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Ukraine war: Resistance to Russian kopek begins in Kherson

The Russian kopek will be effective in Kherson as from Sunday, according to Russia-backed forces that have dominated  the southern Ukrainian city.

However, Kherson's Ukrainian mayor, Ihor Kolykhaiev, who has  been deposed by Russian authorities,  asserts that  he is sceptical  about the possibility  as the only functional banking system in the region is Ukrainian, not Russian.

Inspite of being engaged for 60 days, many inhabitants are scheming to find small ways to flout the Russian forces by  swapping any kopek they recoup back into Ukraine's currency, the hryvnia.

But there are very handful  ways to safely rebuff the Russian army when it inhabits your streets.

Z signs which is a notable Russian pro-war symbol have materialized  around the city. Russian flags hover above Kherson's government buildings. Ukrainian TV has been mostly interrupted, switched to Russian news. Russian soldiers propel armoured vehicles through the city centre, between a lattice of check points.

However  switching the region's currency is yet another attempt  to strike out Ukrainian identification  from the city.

"I think most people will leave here if the rouble is introduced," Olga, who didn't want to disclose her real name.

"At the moment there are still currency exchanges operating in the city. If I am paid in roubles, I think I will just go and exchange it for hryvnia, I think others will too. It's just a small act of protest."

So many others share this plan with Olga. Ukrainian news reports have stated that some social securities have been handed out in roubles around Kherson, but that people have already swapped it back into Ukrainian hryvnia.

Life in Kherson has become gradually  difficult. Many now feel eager about even  talking to a journalist. When Olga was asked how she felt.

"I'm alive and I have food," she says.

About 40% of the population have run away in the two months since this vital, tactical  city was captured  by Russia, according to the mayor.

Many inhabitants recounts their daily encounter to pay for what few goods there are, as supermarket shelves lie empty. They say that shops, restaurants and businesses have shut down  and parts of the economy is crippling, disconnected  from much of the world.

At the beginning of the week , Russian forces nominated a new administration in Kherson because Mr Kolykhaiev was "not cooperating" with the new occupants according to Russian state news agency Ria.

Speaking on video  teleconference from somewhere, Mr Kolykhaiev affirmed he has not discontinued from work. He is sceptical of whether Russia can successfully introduce the rouble.

"I have no confirmation that it's been introduced," he says. "When can it appear? When the treasury and the banking system of Ukraine will stop working? Anything can happen under occupation, I can't get into Russia's head to find out what they are thinking. If they do try to introduce the rouble zone here, we would be plunged back into 1992 when Ukraine gained its independence."

Ukrainian authorities  are of the view that Russia could try to hold a referendum in the region on 1 May, where voters would be asked whether they want self dependence from Ukraine. Any endeavour  to actualize this could  be seen as a way to legitimise Russia's intervention, suggesting that inhabitants no longer want to be part of Ukraine and depicting Russia as liberators.

Russia had conducted a referendum in Crimea after Moscow appended it in 2014, and also in the Russian-backed dissident  areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia has contradicted  plans to hold a vote in Kherson, and  inhabitants in the city voice out that there is no sign of it.

Hearsay whirl on social media platforms about what could be expected. Some Ukrainians are concerned that Russia will simply falsify  the result and use records of their identification documents  of which they fright the Russians could acquire from the administrative buildings they now occupy  and use that to  substantiate.

"I'm not sure they even need the population here to know that there is a referendum," says Olga. "I guess they can do it without us. Maybe I already voted."


Routes to safety shut off


Multitude of people inside

 Kherson affirm that the routes out to safer parts of Ukraine have now been closed altogether. Now the only road available is through Crimea which means sojourning into Russian territory, and numerous  Ukrainians say they would not be prepared to do.

 And this was the only route for Maxim to use for his safety. He requested that his name will not  be used as his family are still inside the city. At the boundary, he was subject to a long questioning  as a security guard examined his body for tattoos.

"It was like a film," he said. "You sit on a suitcase under the scorching sun to be interrogated. I would never have imagined I would have to go through this. I was really horrified, because it's scary - people with machine guns are walking past you."

His favourite artist nearly  got him into difficulties.

"They were asking me the same questions on repeat," he says. "I have a David Bowie lightning tattoo and they asked me 'Is that Azov?'" The Azov battalion are a contentious regiment that was originally a far-right group later incorporated into Ukraine's National Guard.

Maxim  has since safely travelled through Georgia and on to Europe.

"Reaching Georgia was like being released from jail," he says. "You feel like you've got your human rights back."

For those still in Kherson there are deep fright  about the future.

"I am afraid of a humanitarian catastrophe," says Mr Kolykhaiev. "I am worried for the people who are still in the city today. They are all hostages.

"It's like we started with 100 litres of petrol in the car tank and we are driving until the gas runs out. I want to calculate how long we can keep driving. How long can we carry the city?"

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