Kherson City Council has been working remotely since April 26, and over 40% of the population has already left the city, says Mayor Igor Kolykhaev.
According to him, public utility services have also lost some of their employees, but are doing their best to keep Kherson functioning.
In an interview with Radio NV, Kolykhaev spoke of life in a city under occupation, whether it is possible to leave it, as well as why the Russians might not want another sham republic in Kherson.
- Tell us more about the current situation in Kherson. Four protestors were injured during the dispersal of a rally in the city, what condition are they in?
- There was a rally in support of the unity of Ukraine, stating that Kherson is Ukraine, no to "people's republic of Kherson." Over 100 residents of our city came out, and had flash-bang grenades and tear gas used against them. Four people were injured: one of them, a 71-year-old woman, is currently in hospital, and a 50-year-old man suffered a broken leg; his condition is being clarified. I’m keeping in touch with the doctors to get more detailed information.
- Pro-Ukrainian activists from Kherson are being abducted. Is their fate known and how many people are we talking about?
- Today all of our citizens are in a very difficult psychological state. According to the information we have, more than 220 activists have been abducted from our city. (About) 30 residents have been returned, and others are being held captive. We call up and gather information about where they left their contact details and telephone numbers in order to have a better understanding of the (situation).
- How does the city function now, given that the Russians expelled City Council employees from its premises?
- We all switched to remote work. (Recently, I visited) the city water utility with the head of the utility firm Viktor Skoblikov. Plans were discussed, because critical infrastructure and utilities need to function. Citizens need to get water, this is a matter of highest importance. All other utilities are operating as normal.
A lot of people have left our city – more than 40%. They got out at their own risk, because we do not have safe green corridors. People coordinated in Telegram channels, volunteers drove them out first towards Mykolaiv, then – Melitopol, and now towards Kryvyi Rih.
Up to 15% of the skilled employees who professionally performed their work at critical infrastructure utilities have left. This is a loss for the city. We’re now covering for the functionality of those who left using those who remained in order to carry the city in our arms, to keep it functioning and fighting for the fact that we are Ukraine.
- Is it now possible to go to the territory controlled by Ukraine from Kherson? There were no green corridors, but there were reports of Russians firing on cars at checkpoints.
- There were no safe green corridors. People travel by car at their own risk and sometimes stand in line for up to 10 kilometers for up to three days. There were cases of people not being let out and having to turn around. And not only from Kherson – also from Beryslav, Nova Kakhovka, Kakhovka – people are leaving Kherson Oblast. Firstly, they are worried, and secondly – confused by rumors that there will be a "Kherson people's republic". Above all, it’s women and children who leave our city.
Sometimes there is shelling and people are in the fields. This is very tragic for Kherson Oblast and for the whole of Ukraine, because there is a war, people are worried about their lives.
- How are the occupiers behaving in the city now? They announced that they would hold a referendum to create a sham republic. Are there any preparations? Are any of the Kherson residents helping the occupiers to organize such illegal actions?
- The regional commandant and the commandant of the city have been appointed. They appointed a new head of the regional administration – Volodymyr Saldo, and a new mayor – Oleksandr Kobets.
Regarding the referendum, I do not have clear information. I’m talking to the residents of our city and I see that there are no signs that there will be a referendum. It is difficult to say at this stage when they will plan it.
In my view, there will be no referendum. I think that they are most likely (planning to have the region) join (Crimea). There is no point in making another sham republic. There are no preparations for a referendum.