Ukraine residents prepare for curfew after night of heavy shelling

Citizens of Kherson stock up on food and water with some saying they are expecting ‘something big’ in the coming days.

Residents of the key southern Ukrainian city of Kherson were stocking up on food and water after another night of heavy Russian shelling and before an announced 56-hour curfew due to begin on Friday evening.

A number said they planned to stay indoors before the curfew and planned closure of the city, adding that they had slept in their clothes or gone to shelters because of the intensity of the Russian attack.

Others said they had sent some family outside the city or moved to safer locations further from the river, as they said they were anticipating “something big” over the coming days as Ukrainian forces also stepped up their shelling of Russian positions.

The violence in Kherson has increased markedly this week, with 23 people killed by Russian strikes on Wednesday in the region, including a deadly bombardment of a supermarket in the city on Wednesday which killed eight people.

The latest shelling of Kherson comes amid mounting speculation about the timing of the long-anticipated Ukrainian spring counteroffensive which officials have suggested may be imminent.

On Thursday morning Andriy Vanin, 54, described the situation. “We live in the northern part of the city, as far from the river as you can get. We couldn’t sleep last night,” he said.

“Until 1am it was very noisy with a lot of shelling. After one there was a break and we tried to sleep, then at 4.30am the Ukrainian artillery started shelling the Russian positions on the left bank.

“Yesterday I had to go out around the city. I drive along the city. I was near one of the places that was shelled. It felt like walking on a razor blade. Now I don’t want to leave the house.

“From tomorrow night we’ll be under a strict curfew announced by the authorities. First thing is safety but I assume this has something to do with the counteroffensive.

“Right now it’s quiet in my district. We are going out to buy drinking water and bread. There’s a couple of small markets nearby but we are going do it fast, like in half an hour, because of the shelling.”

Kateryna Symonova, who lives in the city centre, owned a bar before the war and now works at the technical university.

She said: “It was really loud. We heard a lot of bombing. Big and close and we could hear it all the time. It was bad enough that the whole apartment all was shaking. We went down to basement for a time after it started at 10pm.

“We assume they’ll start again today. Now they’re closing the city and I guess it means something big is coming. We have enough food and water and I’ve sent my parents out of Kherson so it’s just me and my husband.

“Now even though the curfew doesn’t start until tomorrow evening most people has decided to stay at home. It’s really scary to go outside. But it’s also really scary staying at home.”

The latest shelling comes a day after the main supermarket in Kherson was struck, as well as a train at the railway station.

Oleksandr Tolokonnikov, a spokesperson for the Kherson regional administration, said: “Yesterday was a tough day. The last report we had was that an 89-year-old woman was killed at 8pm last night but we have not heard of any casualties since.”

Describing the purpose of the curfew and city closure he said it was designed as a measure aimed at “saboteurs” that would allow the Ukrainian armed forces to strike Russian positions on the far side of the Dnipro River.

“First of all, it’s a counter-saboteur measure but also during this period Ukrainian armed forces can strike the Russian forces who are shelling the city. If people are in houses the military can work freely.”

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