“Since Saturday afternoon it has been impossible to talk to Vitaly, neither by WhatsApp nor by phone. The Russians have cut off all communication with Khersoncompletely isolating citizens”, he warned us at the beginning of the week Julio Suarez, the Spanish businessman with a son trapped in this city in southern Ukraine that the Russians consider strategic for its naval industry and its proximity to Crimea.
Fortunately, three days later, Vitaly managed to go out into the suburbs and send a brief message to his family to confirm that he is fine, but that “the signal does not allow calls.” After taking the city, the Russian army has cut fiber optic cables and has been in charge of blocking the mobile phone services of the main Ukrainian suppliers. Not in vain, the businessman provides us with the photographs that his own son has sent him these days, in which you can see numerous citizens crowded in the few places where there is still some coverage.
Disinformation and referendum
Moscow’s decision is not trivial, but, as Julio Suárez warns, it responds to a perfectly studied strategy to try to persuade the inhabitants of Kherson that it is best to surrender and vote in favor of joining the Russian Federation. “The cut off of communications is a step prior to the referendum, isolating the population to sow disinformation and uncertainty“, warns Julio, who assures that Putin’s intention is to hold the consultation as soon as possible.
The Russian army is confident that the lack of information, coupled with the incessant night bombing, end up disorienting the citizens, so that they do not really know how the invasion of Ukraine is progressing and let themselves be carried away by their own fears. Contributing to this goal is the closure of all independent media outlets of Jershon, as well as the blocking of ukrainian televisionwhich has been replaced by the usual Russian propaganda channels.
The taxation of the ruble
As if this were not enough, the Moscow army has closed Ukrainian banks and, since May 1, the ruble is already circulating in the city. According to Kirill Stremousov, deputy chairman of the new Russian administration that has taken over Kherson, the currency transition will take four to five months. Later, the hryvnia – the Ukrainian currency in use since 1996 – will become “wet paper”.
According to Julio, the closure of the banks is “a maneuver to that pensioners do not collect their pension and suffocate them financially so that they deliver their passport Ukrainian in order to get someone else to vote in the referendum for them, in favor of the Russians, or as a measure to force them to vote in favor of the Russian Federation, as they already did in the Donbas in 2014″.
A “humanitarian catastrophe”
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry assures that the city is on the verge of “humanitarian catastrophe” due to the Russian blockade. “The city is critically short of food and medical supplies due to the siege,” it said in a statement Tuesday. newborns, who lack nutrition and hygiene products children, and seriously ill patients constitute the population at special risk”.
Citizens like Vitaly take the car every day to look for basic products to take to the people who need it most and who, for health reasons or lack of means, cannot travel to get them or directly cannot pay for them. However, this task is becoming more and more complicated. “Two weeks ago he got food in Nikolaev —12 and a half hours away by car—. They made four trips with four vans. This supply was humanitarian aid,” explains Julio. Nevertheless, “now there is very little left of this aid, and it is impossible to travelbecause Kherson is totally closed by the Russians”.
Fear of the Chechens
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, the citizens of Kherson have not hesitated to defy the Russian army and demonstrate in the streets of the city. Nevertheless, retaliation is increasing. This same Monday, without going any further, the soldiers opened fire on peaceful demonstrators in the Plaza de la Libertad, wounding an old manas reported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The current situation is very scary. In addition to the Russians, now they are also Chechens, who are very dangerous people: murderers and rapists… The people in Kherson are very afraid,” insists Julio.