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Cancellation of loan repayments and a lowering of utility tariffs. These are some of the promises spread by the Russians to the residents of the Ukrainian towns they manage to control militarily, where, despite the occupation and propaganda, protests against the invasion continue to take place.
Olga Oksana, a teacher in Berdiansk, a coastal city in southern Ukraine located some 85 kilometers from Mariupol, and which is now under occupation by Russian troops, told EFE news agency how the Russian propaganda apparatus works in the population once the military occupation is achieved.
According to Oksana, 50 years old, the radio has become the main communication channel of the Russians to disseminate propaganda, with promises of all kinds, “to convince people to be on their side.”
“It looks like a work of Orwell. We have no stable connection. Yesterday they occupied the radio and started trying to convince us to join them, to talk about the illegitimacy of our presidents or about the horrible saboteurs of the Azov Regiment,” comments Oksana, who describes these radio messages as “typical” Russian propaganda.
“And all this accompanied by the Russian anthem,” she adds in an ironic tone.
Berdiansk, like the bombed Mariupol, is located in the coastal strip of southern Ukraine. Since the beginning of the invasion, last February 24, Russia has turned it into a special focus of military attention due to its pretension to isolate the country from the sea and guarantee a land corridor between the annexed Crimea and the self-styled popular republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, whose independence was recognized by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on the eve of the invasion.
To this end, Russia has moved its technology and tanks from the Crimean Peninsula, managing to take control of several cities, such as Melitopol, Berdiansk, and Kherson, blocking in the process the city of Mariupol, which is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.
The city of Mykolaiv, halfway between Kherson and Odessa, has become a symbol of resistance since the beginning of the war.
According to several sources consulted by EFE news agency, Russian troops intended to enlist the support of the local population of these mostly Russian-speaking towns, but since the first days of the war, its streets have been the scene of protests against the Russian occupation.
“In case they disconnect our phones, we agreed to meet every day at 12 noon,” explains, from Melitopol, Ana, a 32-year-old musician, who admits that, although she is a little afraid, she would rather “die in Ukraine than living in DNR,” the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
Konstantin Ryzhov, an investigative journalist from Kherson, a city occupied by Russia since March 1, says that the Russian army is outside his city and that Rosgvardia and Sobr special forces, which are usually involved in anti-government arrests taking place in Russia, patrol its streets.
Ryzhov, like much of the population, does not recognize the legitimacy of the Russian police. “It is as if our police go to another country to collect fines,” he says.
“Ukraine is not Russia. We have been through the Revolution of Dignity and we already have experience. Russian forces have this bad habit of grabbing a person from the crowd (to arrest them) and people there allow it. Here, when they tried to do it, the crowd started attacking the police and they got scared,” he commented.
The mayor of Kherson, Igor Kolykhayev, was even forced to warn the locals about the demands of the Russian troops: “Walk one at a time, two at most”, “do not provoke the military” and “stop at the first demand.”
However, Russian troops have not been able to stop people from holding mass demonstrations in favor of Ukraine and against the invasion.
Ryzhov claims that the main fighting is taking place on the outskirts of Kherson, making it impossible to leave the city, where food and medicine are in short supply.
“There is a serious lack of products and those that are available have risen in price drastically. Not everyone can afford it,” says Konstantin.
However, the journalist believes that the most serious problem is the shortage of medicines.”There are no medicines for patients with chronic diseases or for those with cancer,” he says.
In some occupied cities, the Russian army has brought humanitarian aid, but in those cases, most of the population does not want to accept it.