Mobile records, psychological pressure, threats and bribes frame the life of Ukrainians under the yoke of Moscow
Many citizens have been forced to live in an environment of fear and submission for a long time in which the Kremlin Army has held Ukrainian regions under its yoke. Life under Russian occupation in Kherson and Zaporizhia has been marked by bribery, uncertainty and the fear that bullets would go through their heads and their bodies would be buried in mass graves. “It was incredibly scary, the whole city was full of armed foreigners,” exclaimed Anton Ovsharov, 44, a former engineer at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. His hometown is still controlled by Moscow, but not the entire region, so he remains hopeful that Volodimir Zelensky’s troops will liberate the territory in the shortest possible time and, in turn, the entire country.
During the occupation, the main objective of the Kremlin soldiers seemed to be to find the phones of residents who could not flee upon arrival, according to the citizens themselves, now calm after kyiv liberated Kherson from the clutches of Vladimir Putin. “They went from house to house with their weapons. They collected the mobile phones in a bucket and left”, says Liudmila Shevchuk, 56 years old. Why these devices? According to the woman, the Russians feared that they would communicate their position to the Ukrainian forces. Both she and her husband, Oleksandr, kept them underground to prevent them from being taken away. “Many of us buried them. Those who did not make it on time were left without them », she affirms.
These searches were also carried out on the streets, as happened to Irina Myhailena, a 43-year-old real estate agent, who was stopped by soldiers when she was walking with her daughter along a road in Berdiansk, in the Zaporizhia region. “They grabbed my bag and looked for my cell phone,” recalls the woman, whose fear for her life and that of her daughter increased greatly at that precise moment. That same day, she adds, “the 12-year-old daughter of a friend was walking down the street alone and they also stopped and searched her,” she recounts, recalling the fear that both the little girl and her parents suffered when she told them what had happened. .
Citizens also received threats if they were against the invading Army. “We had to delete all our messages. And be careful with us if we say anything against Russia,” explains Myhailena, who says that in that situation “no one felt safe.”
Given this scenario, many tried to flee the area controlled by Moscow, but not without prior payment. Bribes were the order of the day. Olga, a 57-year-old neighbor of Dudchani, in the Kherson region, says that numerous Russian soldiers were willing to lead them to the Ukrainian positions. At first, offering them vodka was enough, she says, but later “you always had to pay them.” Sometimes the payments consisted of handing over the keys to their vehicles. “Then we saw them driving our cars,” says Oleksandr Shevchuk. And what happened next? “The Russians would take us and then they would come back to seize our property,” says Olga.
Shevchuk also recalls the “psychological pressure” exerted by the invaders so that the inhabitants were evacuated to Crimea, a peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014. The occupiers also confiscate profitable companies such as hotels in Berdyansk. “They come with the commander, they point their finger at what they want and they already have it,” laments Myhailena.
Submission is not always the answer for Ukrainians, fed up with the occupiers after nine months of war since Putin ordered an invasion of the neighboring country on February 24. Some, even though they are afraid of reprisals, stick out their chests in the face of adversity and confront Moscow. How? Oleksandr Gorbonosov, for example, is one of the citizens who on multiple occasions has poured sugar into the fuel tanks of the Russian Army to render their vehicles inoperative, even temporarily.
However, “later we realized that this was useless, because the Russians would go to the farmers and threaten to burn their equipment if they did not deliver fuel,” says Gorbonosov, from Energodar, in the Zaporizhia region. Although, like so many others, he left his hometown when he found out that the Russians knew where they lived. “They have so many informers…”, declares this Ukrainian, who managed to escape in time to territory controlled by kyiv.
#Fear #submission #Russian #occupation