Kherson, a key port city on the Black Sea, in southern Ukraine, was overrun by Russian forces in the early hours of Wednesday, after days of heavy bombardment and shelling. The Ukrainian flag was still hoisted on government buildings, and the mayor of the city, Ihor Kolykhaiev, remained in his post.
On Saturday, Kolykhaiev announced that Russian troops were everywhere, and the city of nearly 300,000 people was without power and water, and in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
Kolykhaiev said that the Russian forces had “settled in” to the city, and showed no signs of leaving.
“We have a lot of people here in need. We have cancer patients. Children who need medication. This medication is not currently getting through to them,” he told CNN, adding that the Russians wanted to send aid, but residents were refusing it.
People living in Kherson under Russian occupation describe days of terror confined to their apartments and houses, fearful to go outside for even basic necessities — their city now a dystopian shell of the home they knew and loved.
Checkpoints manned by Russian troops pepper the city’s streets, five Kherson residents told CNN in recent phone calls. The roads are virtually empty because inhabitants have either fled the fighting, or are staying indoors for fear of encountering Russian soldiers. Grocery stores have been emptied and medicine is running out, residents and officials said.
Russian troops have encircled the city and are shooting at anyone who attempts to leave, according to the residents, including a top local health official who CNN is not naming for security reasons.
On Thursday, Russian forces shot two men at a checkpoint after they attempted to pass, killing one and seriously wounding the other, the official told CNN.
Andriy Abba, who works as a tax lawyer, says he is determined to stay in Kherson regardless of the occupation, for as long as the Ukrainian flag remains flying on government buildings.
“Even if we wanted to evacuate women and children from here, it’s just plain impossible,” he added. “They shoot at anyone who tries to leave.”