Ukrainian city launches witch hunt for ‘disloyal’ residents
The southern Ukrainian city of Nikolaev resorted to drastic measures this weekend to expose what the local authorities call “collaborators” and “separatists” – people who harbor pro-Russian sentiments or help Moscow’s forces in any way.
On Friday, the head of the local military administration, Vitaly Kim, placed the entire city – home to almost half a million people before the start of the Russian military operation – on a two-day lockdown. Kim announced a “prolonged curfew,” which came into force Friday evening and is expected to last until Monday.
During this time, residents of Nikolaev are prohibited from going outside or visiting any public places without special permits. In case of an emergency, a police escort is provided, Ukrainian news agency UNIAN said.
Law enforcement agencies will use this time to search for “collaborators” and “separatists,” Anna Zamazeeva, the head of the Nikolaev regional council, said. The operation is already in full swing, and the police will reveal the results no sooner than Monday, according to the official.
“All Nikolaev residents are undergoing checks now,” she told UNIAN on Saturday. Those who planned to leave the city and bought train or bus tickets in advance were allowed to leave, the official said, adding that they were checked at security outposts on their way out.
According to Zamazeeva, police are conducting door-to-door searches in apartments throughout the city. “They are searching everyone; check the ID, mobile phones, everything,” she said.
The official argued that the “collaborators” would be much safer behind bars since locals could “lynch” them if the police simply reveal their identity. “It is better for them to remain in prison until we win,” she added.
Earlier, Kim offered $100 to anyone that provides information about “spotters” – people that Ukrainian officials believe supply target coordinates to Russian artillery and aviation. Earlier, the local authorities reported they had detained at least four spotters.
On Tuesday, Russian forces reported striking a temporary base of the Ukrainian International Legion near the city of Nikolaev, using high-precision weapons. Up to 250 foreign mercenaries were killed in the attack, according to the report.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.