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People gather at high spot to pick up Russian phone service

With supply sabotaged by retreating Russians, Kherson residents get water from river

Locals resort to relying on Dnipro’s yellowish water for cleaning, as power infrastructure also damaged by fleeing pro-Moscow forces

A woman takes water from the Dnipro River to use it for cleaning, in Kherson, November 14, 2022, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)
A woman takes water from the Dnipro River to use it for cleaning, in Kherson, November 14, 2022, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

KHERSON, Ukraine (AFP) — Residents came down some steps and balanced dangerously off the edge of a concrete pier to scoop up yellowish river water in Kherson, just days after Russian forces retreated.

With their water supplies cut off for several days, people in the key southern city are reduced to drawing on the Dnipro River for their needs.

Before pulling out on Friday from the regional hub after an eight-month occupation, Russian forces destroyed energy infrastructure that also affected water.

“A week ago, the water supply system was damaged. And since then we have not had any more electricity or water so we come and get water here for washing,” said Tatyana, who came on foot with her daughter and son.

From their trolley, they take out several large plastic bottles that they plan to fill up despite the presence of Russian forces just on the other side of the river.

It is a complicated task, especially for the elderly, as the pier is high off the water and the residents have to kneel down.

They use buckets, funnels — even a milk carton on a string to scoop up the water.

Women take water from the Dnipro River to use it for cleaning, in Kherson, November 14, 2022, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

“It’s been five days without water and a week without electricity. I knew this could happen so I’ve been stocking up on water,” said Olga Genkulova, 41, as she packed bottles into her car at the busy car park by the river’s edge.

One man, a cafe owner, was packing a dozen large bottles in his truck which he said he would share with his neighbors.

Residents of the city, which had a pre-war population of 280,000, are also going to reservoirs for drinking water and some bottled water is still available in the shops.

A woman carries bottles with the water from the Dnipro River in Kherson, November 14, 2022, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

Destroyed bridge

Best known for its shipyards, Kherson has a river port that has lain idle since the start of the war, when traffic dried up along the Dnipro River — which also crosses Kyiv.

A bit further upstream next to a World War II monument, another group of residents could be seen staring at their phones.

Shortly after the capture of Kherson by Russian forces in March, Moscow cut off phone connections on Ukrainian networks.

But near the monument, residents are able to pick up Russian phone signals from the other side of the river. The networks do not have names, just numbers — 2494 and 2596.

People gather on a high place as they looking for a spot with a better Russian mobile roaming signal going from another side of the Dnipro River in the newly liberated Kherson on November 14, 2022, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

Vita Morzhiveska, 55, spoke to her children as her husband listened in.

“They are in Crimea,” she said, referring to the peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.

“They left at the start of the war… They wanted to come back in August but did not manage it,” she said. “They were about to cross the Antonivsky bridge but it was shelled. They nearly got hit themselves.”

The bridge spans the Dnipro in the northeastern outskirts of the city and is the last crossing before the river flows into the Black Sea.

Hit by Ukrainian rockets while it was under Russian control, it was then blown up by Russian forces as they retreated.

A plume of black smoke could be seen above the Russian-occupied village of Oleshky on Monday on the other side of the river.

Most probably it was the result of outgoing Ukrainian artillery fire which could be heard at regular intervals around Kherson.

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