LONG-suffering locals in newly-freed Kherson are resorting to drawing water from the mighty Dnipro River to survive.
Residents young and old brave missiles and mortars to fill bottles from the waterway that marks the edge of Ukrainian-held territory.
Those living there today have no central heating or power after missiles destroyed power stations.
The water stopped working on November 9 when pumping stations were targeted.
Two days later, the last Russian soldiers had quit the city after blowing up its TV tower and destroying the key Antonovsky Bridge behind them to slow the Ukrainian advance.
Tens of thousands retreated to the Dnipro’s east bank last week, with Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu ordering a humiliating withdrawal after his commanders said they could no longer keep their troops supplied.
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They still shell the city but the power of Ukraine’s new US and UK-supplied long-range weapons continues to create mayhem for Vladimir Putin’s soldiers.
Its effectiveness is laid bare at Kherson Airport where bricks and mangled metal from the occupiers’ HQ was scattered across hundreds of yards by rocket barrages in which masses of Russians died.
Major Valentine, a Ukrainian combat engineer leading a squad looking for unexploded ordnance at the airport, said: “It would have been very scary here.”
Sticking it out in the largely abandoned city are Larisa, 59, and husband Oleg, 63, who had gone to the Dnipro for water.
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Larisa insisted that the current hardships they face were a small price to pay for freedom.
She said: “The worst thing when the Russians were here was that we had no feeling of liberty. It was hard for us to believe that in the modern world one place can be conquered by another.
“We tried not to provoke the soldiers. We only ever went out together and avoided main roads.”
Oleg said: “All the time we were stressed. The soldiers were always searching, checking, looting.”
Also at the river was paramedic Lena, who said she takes around 70 litres a day for the staff at her ambulance station to use for cooking, washing and flushing toilets.
Pensioners Piotr, 70, a retired policeman, and his wife Vala, said they had to live off Russian handouts throughout the occupation because they had no way to draw their Ukrainian pensions.
They loaded 30 litres of water in Jerry cans on to a two-wheeled trolley yards from the smoking embers of a recent rocket strike.
Piotr said: “My main fear is that the Russians will come back and if they do there will be much more fighting.”
Kherson has changed hands twice since Putin’s invasion but was spared the scorched earth bombardments of other urban battlegrounds.
Vala said: “The Russians left very suddenly. We noticed they were getting less and then suddenly they were gone.”
Most of Kherson’s shops, meanwhile, are shut so thousands queue for food handouts in the city’s central square.
Anastasia Ivashenko, 32, waited with mum Anna, 62, and daughter Katya, two.
She insisted they never accepted food from the Russians who, she said, had tortured residents.
She said: “So many people were taken to cellars and beaten, but we were lucky.
“Thank God, my husband was not hurt. He refused to work for the Russians so we had no money but friends helped us through.”
Some parents kept kids out of school as pupils were made to sing the Russian national anthem and learn a Kremlin curriculum.
Igor said: “We were worried that they’d come looking for us, so as soon as the Russians invaded, we told the school we were leaving.
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“But we stayed, and my daughter learnt online instead.
“Now we are praying for peace and normal life to return.”