In an exclusive interview with Kyiv Post, Head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, Yaroslav Yanushevich, discusses the de-occupation of the region’s territories, the scale and nature of atrocities committed by the invaders, payback for traitors, and the implications of the on-going war for the winter heating season.
Military activity is continuing across the Kherson region. Which areas have already been liberated? What is the outlook regarding wider de-occupation?
Seventy-five settlements have so far been liberated from the Russian invaders in the Kherson region. In October, the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) returned our blue and yellow flag to 29 settlements.
As of Oct. 11, the General Command has confirmed the release of Novovasylivka, Novohryhorivka, Novaya Kamianka, Trifonivka, and Chervonoy.
Other settlements liberated in October include (but are not limited to): Lyubimivka, Khreshchenivka, Zolota Balka, Bilyaivka, Ukrainka, Velika and Mala Oleksandrivka, Davydiv Brid, Novovoskresenske, Novogrigorivka and Petropavlivka.
The liberation of all Ukrainian territories is continuing, and the Ukrainian military is destroying the Russian army. Every settlement of the Kherson region will be liberated.
However, it is now necessary to maintain informational silence. This is very important for our victory because we must not divulge unnecessary information to the enemy. We believe in the UAF and expect to obtain our victory!
It’s no secret that some Ukrainian citizens supported Russia during the occupation and went over to the enemy side. How does the regional administration and the police deal with traitors, including collaborators?
Around 99 percent of collaborators are from unemployed or low-skilled backgrounds. It is absurd therefore that the Russians have appointed yesterday’s bodyguards as school principals and former cleaners as “leaders” in the occupied areas. Most industry specialists do not cooperate with the enemy, so the Russians will happily recruit anyone who agrees to work with them. Those people typically have no form of specialized education nor the necessary skills and work experience. Perhaps they decided to “show themselves” in return for what they were being offered.
Law enforcement officers know about everyone who has taken the decision to betray Ukraine and go over to the side of the enemy. These are the organizers of the fake referendum and are people who help the Russians kidnap and torture our people.
Every traitor will be punished in accordance with Ukrainian legislation. Our law enforcement officers, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the police, and the prosecutor’s office are working on this. They will not be able to escape responsibility for their crimes.
After the liberation of Ukrainian territory, we hear about terrible finds. Is there any information about the atrocities of the Russians in the de-occupied areas of the Kherson region? How many people have the Russians killed and injured during their occupation?
The Russians have wrought terror and all kinds of atrocities to the Kherson region. While the UAF is pushing the enemy out of our land, the occupiers are fighting with civilians.
People are being kidnapped, tortured, and killed. Those who escape from captivity have spoken of their inhumane treatment, including constant torture and beatings.
Not so long ago, the police received information from the Skadovsky district that the occupiers came to the home of a local couple because of their pro-Ukrainian views. The man was brutally beaten, the woman was kidnapped, and their house was blown up.
After the complete liberation of the region from the occupiers, we will hear hundreds or even thousands of similar stories. Now it is impossible to estimate the full scale of these atrocities, but they are colossal. Unfortunately, we will see more than one torture chamber or mass burial site in the region.
Are Russians currently shelling civilian infrastructure? What damage have the occupiers caused in the region and is it possible to quantify it?
Unfortunately, there is not a single populated area of the Kherson region where the enemy has not left its mark in the form of destroyed and mutilated infrastructure. No day has gone by when the occupiers have not shelled our cities, towns, and villages.
They target civilian infrastructure, destroying schools, kindergartens, hospitals, enterprises, sports fields and homes – killing and injuring ordinary civilians. Thousands of civil infrastructure objects have been destroyed across the region – most of them residential buildings. In addition, much of the road infrastructure has also been destroyed, including bridges and roads.
Settlements near the front line have suffered the most. Some villages have been almost completely destroyed by the Russians without even a single surviving house.
The terminal and runway of Kherson airport has been destroyed, with the estimated restoration cost likely to be around 5 billion Hr. ($135 million).
In order to restore all infrastructure destroyed by Russia across the region, significant funds are now needed. It is too early to talk about the exact damage because we do not currently have access to the entire territory, and the enemy continues to bring new destruction every day. I can only say that we are talking about tens of billions of hryvnias (hundreds of millions of dollars)
But I want to assure everyone whose homes have been destroyed by Russia: Ukraine will definitely be rebuilt and restored. For now, the main thing is to expel the occupiers from our land.
How would you describe the situation in the region as we approach the winter period? Will there be heating in Kherson? What are the occupied regions preparing for next?
The occupying forces have done everything they could to make this heating season extremely difficult for the Kherson region. The Russians have destroyed many power lines, transformer substations, gas pipes, water pipes, boiler houses, pumping stations, etc.
We cannot guarantee a permanent heating season in the temporarily occupied territories because we do not have access to critical infrastructure facilities. We also don’t know what the occupiers might do next. Any form of provocation can be expected.
For now, we are concentrating on the liberated territories, in particular to get as many people as possible out of there before winter. Ideally, we would like to restore electricity, water and heating.
In the areas where communications cannot be restored, we are working to provide alternative heat to those who have refused to evacuate. Thanks to the Ukrainian Railways company and the Red Cross, we are able to provide people with the gas stoves. Also, using funds allocated by the government, we will be able to purchase and hand over firewood for free.
What are the humanitarian needs in the region?
The situation in the liberated settlements is critical due to the amount of damaged infrastructure, and further complicated by constant enemy shelling. Because of this, we are unable to promptly restore water and electricity.
We are now urging people to evacuate to safer settlements and we are ready to help with this. People should contact our hotline. We won’t leave people alone with their problems following evacuation.
The administration is also helping those who are unable to leave for certain reasons and people can receive humanitarian aid. We are working with international charitable organizations on this issue, such as World Central Kitchen, 100% Life, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and Proliska. Thanks to this assistance, we can bring and distribute the most necessary things to people for free – food, hygiene products and medicines.
The administration is supplying building materials from the UN, so that people can repair the houses that the Russian invaders have damaged. Residents of de-occupied settlements will receive the necessary humanitarian aid for as long as it may be needed.
As part of a pilot project funded by the Red Cross, residents of de-occupied settlements can also receive financial assistance of 1,200 Hr. ($35). In addition, we are resuming the payment of pensions in liberated areas.
What is the situation regarding the water supply to Crimea?
At the end of February, the Russian invaders seized the facilities of the Kakhovskaya hydro-electric power plant. They blew up the dams that prevented the Dnipro water from reaching temporarily occupied Crimea, therefore water is still being illegally supplied to the peninsula.
The Kherson Regional Prosecutor’s Office is investigating this crime. The deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, and the commander of the 11th separate engineering brigade of the Southern Military District, have both been declared internationally wanted.
As a result of the canal structures being undermined, significant damage has been caused to civil infrastructure, making it impossible to irrigate agricultural land in the territories of the Skadovsky and Kakhovsky districts of the region.
According to State Environmental Inspection calculations, the number of losses due to the arbitrary use of water resources in Ukraine amounts to 32.6 million Hr. per day ($800,000). Therefore, today we are talking about billions in losses due to the actions of the Russian occupiers.