After the breakdown of the USSR, almost all bomb shelters on the territory of Kherson city have been privatized. The largest shelters were located on the territory of large enterprises. They were turned into warehouses. Smaller ones were located near residential houses. They were turned into cafes.
Before 2014, neither Kherson residents, nor city authorities cared about the situation with shelters. Despite the threat of Russian strikes from the territory of occupied Crimea, Kherson city and regional authorities were not interested in the system of civil protection. Senior public officials cared far more about development of their agricultural business empires.
After the beginning of the Russian full scale invasion, Mayor of Kherson City Igor Kolykhaev did not try to arrange shelters. He focused on the launch of fountains. In his interview to Ukrinform from already occupied city, he said that he did not expect that large scale war was possible in Europe after the Second World War.
The Department of Civil Protection of Kherson Regional State Administration also did nothing to arrange shelters. Its head Sergii Sulimov collaborated with Russian occupants. He has been served with suspicion of state treason.
After liberation of Kherson from Russian occupation, the city authorities had to renew a network of shelters and alert system from the scratch. They were pushed by Russian shelling on December 25, 2022 when 16 peaceful residents were killed near the main square of the city. The city budget started allocating significant resources for shelters.
Let us look at allocated resources and their use. The city authorities spent over 25 million UAH and bought 33 external shelters. The lion’s share of them is closed concrete cubes which can accommodate 15-20 people. Each cube costs 500-700 thousand UAH. It turned out that there were not enough ready shelters of such type in the country. The municipality ordered their construction from three companies from Mykolaiv, Dnipro and Kyiv.
The city authorities also spent over 10 million UAH for underground modular shelters «Fortetsia XX5» [Fortress XX5]. Fourteen shelters of this type should be built in Kherson territorial community. The cost of one «Fortress» is around 700 thousand UAH. «Fortresses» will be built by Kyiv company LLC «D Bud».
The city authorities also ordered two «tsar-shelters» «Fortress XXL» from LLC «DM Bud». They will be constructed near places attracting a lot of people (for example, near points of delivery of food certificates). They can host up to one hundred people. Their cost is 1 million 300 thousand UAH.
Besides external ground and underground shelters, the city authorities also allocated resources to repair underground basements in multi-storey buildings around the city. As Deputy Head of Kherson Military City Administration Sergii Orekhov reported, the cost of repairing works would reach 5,5 million UAH. Two shelters have been already fully repaired. Four shelters are still being repaired.
Additional 24 million UAH are planned to be spent to buy 55 ground concrete shelters. As Roman Mrochka reported, approximately 100 million UAH were allocated for safety issues. Non-governmental organizations and private businessmen also help Kherson to install shelters. 11 ground shelters were constructed by charities.
However, majority of Kherson residents ignore shelters already constructed. There are various reasons. One of them is about unsatisfactory sanitary conditions of some shelters. Some residents use them as public toilets as there are no public toilets in the city.
Kherson residents complain about homeless people who settled in shelters. We talked with one man living in the shelter. He called himself Anatolii and told that he was waiting for his train to Khmelnytsky.
Public transport stop at Zaliznychna street became the place of tragedy. In February 2023, four Kherson residents were killed there by Russian shelling. Volunteers installed so-called external protective walls but city residents ignore them. They say that it is not comfortable to wait for buses behind protective walls. During the whole day, we met only Anatolii and his fellow hiding in the shelter. Other people, including women with children, stood at public stops and ignored shelters or protective walls.
After half a year, alert system has not been yet launched in Kherson. It is piloted in some city districts. Head of Kherson Military City Administration Roman Mrochko promised at the end of April to launch the system in one month. It is obvious that its launch requires more time.
There are signs of the misuse of resources for alert system. As Head of Kherson Regional Military Administration Oleksandr Prokudin told, previous senior officials of the city and region planned to buy entirely new system, instead of modernizing the old one. 33 million UAH could have been misused for this purpose. Today 5 million UAH were allocated for loudspeakers and sirens but the system still does not work. Old system did not work when there was no electricity and it depended upon actions of operator. Modernized system should be autonomous.
However, even if alert system will be launched in May and «Fortresses» will be installed near each building, it will not provide absolute safety for Kherson residents. Unlike Odesa, Kyiv or Mykolaiv, Kherson is mostly shelled by Russian artillery and not by Russian ballistic rockets or drones. Russians are located several kilometers away from the city, on the other bank of Dnipro River. They shell city residents by mortars and canons.
It is almost impossible to react adequately to such shelling. There are only a few seconds between the shot and consequent explosion in Kherson.
Under these circumstances, Kherson residents face two options: to continue their ordinary way of living and ignore permanent threat of Russian shells or to settle in shelters, as homeless Anatolii did. Majority of residents chose the first option. They are waiting for the liberation of the opposite bank of Dnipro from Russian occupants…