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The price of occupation: impact on people & land

Part Three in the ‘Life under Occupation’ series - a detailed analysis of everyday life in occupied Kherson.

Kherson was the first major Ukrainian city to fall under Russian occupation. Until its liberation, it was used by Russian authorities as a test case for the forced assimilation of Ukrainian cities into Russia.

Between 24 February and 2 March 2022, Russian troops entered the Kherson region and took over the principal cities. Most residents faced two options: to stay under the rule of the occupying authorities; or, escape and leave behind their homes and families, risking a challenging journey ahead.

Figure: Russian troops in the town of Armyansk (Армянськ), in occupied Crimea, approaching the Kherson region on 24 February 2022.

This is the third report in the Centre for Information Resilience’s “Life Under Occupation” series. This piece investigates the human cost of the occupation, from access and evacuation routes, to the civilian toll of the invasion, including abductions and illegal deportations. It monitors the impact on agricultural fields and farming in the surrounding areas. Finally, it looks at the impact on society, by investigating the resistance to the occupation and the sham referendum.

Download the third report in the series here:

Life Under Occupation Part 3
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The price of occupation: impact on people and land

Kherson was the first Ukrainian region to become occupied as well as the first region to see Russia’s withdrawal. This report demonstrates that, despite the retreat of Russian troops, the cost of the occupation has been high.

Eight months of Kremlin rule have substantially damaged the lives of Kherson residents and the region’s economy, and it has profoundly impacted its society.

From early on, many of those who stayed showed strong defiance and bravery, visibly opposing the Russian occupation. Protests arose in Kherson city and other populated areas during March and April. Most protests were violently repressed by Russian forces.

Public displays of opposition to the occupation have been met with the illegal deprivation of liberty (i.e., abductions), forced disappearances, and deaths.

Figure: protests held when the Russian force’s arrived in Kherson city. Thousands of residents participated. Screenshot from BBC documentary ‘Occupied’

Violence against civilians was central in the occupation’s toolkit, but the impact of the occupation is felt beyond the civilian casualties and abductions.

The exodus of families, the destruction of agricultural fields, which are one of the region’s economic engines, and the plundering of farms are now real challenges for Kherson’s recovery.

However, the persistent high morale of Kherson residents, as the strong opposition and partisan activity demonstrates, has made Kherson’s society resilient enough to start the reconstruction process.

Figure: Satellite imagery of evacuating vehicles passing through Russian checkpoints [47.42956, 35.24473, 04/07/2022]/ Courtesy of @Planet.

Figure: Queue of cars attempting to leave Russian-occupied Vasylivka [geolocated to 47.454181, 35.287988] n.d.

The Centre for Information Resilience’s “Life Under Occupation” series has been an important resource to provide journalists, policymakers and the public with reliable and verified information about the reality on the ground. It exposes Russia’s playbook in illegally occupied areas from the unprovoked invasion to the consequences of the “referendum” eight months later.

With the Kherson series’ investigation, CIR has collected, analysed and archived over 500 datapoints of evidence to provide a comprehensive picture of life under occupation, from the very first moment of the invasion, on 24 February 2022, to the announcement of the withdrawal of the Russian troops on 9 November.

The previous reports in the series are available on the CIR website:

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