Violations, looting, handling of the enemy and resistance

Zaporizhia (Ukraine) (AFP) – Between abuse, looting, dealing with the enemy and resistance in areas of southern Ukraine controlled by Russian forces, the population “suffered greatly” during “two months under occupation,” Igor Kedriavtsev told AFP, along with about a dozen other Ukrainians, whom they lived through daily.

Igor Kidryavtsev, 35, fled with his wife and daughter from Novotroitsky in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine last week.

“If you say one word in Ukrainian and someone hears you and tells them, they come to your house and kidnap you (…) some come back, some do not. We can not live like that,” he says.

Kedriavtsev stopped in Zaporizhia, a large industrial city in southern Ukraine that is still under Ukrainian control. The fighting is only tens of kilometers away in the south, from where the Russians are biting into pieces of territory, as well as in the east.

Zaporizhia is still the gateway to the Ukrainian regions that are still under the control of the Ukrainian authorities.

Hundreds of people come every day from occupied lands to Zaporizhia, some just crossing over, while others stay, like Natasha Borch, who left the Orikhiv region (south of Zaporizhia) with her two- and six-year-olds.

Orikhiv is controlled in part by Russian forces.

“They were always drunk,” Burch says. “They were walking in the streets with their lights on the windows, and sometimes they shot.”

systematic thefts

Natasha Burch claims that some of her friends found themselves trapped in their basements with “hands and feet tied”, and that the mother of one of her friends was “kidnapped” and “no one knows what happened to her”.

A Ukrainian soldier named Grigory meets his wife Oksana for the first time in a year after fleeing to the Russian-occupied territory of Zaporizhia in southern Ukraine on May 2, 2022.
A Ukrainian soldier named Grigory meets his wife Oksana for the first time in a year after fleeing to the Russian-occupied territory of Zaporizhia in southern Ukraine on May 2, 2022. Ed Jones AFP

She also describes systematic thefts and says: “They would steal money and cars. If someone was not willing to give up his car, they would shoot him in the legs.”

Several people interviewed by AFP asked to be referred by pseudonyms. Accusations that the Russians committed thefts, however, are repeated on every lip.

“Our life was quiet and we worked,” says Igor Kedryavtsev. “Then they come and destroy everything (…) They take all your equipment and cars. They take grain from the farmers.”

The issue of land and agriculture is very sensitive in Ukraine and it is a giant agricultural exporter to the whole world. In late April, Zaporizhia prosecutors accused Russian soldiers of stealing “61 tons of wheat” in the area.

Oleksiy (pseudonym), a farmer who regularly comes to Zaporizhia to sell his vegetables and fruits, tells how Russian forces stole tons of cucumbers from a major company in the region to resell them “in Crimea”.

But for the majority of Ukrainians, the abusive practices of the occupier are crystallized, especially at roadblocks.

Leo (pseudonym) claims that one of his cousins ​​was killed in the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine after he refused to stop at the Nova Kakhovka checkpoint, a city near Kherson.

“Did he want to protest? He died in the car anyway and tried to protect our grandmother with his body,” the 33-year-old said.

daily humiliation

He recounts the daily humiliation felt by those who pass the checkpoints.

A family arrives on May 2, 2022 from a Russian-controlled Ukrainian region in Zaporizhia in southern Ukraine
A family arrives on May 2, 2022 from a Russian-controlled Ukrainian region in Zaporizhia in southern Ukraine Ed Jones AFP

He says the Russians “ask you, ‘Can you’ share ‘this or that with us? + And then you understand that if you do not, you will be at the checkpoint for a very, very long time. ”

Oleksiy notes that he found himself “three times in his underwear” on the road after pro-Russian agents in Donbas ordered him to pull out “to make sure he has no pro-Ukrainian tattoos”.

It is considered an almost normal procedure, according to Sergei Bochinok, who fled with his wife and four children from Tokmak in southern Zaporizhia, which the Russians have been controlling since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We saw people in their underwear at every checkpoint,” he says.

However, the treatment is not the same for all Ukrainians, because some see the inevitability of resistance in the face of occupation, while others see an opportunity to deal with the enemy.

“A large number of people trade with the Russians” in Tokmak, which had a population of 30,000 before the war began, said Olesya Bochinok, incensed after a Ukrainian-Russian officer became a client in barely two days has.

“Criminals are currently working with the Russians (…) the city is under their protection, they are distributing humanitarian aid” and collecting it in a disorganized way “so that people are fighting for food,” she says.

“People brought fruit to the soldiers (…) They were girls who surrendered to them,” Natasha Borch recalls.

In Energodar, the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and now under Moscow’s control, “many entrepreneurs are working with Russians to continue doing business,” said Tetiana, a 44-year-old Ukrainian language teacher.

“They buy Crimean products and sell them again at exorbitant prices,” she says.

A woman cries when she arrives in Zaporizhia, southern Ukraine, on May 2, 2022, after fleeing the besieged city of Mariupol, besieged by Russian forces.
A woman cries when she arrives in Zaporizhia, southern Ukraine, on May 2, 2022, after fleeing the besieged city of Mariupol, besieged by Russian forces. Ed Jones AFP

– “+ We know who you are. Beware +” –

All polled by AFP describe empty shops and pharmacies in the Ukrainian territory that are currently under Russian control, with some goods becoming very expensive.

According to farmer Oleksi, the price of sugar has tripled due to the “profit-seeking” cooperatives.

About 500 of the 20,000 people in Bologna dealt with the Russians, he says.

“We have a group on the Viber chat application,” says Oleksiy. “Sometimes a message comes in with a nickname, ‘We know who you are. Beware.'”

However, the resistance began to form and began to eliminate the pro-Russian soldiers coming from the Donbass to the south, he said.

“We each have our own battle front,” Oleksiy adds. “We do what we can.”

jif / cbj / aaa

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