29 April, 07:54 PM
Local journalist talks about occupation and resistance in Kherson
NV: Who are these gauleiters Russia has appointed as heads of the city and region of Kherson?
Baturin: (Volodymyr) Saldo is Kherson’s former mayor, with a political party of his own – Saldo Bloc. (Oleksandr) Kobets, another Russian crony, used to work for the SBU security service, but not much else is known about him. Journalists are still trying to learn more of his biography.
Almost every day, we hear about new low-level collaborators. For instance, today we had news about Vitaly Hura, the leader of one of Nova Kakhovka’s districts, cooperating with the occupying Russian troops. He was gleefully talking to Russian state propaganda media.
Nevertheless, the invaders are still struggling with personnel. Chiefly, they simply don’t have enough traitors who have any kind of administrative experience in local governance. They are forced to keep appointing random people – sympathizers and their buddies. There is absolutely zero trust in them. Locals have no idea who these people are or what their qualifications might be. Nobody knows anything about them – besides the fact that they are traitors.
NV: Who could be so blind to what the future has in store for them, to become a collaborator?
Baturin: I can speak to this in regards to Nova Kakhovka, since I’m familiar with the situation there, and what kind of people the Russians are using to tighten their grip on the town.
They are mostly highly-ambitious losers, who, lacking in ability, never amounted to anything in life. At the same time, they were big fans of the “Pax Russica,” openly welcoming the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, running around with Soviet flags. More recent “appointments” of the last week – Russians are choosing incompetent, power-hungry strangers to run educations, schools, utility services, captured businesses. Needless to say, their management skills and education levels leave much to be desired.
NV: Some reports suggested that the invaders were planning to stage a so-called “independence referendum” on April 27. Keeping in mind that Kherson in 2022 is very different from Donetsk in 2014, what can you tell us about these initiatives?
Baturin: Not much is known about the referendum. It’s all hearsay and rumors. We’ve heard that April 27, May 1, up to May 10 could be when it’s been planned for.
In some towns of Kherson Oblast local Russian puppets were instructing managers of residential high-rises to gather data on their residents, to later use it for their so-called referendum. I can’t definitively verify this, but it’s something I heard from these managers themselves.
Local folk are wary that in order to create a “convincing” image for Russian media, they might be coerced into participatign in it by force; of the referendum itself – not so much. People are certain that the result has already been predetermined. Some of those I spoke with admit they don’t plan to participate at all. But there’s this underlying fear that Russians will force them to vote at gunpoint.
NV: How are they going to make this all happen if nobody knows it’s happening?
Baturin: I’m not all that surprised, since all the content I see in Russian Telegram channels is entirely staged. They are using tortured and exhausted Ukrainian prisoners to read from a script. Some videos are filmed with their loyal collaborators. Essentially, it’s all a big fake.
People in these videos are afraid to even say their names. I saw one such reel with the supposed heads of the Kherson and Nova Kakhovka police – none of them had specific job titles or even names mentioned.
NV: What’s their plan then? Are they going to try and declare a “people’s republic” in Kherson and then absorb it into Russia? I read something about Russian proposals to annex Kherson Oblast to Crimea.
Baturin: They’re mostly talking about annexing Kherson by declaring it part of Crimea. It could be empty posturing and wishful thinking – like with Donetsk and Luhansk, but that’s what they mention the most.
On their maps, parts of Kherson oblast on Dnipro’s left bank they label as “Northern Tavria” or “Northern Crimea.” That’s being said quite openly. I never heard anything about “Kherson People’s Republic” from any of the traitors working for Russia, while “Northern Crimea” is mentioned all the time.
NV: How’s the resistance going, is it still around?
Baturin: It’s going, in Kherson itself and in the region – that’s evident from the news we’re getting. Just today, Russian troops conducted some raids in the town of Beryslav.
They are clearly frustrated, looking for someone or something they didn’t like. Under the cover of these raids, they also steal everything they find valuable form people’s homes, but that’s to be expected from their kind.
From time to time, I hear reports Russians looking for insurgents and guerrillas in a particular district near the city. Allegedly, insurgents killed some Russian occupiers in a shootout at a checkpoint somewhere. There have been other incidents elsewhere.
Villages put up resistance when the enemy tries to expropriate local farmers’ produce. The Russians, unfortunately, have an advantage in both numbers and weapons there. Even if guerrilla warfare isn’t widespread in the region, most people in Kherson region are very much pro-Ukraine, even under occupation.
NV: How are regular people faring there?
Baturin: It’s very tough. High food prices, almost no medicines are available, it’s difficult to travel between settlements.
The Russians have cut off some areas completely – not letting anyone in or out from their villages and towns. People can’t go elsewhere to deal with medical issues or to buy medical supplies.
Much like what they did to Mariupol, Russia has blockaded some small villages, turning them into smaller-scale versions of Leningrad (Leningrad – now St. Petersburg in Russia – was besieged and blockaded by Nazi Germany for 872 days in WWII).