Residents of newly-liberated Kherson brace for harsh winter

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By Thomas Hill  with AFP
Free but freezing liberated Kyiv faces the winter.
Free but freezing liberated Kyiv faces the winter.   -   Copyright  AFP

After long months of a brutal Russian occupation, the people of Kherson are free at last, but still living in the shadow of war and with the prospect of winter.

In the city, and surrounding villages, Ukraine’s soldiers must first ensure roads and properties are safe before allowing humanitarian aid to reach those who have endured so much.

The Russians left behind a deadly legacy of mines, tripwires, and booby traps. Soldiers must tread carefully as they work their way along roads, through buildings, and around key infrastructure sites such as electricity substations and waterworks.

The people of Kherson are free, but like people all over Ukraine, they are still at the mercy of Russian missile barrages aimed at sources of light, power and water.

Restoring services

The soldiers are helping to restore services where possible, including mobile phone signals, so people who have been cut off from the rest of the world can at last speak to close family members, driven out of their homes and homeland by the invasion.

There is also a demand for medicines and military teams have distributed tablets for blood pressure and asthma inhalers to those who had to live for so long without access to basic prescription treatments.

But amid the relief of liberation, there is a sense of urgency. Ukraine’s bitter winter is just around the corner. The first snows have already fallen in Kherson.

"Winter is almost here and this is our cardinal priority when we talk about humanitarian aid,” EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said.

“We have prioritised winterisation already months ago and these needs relating to the coming winter are now even more pronounced following the systematic destruction of infrastructure by Russia in Ukraine.”

In what has widely been condemned as a war crime, Russia’s strategy is to bomb and shell the citizens of Ukraine into submission. Daily barrages of missiles are designed to cripple power, heating, and clean water systems in the hope that fear, cold, and hunger will gnaw away at the morale and fortitude of everyday citizens in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s winters are notoriously long and harsh and few observers believe the war will be over before the spring thaw. People in Kherson have little choice but to endure, even as the initial euphoria of liberation gives way to the grim, gritty reality of rebuilding their lives and surviving a long season of short days and long winter nights.