Pro-Ukraine Rally Dispersed By Russians In Kherson After City Administration Forced Out

Russian forces have used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukrainian rally in the occupied city of Kherson, Kyiv said, a day after Russia claimed to have taken control of the southern region.

Local authorities say Russia appointed its own mayor in Kherson on April 26 after its troops took over the administration headquarters in the regional capital in southern Ukraine, one of the first cities attacked after Moscow launched its invasion on February 24.

There have been occasional anti-occupation rallies in Kherson, and crowds gathered again in the city center on April 27.

"During a peaceful pro-Ukrainian rally on Freedom Square in the city of Kherson, servicemen of the Russian armed forces used tear gas and stun grenades against the civilian population," Ukraine's Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement.

At least four people were injured, and the office is investigating, the statement said. There was no immediate comment about the rally from the Russian side.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 26 that it had gained full control of the Kherson region, which is strategically important because it lies in an area that would provide Russia a land link between Kremlin-backed separatist areas in the east and the occupied region of Crimea.

Thousands of people have fled Kherson to Ukrainian-held territory and beyond, according to local authorities. The region is experiencing power and water outages, severe shortages of food and medicines, and spotty mobile-phone service, they say.

A man who said he participated in the rally on April 27 told Reuters that people in the city were afraid but had not given up.

They "quietly go to rallies" and display the Ukrainian flag and blue-and-yellow ribbons in support of Ukraine, according to the man, who identified himself only by his first name, Ihor, for security reasons.

At the same time, people understand that there is little they can do, he said. "The police are everywhere, people are stopped everywhere," he told Reuters.

Regional Governor Hennadiy Laguta said in a video address on April 26 that the occupation meant his administration was forced to leave and work elsewhere. He did not say where it had gone.

He said the occupation forces removed Ukrainian symbols at the administration building and placed their soldiers on guard.

Laguta also said they held a meeting at the city council and introduced Volodymyr Saldo as head of the Kherson regional administration and Oleksandr Kobets as head of the city administration. He pointed out that all these appointments were illegal.

RFE/RL attempted to contact Saldo for comment but was unable to reach him.


Separately, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate on April 27 said that more than 300 pro-Ukrainian activists and veterans were being held in the Kherson pretrial detention center and are being interrogated and tortured.

The directorate alleged that men of conscription age were being kidnapped to be used for prisoner swaps.

Veterans of military operations against the separatists in the Donbas region, former military personnel, ex-police, and pro-Ukrainian activists are being targeted.

It said it was possible that the prisoners could be used in Victory Day parades on May 9 and forced to march in the streets of occupied cities, similar to events organized in Donetsk in 2014.

The directorate stressed that such tactics were war crimes, and the organizers "will face inevitable punishment."

In addition, a filtration camp has been set up in the village of Velyka Lepetykha in the Kherson region. About 400 Russian troops in National Guard uniforms have arrived there and have begun detaining men of military age, the directorate said.

The information release by the directorate could not be independently verified.

With reporting by Reuters and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service