One of the videos of the demonstrations showed people walking in Kherson’s main square despite the occasional shooting. It is unclear where the shooting came from, but a small group of Russian soldiers were seen guarding the regional council building.
The protesters chanted “Ukraine” and the biggest cheer was raised when a young man waving the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag rushed onto a Russian troop carrier.
One of the people who attended the protests managed to send a series of videos to CNN, saying in broken English: “People want to show that Kherson is Ukraine, all brave people go to this meeting, not afraid of the Russian army.”
Another demonstration broke out in Kherson on Sunday. Videos from that event suggest it was smaller but no less specific. In one of the videos, an elderly woman looked fixedly at the camera and said softly: “Save our country! Let them all die with Putin.”
The protests in Kherson this weekend were the largest and the latest in a growing wave of confrontations in the few Ukrainian towns and cities that Russian forces have captured.
It may be an ominous sign for Russian leaders already struggling to break the Ukrainian military resistance. Despite the risks, this civil disobedience is being induced from above.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Facebook message: “Anyone who can defend their city must continue to fight. Must. Because if everyone leaves, who will their city be?”
On Sunday, hundreds of people answered Zelensky’s call and took part in rallies across the Kherson region, close to Russia-controlled Crimea.
In the city of Nova Kakhovka, a crowd cheered as an elderly woman waved brooms and shovels as a welcome to Russian soldiers. Two men climbed onto a plinth to raise the Ukrainian flag outside the town hall.
Later, a video emerged of smoke rising from the crowd amid the sounds of gunfire. Ukraine’s Interfax news agency said five people were wounded after Russian forces opened fire – apparently over the heads of protesters – and used stun grenades.
It seems that almost every town in Kherson turned out on Sunday. In Novoleksica, hundreds of people sang the national anthem and shouted “Ukraine above everything” as they walked down a country road.
And in Kalanchak, which is near Crimea, hundreds of people sang the national anthem and shouted “Ukraine above all” as they walked down a country road – with multiple generations of locals banding together in national solidarity.
Then they raised a huge Ukrainian flag and strangled masked and heavily armed Russian soldiers. The women shouted, “Get out of our land, we don’t need you! Get out of our land!”
Since the middle of last week, there have been anti-Russian protests, often involving a few dozen people, from Berdyansk on the southern coast of Ukraine to Konotop, hundreds of miles north between Kyiv and Kharkiv.
When the Russian army reached Konotop, a small crowd overran a Russian military vehicle, shouting insults. One climbed onto the hood of the car and then fell as he sped away. In Berdyansk, a crowd sang the Ukrainian national anthem outside the city hall, which Russian forces occupied last week. More daring civilians confronted soldiers in a truck, looking puzzled.
Solo acts of challenge have gone viral in a country where internet and mobile phone connections are still largely intact, much to the surprise of most people. The footage quickly spread across Telegram and Facebook — short, uneven clips where the raw bravery of the protesters teeters.
These are all scattered examples, and fall short of organized resistance. But they are showing a real challenge and opposition to the new order that Russian forces are trying to impose as they gradually seize more territory.
The dilemma of the occupying forces is to find local officials willing to work under their supervision to maintain services in towns and cities where food and medical supplies are in short supply. It seems that the Russians are not well prepared to install local administrations.
In most cases thus far, Russian forces have remained out of sight in the face of civilian protests. They stood their ground but did not react. But not always. In a town in the eastern Luhansk region, most of whose residents speak Russian, residents took to the streets of Novobskov on Friday.
They shouted, “Get out of here! War and death follow you.”
They returned for more on Saturday when Russian forces shot a man in the leg and fired shots into the air to disperse a crowd approaching their position.
What is not clear is whether the Russians can take control of the cities they began to occupy and try to advance through this vast country. Russian forces are already facing supply problems, according to US officials. Crushing the Ukrainian military resistance as well as subduing the most daring population will be difficult.
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