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The Battle for Kherson: A Story of Liberation and Devastation

With love from sweet and free Kherson

The Battle for Kherson: A Story of Liberation and Devastation

Kherson is the only city of regional significance that the Russians captured during the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in the spring of 2022. However, the Ukrainian armed forces liberated it from the occupiers in the autumn of the same year. Despite the joy of de-occupation and reunion, the trials for the people of Kherson continue.

After the Russians withdrew from the city, they constantly shelled it, and in June 2023, they caused a technological catastrophe by blowing up the Novokakhovska Dam and flooding dozens of settlements along the Dnipro River, including Kherson. The scale of this tragedy is yet to be assessed. As of today, it is known that more than three and a half thousand houses in 48 settlements have been flooded in the Kherson region, with 14 of them located in the temporarily occupied Left Bank. Nearly two and a half thousand people have been evacuated from the territory under Ukrainian control. Many will no longer be able to return to their homes because they no longer exist.

Before the war, approximately 300,000 people lived in Kherson. In 2023, less than 20% of the population remained in the city. Mostly, these were elderly people, individuals with limited mobility, socially vulnerable individuals, and volunteers. Kherson had a thriving economy and a bustling river port, playing a significant role in Ukraine’s industrial and agricultural sectors. It was particularly famous for its watermelon farming.

A cherished tradition in Kherson involved a famous barge loaded with Kherson watermelons, which would depart from Kherson to Kyiv along the Dnipro River every summer. The journey took several days, and the people of Kyiv always eagerly awaited the arrival of this delicious cargo. Several hundred tons of watermelons were unloaded at the dock in the capital region and distributed to retail networks. Notably, this barge belonged to the large Ukrainian grain trading company “Nibulon,” whose owner, 74-year-old Oleksiy Vadatursky, along with his wife, tragically died from a Russian missile at their home in Mykolaiv in the summer of 2022.

Russian Occupation and Ukrainian Liberation

When the Russians arrived in Kherson, residents took to the streets to peacefully protest against the invasion. At one point, they outnumbered the Russian soldiers. Moscow responded by sending riot police to crack down on the dissent forcefully. Since then, hundreds, if not thousands, of people, have been detained in southern Ukraine. Merely not openly supporting Russia was enough to be suspected and questioned. Ukrainian and international human rights organizations have documented numerous human rights violations. Local businesses suffered, infrastructure was damaged, and essential services became scarce. The occupation disrupted the daily lives of Kherson’s inhabitants, leading to heightened tensions and uncertainty about the future.

Despite the overwhelming odds, the Ukrainian forces launched a counter-offensive to free Kherson from Russian occupation. The bravery and determination of Ukrainian soldiers, along with the support of local resistance groups, eventually led to the city’s liberation.

Kherson has given Ukrainians a glimpse of victory and a sense that previously considered impossible tasks can be accomplished. Our people have faced difficult trials, but we believe in the defenders of Ukraine. We help each other and strive in every way possible to bring victory and peace.

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