The town of Enerhodar in Zaporizhzhya, home to the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, has been under Russian occupation for a month now. NV spoke with Natalya, a city resident, about how life there has changed in that month.
On March 4, the Kremlin’s forces started to shell Enerhodar and the nearby nuclear power plant – the largest such facility in Europe. Following fierce fighting, Russia managed to capture parts of Zaporizhzhya oblast, and the plant itself, which Russia now claims is the property of their own state-owned nuclear energy company, Rosatom.
As a result of the occupation, the shelves in Enerhodar’s major grocery stores are empty. Locals are sharing non-perishable food with each other.
Natalya: Big grocery stores – Silpo, ATB, Varus. Those are the largest (chains), there are several of each in our city. They don’t have the goods. (Enerhodar) was supplied from the rest of Ukraine. Since we’re under occupation, there are no shipments coming in. There is one small local chain still working. We’ve managed to get some stuff from farmers – some had flour, grains.
Even if it’s difficult to but something in stores, at least one can pay with a credit card there. Marketplaces, on the other hand, trade exclusively in cash, and cash is in short supply in the city.
Natalya: There’s no cash because there’s no supply, and because ATMs work sporadically, since they depend on a stable internet connection. Those who had cash on them – spend it at the marketplaces. Naturally, they accept only cash. So, the situation with cash is getting worse.
Besides food, petrol is in short supply in Enerhodar. People are driving around the city in minivans, keeping their cars safe.
Natalya: We don’t use our cars – we don’t want to lose them. Who knows when someone (a Russian soldier) could be in a bad mood. Or what if they suddenly need a nice car. Another reason – there’s no petrol, at all. Gas stations are empty. … (we) were in a cramped minivan, not everyone could fit in. Men had their IDs inspected at checkpoints.
Locals get their news from the rest of the country via round-the-clock news radio.
Natalya: Ukrainain TV channels are showing nothing but cartoons, while satellite TV is filled with travel and nature documentaries, and American sitcoms. But there are no Russian channels … FM radio is broadcasting Ukrainian news 24/7, that’s what we listen to. We also get internet access whenever cell coverage works.
Ukrainians are trying to help Enerhodar by sending humanitarian aid, but it doesn’t always arrive in full.
Natalya: People were looking for ways to send (supplies). Grain, cooking oil, anything we don’t have in stores. Someone decided to ship medicine, and even a grenade, hidden in those bags. The Russians found it during an inspection. It was a really unpleasant and unexpected – those bringing in these shipments had no idea. Occupying troops got angry and started to open and inspect the rest of the bags.
Enerhodar residents maintain hope that everything will turn out well.
Natalya: We’re hoping to survive here. And I’m sure that we will. This is not an ordinary city, we’re a satellite to a nuclear power plant …. We’re hoping that civilians will be left alone, that we’ll escape major destruction.
Locals continue to actively protest the Russian occupation. On April 2, during one such peaceful protest, Russian troops opened fire. Enerhodar residents were singing the national anthem, talking, and once they started to disperse, the city was rocked by a series of explosions.