(Prints size 114x80 cm)
Russian flags fly over most of the city's administrative buildings. Yesterday the city mayor Ihor Kolykhaev was forced out as well. The Russians replaced him with Kirill Stremousov. The governor of our “bright future” is now a man with a dark past, well known to the people of Kherson, ex-mayor Vladimir Saldo. Physically, he has not died yet, but politically he died back in 2014. Now he has the opportunity to thank his former voters, who brought him to power several times, with his contribution to the theater of the absurd and possible forced mobilization.
At night, something huge and loud landed in the city. It is not clear why it came or where it came from, but it shattered windows in many buildings. Considering the prompt appearance of a Russian TV journalist, who arrived at the site faster than a Marvel superhero, in a clean, ironed shirt and with a cameraman, the event was most probably staged. Moreover, it was only the warm up act, because the highlight of the program was a burning reeds show. A gorgeous view of the fire opened from the Arrestantka waterfront. Since cinemas and shopping centers in the city are all closed or destroyed, remaining residents have left their cozy, pseudo-safe apartments in search of free entertainment. We started our journey from a rather crowded main street, accompanied by the sounds of the post-war Okean Elzy band (and not Oleg Gazmanov) played through the municipal speakers. Closer to Ushakov Avenue, clouds of thick black smoke already beckoned. Intrigued by the overnight landing, the residents followed it like a beacon, hoping to see a Russian military facility or piece of equipment engulfed in flames. But at the end of the journey, disappointment awaited them: "It's just the reeds.". The Russian military mixed with the crowd and also watched the scene within their own virtual reality role playing game. They had a mission to guard a red flag, flying near the “eternal flame” monument, with the entire crew of their Ural truck.
In the same place in a parallel universe, thousands of residents, seized by the fear of an impending referendum, at their own risk and peril tried to leave the region for the controlled territory. They had a completely different movie on their screens. Despite the fact that officially the Russians are not letting them out of the region, the most persistent still manage to achieve what they want. Someone spent six nights under shelling in their cars in villages destroyed by artillery, for someone else their passage cost money, phones, and personal belongings, and for someone else again their freedom. People are stopped and checked at numerous checkpoints and by groups of soldiers wandering along the road. They’re watching their own film about the Nazis and their accomplices. Each inspection usually ends with brainwashing, confiscation of cigarettes, food, or a certain amount of money, especially if the men do not have a military service record ID. The paradox of this plot is that people often end up in the very movie they are running away from.
Can a referendum be held in Kherson? I do not see any trace of its preparation or support from the local population. All that can happen at the moment is a film about a referendum for viewers of a TV series about a special operation and liberation. Those who are not fighting for hearts and minds need only a territory. For a dozen “useful idiots” supported by Urals with personnel to guard each waving flag of the sixth of the Earth’s surface area that had no place for people.
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