Free for a month, Kherson still toils to clear Russian traps

KHERSON: A hand grenade was inserted into a ‘s detergent tray Kherson household washing machine. A sign maliciously directs passersby toward a deadly minefield. One police station was said to have a torture room but was so entrapped that demining teams couldn’t even start looking for evidence.
Sunday marked exactly one month since Russian troops withdrew from Kherson and the surrounding area after eight months of occupation, sparking jubilation across the country. Ukraine. But life in the southern city is still far from normal.
The departing Russians left behind all sorts of ugly surprises, and their artillery continued to attack the city from newly dug positions across the front. River Dnieper. The regional government said Saturday that shelling over the past month has killed 41 people, including a child, in Kherson and hospitalized 96 people.
Citizens’ access to electricity still comes and goes, although much of the water is connected and heating in homes has only recently been restored — and only about 70-80% of the city — after the Russians let it go. blew up a huge central heating station last month that served much of the city.
For the authorities and the people, sifting through the countless headaches and dangers left by the Russians, and preparing for new dangers, is a daily business.
On Friday alone, according to the local branch of the Suspilne public broadcaster, Russian forces shelled the area 68 times with mortars, artillery, tanks and missiles. Meanwhile, in the last month, a total of 5,500 people have boarded evacuation trains, and crews have cleared 190 kilometers (115 miles) of roads, Suspilne reported.
When the relief trucks arrived a month ago, desperate and war-weary residents flocked to the central Svoboda (Freedom) Square to get food and necessities. But after Russia’s strike on the square when a line of people lined up to get into the bank in late November, such mass gatherings became less common and aid was distributed from dispensaries. Smaller, more discreet.
Area officials say about 80% of Kherson’s pre-war population, some 320,000, fled after the Russians moved in, days after their invasion began on February 24. With about 60,000-70,000 remaining residents, the city now feels like a ghost town. Those who stayed mostly stayed at home because they were cautious when going out.
“Life is returning to normal, but there is a lot of shelling,” he said. Valentine Kytaiska56 years old, lives in a nearby village Chornobaivka. She lamented every night, “Bam! Boom!” and worrying uncertainty about where Russian weapons could land.
Normal is a relative term for a country at war. It is unknown whether what Russia insists on calling a “special military operation” will end in days, weeks, months or even years.
In the meantime, diligent efforts continue to establish a better sense of normal, such as clearing up messes and landmines left by the Russians, during harsh winter weather.
“The difficulty is simple, it’s the weather conditions,” said a member of the army’s demining team, who was nicknamed the guerrilla. Tekhnik. He said some of their equipment simply doesn’t work in icy conditions “because the ground is frozen like concrete”.
Deploying more teams can help ease the heavy workload, he said. “To give you an idea, over the course of a month of work, we found and removed several tons of landmines,” said Tekhnik, adding that they were only focused on about 10 square kilometers (about 4 square miles). ).
In Kherson’s Beryslavskyi district, a main road was blocked off with a “mine ahead” sign and redirected passersby to a smaller road. In fact, that very side road has been exploited and cost some deminers with their lives. A few weeks later, four police officers were also killed there, including the sheriff from the northern city of Chernihiv, who descended to help Kherson regain her footing.
The general deterioration of the weather-stricken roads helped the departing Russians hide their deadly traps: Potholes, some covered in dirt, were convenient places to plant mines. Sometimes the Russians cut into the asphalt to make their own holes.
Demining teams move slowly from house to house to ensure the safety of returning owners or previous residents. Experts say a single home can take up to three days to clean.
A crew member threw a grenade in a house, stuffed it in a washing machine – the latch was set in such a way that opening the laundry detergent tray would cause an explosion.
The city’s main police station, where detainees were tortured, was filled with explosives. When demining crews tried to enter, part of the building exploded — so they shelved the project.
Long-term questions remain: Kherson is located in an agricultural region that produces crops as diverse as wheat, tomatoes and watermelons – a regional icon. Minesweeper Technik says the fields are so heavily exploited that about 30% of the arable land in the area can hardly be cultivated in the spring. At a glance, you will see anti-tank mines looming in the field.
Even so, after a night of shelling from Friday night to Saturday night, Kherson resident Oleksandr Chebotariov said life for him, his wife and 3-year-old daughter was even worse under the Russians.
“It’s easier to breathe now,” said the 35-year-old radiologist – adding only: “If the bangs don’t stop before Tet, I’ll go on vacation.”


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