see many buildings, in which at most two or three windows are lit. During the day, you can meet people especially near the market. But at 3-4 in the afternoon the streets are empty and there is no one there”.
On Saturday, a Ukrainian official, Yuriy Sobolevskyi, reported on Telegram that “the scum terrorizing Kherson” had ordered the shutdown of all elevators in the city.
The woman said she was not thinking of leaving. “To be honest, this question makes me angry… This is my land, Kherson is my home. From the first days of the war, we took part in rallies against the occupiers, we fought as best we could. This fight is still going on.’
The woman said that no one had to leave in the last few days. Some people were still trying to reach Vasylivka in the neighboring Zaporizhia region, the only crossing point between Russian and Ukrainian territory still open.
It is not clear whether this situation will change now after the latest instructions from the Russian-appointed authority.
The woman said that the atmosphere in the city was tense. “People are emotionally exhausted, some do not leave their homes to avoid contact with the military. It is impossible to relax here. When I hear a car driving by the house in the evening, I start to get nervous, because a late car is not a good sign.’
He emphasized that most of the leftists understand that the Ukrainian army “will never harm the population and there will be no civilian casualties.”
The woman said that while services continued to operate, people were concerned about adequate power and heating during the winter. “Everyone is afraid of the coming winter.”
He said enough basic food was available. “Kherson, in general, has become a market of its own, people sell what they can. Someone bakes homemade bread, someone makes cakes, someone sells their things in the middle of the street by putting them on a sheet.’
But with the Russians taking over people’s ships, it was uncertain how food shipments from the east coast would last.
The woman said that medical supplies and baby formula were in short supply and very expensive. “Everything imported now is medicine from the Russian Federation. Medicines are sold on the street, simply from the car or some people privately.”
There were always long lines at pharmacies and things like antibiotics were in short supply.
He was not sure if the number of Russian soldiers in the city of Kherson had increased or decreased, but he noticed a growing contingent of Chechen fighters in the city.
“I can’t say that there are fewer Russian soldiers, they just took off their military uniforms and put on civilian clothes. Some walk the streets in civilian clothes but with a machine gun.’
He said he welcomed the sound of the bombings.
“The residents of Kherson are frightened by the silence. I remember that it was quiet for a couple of days in the summer, and it seemed to everyone that Ukraine had forgotten about us.
“You can constantly hear how the Armed Forces of Ukraine are shelling the positions of the occupiers. You can’t even imagine how happy the locals are about that,” he said.
“Periodic automatic weapons can be heard in various parts of the city, but it is not known who is having a fire.”
Ukrainian forces are still far from the city of Kherson, but have entered other parts of the region. Russian forces appear to be entrenched and defending their positions as they launch missile strikes against the Ukrainian advance. Local Russian-appointed officials insist Moscow’s forces intend to defend the region, while Ukrainian officials say up to 45 Russian battalion tactical groups may now be stationed west of the Dnipro.
But Ukrainian officials say that in some parts of Kherson, such as Beryslav, occupation authorities have ceased operations in recent days. “Collaborators who cooperated with the Russian occupiers continue to leave the city with their families and property,” the Ukrainian military said on Friday.
In recent days, Ukrainians have hit a newly installed pontoon under the Antonivskyi Bridge near the city of Kherson. Local authorities said four people were killed.