Until the moment that Kherson withdrawal was suddenly announced on Russian state TV last week, the official line was that Russia would defend the city forever, but that residents should evacuate anyway due to some business with the nearby dam.
Well, what if you were someone who wasn’t worried about the dam, but you were satisfied that the Russian military would defend Kherson until the end of times as you were being actively told? In that case, you probably stayed.
And then you ended up like this:
Or like this:
Or like this:
And these are just the cases publicized by the SBU or captured by Western media.
To be a Russian and to swallow official state truths “vaccination will be voluntary”, “war is unthinkable”, “mobilization is not on the agenda”, “we’re staying in Kherson forever” can be literally life-threatening. Critical thinking and distrust of the government is a skill that in the Russian World can be critical just to bare survival.
It is also quite absurd that for the longest time Moscow couldn’t articulate to the people what the war was for or about, and then when it finally seemed to have figured out something moderately convincing and inspiring it lasted all of five seconds. — That’s how long it took for anyone who bought into it to the west side of the Dnieper to be unceremoniously stabbed in the back.
On September 30th Putin announced Kherson was now Russia and threw a big party in Moscow. 40 days later Russia was pulling out.
Great powers do have the tendency to ultimately betray the locals who take their side in a difficult and messy conflict. But that usually happens after 10 or 15 years of fighting. Putin’s Russia did it after 6 weeks. It was a jet-powered stab in the back.
People of Donbass started the war as second-class citizens of the Russian World, subject to a general mobilization while Russia wouldn’t even contribute serving conscripts to the joint war. The annexation to Russia was supposed to start slowly changing that, equalize their rights within the Russkiy Mir. Indeed at least Donbass students are now ordered demobilized since they’re exempt from partial mobilization in Russia.
But for pro-Russian Khersonians the annexation just further exposed how expendable they really were. They were told that they were formally Russia. And then they were told that this didn’t matter, that their piece of Russia alone the Russian military would not defend. Worse, they didn’t even get a honest, non-BS warning to get the hell out. They were lied to until the very last minute.
Rybar reporting on November 10:
As a result, according to the available information, there are about 70-100 thousand residents left in the city. But after the withdrawal of Russian troops was officially announced in the evening of November 9, many people began to evacuate.
Boats and ferries to the left bank from Kherson still operate, but they cannot deal with the flow of people wishing to evacuate. People are crossing by boat, private citizens charge 500 UAH ($13) per person, saving lives. There is a pontoon crossing, but it has a small capacity.
Authorities have announced that boats will operate until November 11, that is, tomorrow. [In fact there were no boats as the Ukrainians entered the next day.]
It can be assumed that Ukrainian armed forces will enter the city in the next few days (according to some reports, Ukrainian troops have already reached Chornobaivka, and recon groups are already in Kherson city). Not all of those who wished to evacuate will be able to do so.
How did this happen? For a long time, Russian authorities were proving that they’d come to Kherson for good, and would not leave. Even before November 9, there were contradictory statements about the readiness to fight for the city to the end. And now, we are where we are.
Many of those who are now trying to leave Kherson risk dying if they stay. This includes the members of commissions that organized the referendum, whose info was handed to Ukrainian authorities. They face up to 15 years in prison or simply death via “filtration measures”.