Introduction of the ruble, Russian anthem at school, phones checked: what is life like for Ukrainians in occupied cities?

“An annexation and a serious violation of Russia” of the UN Charter. It condemned Lioudmyla Denissova, the human rights officer of the Ukrainian parliament, as the Russian local administration in Kherson, the only major city over which the Russians have completely taken control, is preparing to introduce the ruble instead of the Ukrainian hryvnia.

“From May 1 we move to the ruble zone”declared Kirill Stremoussov, assistant to the president of the Russian local administration established since the conquest of this site by the Moscow army at the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine.

The two currencies, the ruble and the hryvnia, will be able to circulate in parallel for a transition period that could last four months, he said. “Afterwards, we will completely switch to rules in rubles “he said.

the Russian anthem in the schoolyard

This is an example, among many others, of the new life of the Ukrainians in the areas now occupied by the Russians, especially in the southern and southeastern part of the country. For the changes are not only economic …

In Volnovakha, about sixty kilometers north of Mariupol, in the schoolyard of this small town of 20,000 inhabitants, a city ravaged by fighting and taken by Moscow, it is now the Russian anthem that resounds in front of the school children. Under the gaze of soldiers armed with machine guns.

One month after the conquest of this city, despite the absence of electricity, telephone networks and houses in ruins, teaching resumed. “O Russia – our holy power! (…) Enormous honor and strong will is your inheritance forever!”sing the speakers, rare devices to receive power.

Mysterious disappearances, beatings and checked phones

If Russia wants to give the impression that life is returning to normal, it will continue its work of “liberating” the Ukrainian “neo-Nazis”. In late March, in Kherson, but also in the other occupied cities, Le Monde warned of the diversity of mysterious disappearances. Local elected officials, journalists, activists and priests were alternately abducted. Some have reappeared sometimes, but for the most part the silence pulls out and arouses fear of the worst, we could read.

In a report released in recent days on the British channel Channel 4, survivors from Mariupol and other occupied cities have multiplied testimonies.

“They multiply the checks. And if you do not have your papers, they take you to the local official’s office, they beat you and detain you for three or four days,” explains a survivor. “Afterwards, they make you sweep the city or do other kinds of work. They constantly check cell phones.”

“They are looking for those who worked in the ranks of the police”

Another Ukrainian decided to leave his hometown with his two children. “We have no more jobs, no opportunity to get money and no more doctors. Now the Russians are looking for people who worked in executive committees in the ranks of the police …”

The population as a whole appears to be under permanent control. If Kherson became known for his anti-Russian demonstrations, the soldiers of Vladimir Putin’s army, armed with sniper rifles, were always visible on the roofs …

of “false referendum” in preparation

At the same time, Russia is trying to prepare for a “false referendum”, which Volodymyr Zelensky accuses. In a video message released on Friday, April 22, the Ukrainian president asked residents of occupied territories not to provide any personal data, such as their passport numbers, that would be required of them by Russian forces.

“It’s not just to conduct a census. (…) It’s not to give you humanitarian aid of any kind. It’s actually to tamper with a so – called referendum on your land if the order to organize this comedy comes from Moscow. “warned the Ukrainian president.

Such a scenario is not new, as Le Monde reminds us, referring to those who followed the annexation of Crimea and Donbass in 2014. “To rule, the Russians began by physically liquidating or torturing activists, human rights defenders, journalists, artists and local elected officials”, remembers a human rights lawyer. Also there, referendums had been organized before proclaiming the independence of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

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