A pool of blood-stained water and the charred wreckage of a car mark the spot in Kherson where Russian shells tore into this city Thursday, killing four, according to local officials, and shattering any sense of calm.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claims he’s annexed this region, and that the people here are now Russians. But his troops have left, and now they’re killing the civilians they once vowed to protect.
Amid acute power and water shortages, the people of Kherson are suffering and, with winter fast approaching, it’s only set to get worse.
Soon after the invasion of Ukraine began, Kherson was taken over by Russian forces, only emerging from months of occupation on November 11 when the Kremlin’s troops withdrew. Now residents are suffering the kind of violence familiar to so many across this country.
In a small grocery store also destroyed by the recent shelling, a desperate local man searches in the rubble for scraps of food and rolls of toilet paper, scavenging for what little he can to survive.
“Is everything so bad?” we ask. “It’s not good,” he responds, bleakly.
The water supply to this city has been cut off by the Russian attack, so we watch an elderly woman on the street placing a bucket under a drain pipe to collect a feeble drip.
Others, like Tatiana, who preferred not to give her last name, take the hazardous walk to the bank of the Dnipro River on which this city lies.
Russian forces still control the opposite bank and the strategic river now marks the frontline with Russian forces just a few hundred meters away.
Tatiana fills two black plastic pails, then struggles back up the hill towards her home. “How we can live without water? We need (it) to wash, for the toilet, to wash dishes,” she says. “What can we do? We can’t live without water. So we come here.”
The boom of artillery exchanges between Russian and Ukrainian forces echoes in the background. This is not a place to dawdle.