Whenever the opportunity arises, Ukrainian families try to flee the territories occupied by Russia in southern Ukraine to escape an uncertain fate, according to the “Wall Street Journal”, while the Washington Post says that Russia has embarked on plans indicating that Moscow will annex areas in southern Ukraine. .
Convoys of cars and vans roll every day in a “processing center” on the outskirts of Zaporozhye, which has become overcrowded with fleeing civilians as much of southern Ukraine, including almost all of Kherson and most of the Zaporozhye region, has been under Russian military rule since early March. .
The Russian occupation authorities quickly integrated these territories into Russia, set up cooperating departments, and began dealing with the Russian currency and providing educational documents and programs.
And on Saturday, Russian authorities cut off Ukrainian cell phone services and Internet service providers by cutting fiber optic cables and shutting down power at base stations to most of the occupied territories in southern Ukraine, in order to “provide accurate information about the course of the war,” the Ukrainian official said. government said.
Civilians in Kherson face internet disruptions and a plan to use the Russian currency in possible indications that Moscow intends to exert long-term influence over the region in southern Ukraine, according to the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government said that internet connections and cellular networks in the Kherson region and part of the Zaporizhzhya region were disrupted.
The State Department of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine said in a statement that it was a deliberate act aimed at “leaving Ukrainians without access to real information about the developments of the war that Russia has waged against Ukraine.”
NetBlocks, a civil society group monitoring internet access worldwide, claimed on Twitter late Saturday that “occupied southern Ukraine is now in the midst of an almost total internet eclipse.”
The biggest fear, especially among men, in Russian-controlled areas is that they will soon be forcibly recruited to fight other Ukrainians, as it was earlier this year with men up to 65 years old in parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Eastern Ukraine happened. which Moscow has controlled since 2014.
Mykola Murashko, 46, asks, “If they had recruited you and left your family hostage, what would you do?”
Murashko, one of those who managed to drive to Zaporozhye, took his wife and children from the Russian-occupied town of Vasylvka: “That was one of the main reasons why we left.”
He said Russian soldiers at the checkpoint were turning back people who admitted they were on their way to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporozhye, adding that he had told them he was traveling on a business trip to another Russian-controlled village near the front line.
He remarked that he dreamed of the day when he could get out of town, “I would wake up and think and say to myself let’s try to leave, and today we did.”
People trying to flee should face protection and crossfire because there is no agreement on humanitarian corridors.
However, about 150,000 inhabitants of the occupied territories of the Zaporizhia region have moved to the Kiev-controlled parts of Ukraine since the beginning of the war on February 24 from an estimated pre-war population of 700,000.
The Russian occupation authorities in southern Ukraine have not yet announced plans for military mobilization and recruitment of Ukrainians in the occupied territories. But, in a sign of a return to totalitarian Soviet-style rule, Russian forces began to return to the central squares, the Lenin memorials demolished by Kiev after 2014, remove Ukrainian symbols and flags, and instead Soviet flags hoisted together with the Russian flag on public buildings.
And now trade in Russian rubles in the largest city controlled by Russia, Zaporizhia, and the city-run wedding hall on the coast of Berdyansk, also in the Zaporozhye region, have begun issuing marriage certificates of the Russian Federation to the newlyweds.
Russian officials have announced that the transition to Russian currency for the Kherson region will begin on May 1, while an intelligence update released by Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russia had “control of the city and its environs” trying to legitimize through a pro-Russian administration, ”according to the Washington Post.
According to the newspaper, the British Ministry of Defense said these moves together “would probably be an indication of Russia’s intention to exert strong political and economic influence in Kherson in the long term.” She added that permanent control of the area would provide security for Russia’s grip on Crimea and allow its forces to continue to advance in the north and west, according to the Washington Post.
The Wall Street Journal notes that “Moscow’s message is that the occupied territories in southern Ukraine, which form a land bridge to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, will remain under Russian control forever.”
Peaceful pro-Ukrainian protests in Kherson and other occupied cities have faded in recent weeks, as they did repeatedly in March.
“Initially, the Russian intelligence services allowed these protests so that they could see the structure of networks of activists, but then they detained the real organizers, either to torture them or to force them to leave for the territory controlled by Ukraine. be, “said. Oleksandr Starukh, the Ukrainian governor of the Zaporozhye region. “
Some pro-Ukrainian activists have been forced to appear on Russian-controlled television in the occupied territories to announce their remorse for participating in the protests, and to demand cooperation with the Russian authorities, as those who did so have been released. while hundreds of others remain in custody.
The deputy head of the Kherson region’s Military Military Administration, Kirill Strimosov, admitted to the RIA news agency on Thursday that “many residents of Kherson still expect the return of the Ukrainian state, and therefore refrain from cooperating with its administration. work.”
According to a local businessman in Tokmak, who recently managed to escape, the occupying authorities are moving from door to door in an effort to force business owners to reopen shops, restaurants, hotels and nightclubs.
A few residents of southern Ukraine who are known to have collaborated with Russian forces have been killed by unknown assailants in recent weeks, according to Ukrainian officials and locals.
Almost all elected mayors of occupied villages and towns in southern Ukraine have been replaced by Russian military appointments, or their loyalists.
For both sides, education is a critical battlefield. In the Zaporozhye region, the Ukrainian authorities ordered the early closure of schools from the second Sunday of May, but Russian forces tried to reopen schools as part of Moscow’s project to “re-educate” the population of Ukraine and evoke Ukrainian patriotic feelings to switch.
For Serhiy Oleksenko, a geography teacher, and his wife, Titiana, a primary school teacher, the pressure forced them to pack all their belongings in a small trailer on Saturday and leave their home in Chernihivka, in the Zaporozhye region, to leave.
“We will not wait until we are forced to teach in Russia,” Oleksenko said, noting that nine of the 16 teachers at his school had also fled to Ukrainian-controlled areas.
In the processing center, on the edge of the Zaporozhye region, arrivals like Oleksenko are briefly interrogated by police officers, who take photos of documents with cellphones and search databases to make sure they are not cooperating with the Russian occupation authorities.
Under the recently amended Ukrainian law, those who cooperate with the occupation face 15 years in prison, and the sentence is up to life imprisonment for anyone convicted of high treason. Ukraine does not work with the death penalty.
While examining Zemfira’s passport, Ukrainian police expressed their relief in tears after a two-day trip from Kakhovka.
“Civilians moving around in Kakhovka had to wear white bracelets, local shops had no more food, and pharmacies no longer had medicine,” said Zemfira, who left her bedridden father behind.
She added: We became like strangers in the city where we were born. Russian flags are everywhere, Russian soldiers tell us there is no more Ukraine. “So when we saw our Ukrainian flag at the crossroads today, we could not stop ourselves from crying.”