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A student from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson has described his new life after Russian forces invaded his home and shut down the internet, reporting that even finding food looks like a victory for now.
Kherson was the first major city to fall after the invasion began, and on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said its troops had taken full control of the entire region.
For Vitality, 22, it was a terrifying and gradual decline for his city. On March 3, the day news leaked that the city had fallen, he sent a voice memo to NPR describing how he was feeling.
“Uh, not good,” he guessed. “I mean, we’re told that the Russians are setting up landmines in Kherson. That’s just nonsense. What the hell are they doing?”
Vitaliy could not verify the landmine information because he saw it on TV. But it’s his life now, tracking down rumors and trying to unravel the truth.
The next day, March 4, he reported that he could no longer log in.
“Today the Russians were blocking the internet and any type of connection,” he said. “I only recovered my Vodafone connection, which is my mobile phone network, and I still have no Wi-Fi.”
And, he said, he lacked food.
“There really isn’t enough food right now in Kherson,” he said. “And it’s a very critical situation. I still have macaroni spaghetti, but I don’t have meat, and it’s bad.”
A few days after the occupation, residents of the city began to take to the streets. Vitaliy joined them and estimated that there were around 5,000 Ukrainians chanting the word “fascists”.
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“Also, today was a bit of a lucky day because I happened to buy some food,” he said. “I bought cheese and meat and fish. You know, I never thought I’d be so happy buying food, you know, never in my life. But yeah, it really did. made my day today.”
He said that sometimes the Russian soldiers distributed food, but people did not trust him and he did not take it. And as the protests continue, Vitaliy continues.
“I only come out of my house to protest and go buy groceries, but that’s it. I sit at home all day,” he said.
He watches the news and the doom scrolls – all day, every day.
He sent a video of a Ukrainian climbing a Russian tank in Kherson and planting a Ukrainian flag there. Later, he said, the man disappeared and Vitaliy assumed he had been captured by Russian troops.
Last week, Ukraine’s human rights commissioner issued a statement saying that 400 Ukrainian citizens had already been illegally arrested. Several independent journalists from Kherson also disappeared. This rattled Vitaliy but also strengthened his resolve.
“I’m really scared to go to a protest,” he said. “But anyway, I think I’d go because…I don’t really see any other way. It’s the least I can do.”
But Vitaliy wonders: how will this end? Will Kherson forever remain in Russian hands?
“In the worst case, if this occupation continues after the war, if Kherson becomes Russia, then of course I will have to move. Because there is no way I will live in Russia,” he said. declared.
“I try to be calm, but it’s not easy.”