A few days ago, Russian troops erected a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin in occupied Heniches, writes the British daily The Guardian. It happened seven years after one such statue was removed as part of the decommunization. Henichesk is currently under the control of the Russian army, which is trying to consolidate control over some areas in southern Ukraine.
Henichesk is a small port city with 20,000 inhabitants. He was occupied by the Russian army shortly after the start of the invasion of Ukraine, which broke out on February 24. Over time, Russian symbols began to appear in the city, the Russian flag was flown at the town hall, and then there was the statue of Lenin, ready to celebrate the anniversary of the revolutionary’s birth.
Residents of the occupied cities are talking about a large-scale Russian campaign aimed at erasing Ukraine’s national identity. Ukrainian flags are torn from buildings, Russian military police are destroying Ukrainian textbooks and literature. In Melitopol, teachers are forced to use Russian and teach according to the Kremlin curriculum.
The Russian occupiers shut down independent media in the occupied areas, suspended Ukrainian television and introduced Russian propaganda. “We are in an information vacuum,” said one of the residents. The internet has not been working for several weeks. In February, Russian hackers broke into the site of the city of Henichesk, where they announced the voluntary “resignation” of the mayor, who has remained missing since March 9. It is not entirely clear whether he was detained by the Russian army.
Despite the resistance of the locals, not only Henichesk may soon become part of the so-called Kherson People’s Republic. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenský, Moscow plans to hold a false referendum on the independence of the southern region as early as Wednesday.
This model was last used by Moscow in 2014, when it instigated and armed a pro-Russian separatist uprising in the eastern Donbas region. Pseudo-elections were held in Donetsk and Luhansk, and both areas became “people’s republics.” The Russian military is currently working to annex more territory to these “republics.”
The nature of the so-called “demilitarization” or “denazification” operation seems to be gradually changing, and Russian generals are already talking openly about conquest, writes The Guardian. The invasion is becoming a spectacular colonization attempt to reshape the map of Europe by preventing the Ukrainian coast, the daily writes. The new goal seems to be the creation of a land corridor along the Sea of Azov in Crimea.
In the occupied areas in the south, the Russian army is trying to consolidate control. Ukrainian officials, activists and journalists are being arrested. Some disappear completely. According to the Ukrainian ombudswoman, hostages in the town of Kakhovka are being tortured at a police station.
Marina, a resident of the occupied port of Berdyansk, said that the new rulers of the city plan to hold a victory parade on May 9, following the example of those in Red Square. “It’s like a nightmare. I really don’t miss Lenin, “she added. According to her, shortly after their arrival, the occupiers occupied the local television building and the newspaper editorial office. According to her, most people in southern Ukraine reject the Russian occupation.
In a recent video message, President Zelensky called on residents of the occupied cities to “cause trouble” and not participate in Russia’s election “show.” In Kherson, several hundred Ukrainians protested against the occupation, and in Melitopol passers-by tore down the hanging Russian flag.
Acts of resistance by Ukrainians in the occupied cities continue despite the fact that Russian soldiers violently dispelled several protests. It is only a matter of time before the so-called “green corridors” close, which allow people from some regions to flee from the Russians.