Liberated, then shelled, Kherson prepares for the next phase of the war

Liberated, then shelled, Kherson prepares for the next phase of the war


After Russian shells pounded the industrial area next to their home and set fire to an oil depot in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, Yuri Mosolov and his wife decided it was time to leave.

With a few bags in tow, the couple boarded their boat and headed down the Dnipro River to their summer home, where they hoped to avoid destruction from increasing shelling on Kherson.

The decision comes after the couple endured eight months under Russian occupation, which captured Kherson just days after Moscow started the war in February.

But just a week after Ukrainian troops liberated Kherson, Mosolov sensed a new threat enveloping the city.

“We survived the occupation, so we will survive (Russia’s) shelling,” Mosolov told AFP on Sunday as he watched plumes of black smoke rising from the fires in the nearby industrial area.

Still, the target of the oil depot next to their home shook the couple over the weekend.

“After yesterday’s shelling, my wife said: Let’s not risk too much and go,” Mosolow said.

– A New Frontline –

During months of Russian occupation of the city, Kherson was largely spared the fierce ground fighting that left much of Ukraine in utter devastation.

A carefully planned campaign by Kiev, targeting logistics networks, bridges and pontoon crossings, smashed Russian supply lines and forced its troops to abandon the city and retreat to the east bank of the Dnieper.

Now the armies separated by the river are increasingly conducting heavy artillery exchanges across the Dnipro.

The tremor of the explosions regularly reverberates through the city.

“Artillery duels still happen. The fight goes on,” said Dmytro Pletenchuk, spokesman for the Ukrainian military in the region. “Kherson is now at the front.”

Elsewhere near Kherson, Russian strikes struck near a humanitarian aid distribution area in the village of Bilozerka, forcing residents to flee on Saturday.

– “Everyone is afraid” –

A day later, the area near the strike, which included a popular open-air market, was largely empty as residents stayed home for fear of further bombing.

“Now you see that nobody is there because everyone is scared,” said Anna Kovalska, 38, who owns a shop nearby.

Many residents fear the regular shelling is a worrying sign that more fighting is to come.

Ukrainian forces appear to be moving heavier guns closer to the city to attack nearby Russian positions.

The increase in shelling comes as residents are already suffering from power and water supply outages as a harsh winter weather sets in after Russian forces destroyed the city’s basic utility infrastructure before leaving Kherson.

“We’re not scared when there’s no water and electricity, but we’re scared when there’s explosions,” said Alyouna Yanyk, 43, who works at a convenience store near the industrial zone in Kherson that was hit over the weekend is working.

But for some, even if the Russians soon unleash their massive firepower on the city, they will be forced to stay.

“I’m worried… the shelling is happening almost every hour now,” said 61-year-old Sergey Gudym, the chief engineer at the oil depot hit over the weekend, as he surveyed the damage in the area.

“I stay here. I have nowhere else to go.”

More to explorer