Dnipro in the Ukraine War: Deceptive Calm

The fourth largest Ukrainian city, Dnipro, is the first refuge for many people from the east. But even here they are not safe from bombs.

A man looks at the remains of a lamppost

Was fired at by Russian rockets on Thursday morning: Dnipro Photo: Celestino Arce Lavin/dpa

DNIPRO taz | A terrible bang shook Dnipro – capital of the Dnipropetrovsk region, fourth largest city in Ukraine and around 400 kilometers from Kyiv – this Thursday morning. At the end of a corridor of the Hotel Dnipropetrovsk, located near the city center, a door is ripped open. Three women, all in their mid-50s, storm out. “Come with me. It’s safe down there,” one of them shouts to everyone approaching the trio.

The woman, wearing a red turtleneck sweater, seems to know her stuff. She unerringly steers the group, which has now grown to ten people, through winding corridors into the basement. Only two men and a woman remain on the balcony. You still want to finish smoking in peace and you have a direct view of the river Dnipro, which flows along in front of the hotel. “You don’t seem to give a damn,” the woman shouts angrily at the three of them.

Down in the basement it turns out that the women are doing quality control. “Then we’ll continue working down here,” says the woman with the turtleneck sweater. She carries a small folder under her arm and fixes the bystanders with a stern look through gold-rimmed glasses. The man across from her in the blue overalls readily listens to the criticism about dripping faucets. “They want us all to starve, freeze to death, simply not be there,” complains another woman with red hair. “When will this war end?”

It is also part of quality control. But she doesn’t feel like talking about dripping faucets right now. “Our Gennady Korban (an influential local politician; ed.) ordered a good defense system a few months ago. But what use is the best defense system if it hasn’t even been delivered yet,” replies another man in blue work overalls. “Our politicians have all been asleep for the last 30 years. If we had bought good anti-aircraft defenses back then, we wouldn’t have to be sitting here in the basement waiting for the air raid alarm to end.”

Opinions are divided on Gennadij Korban. For some he is a hero who helped build the city’s resistance against the occupiers, for others a corrupt oligarch who pulls the strings in the still booming city. “No house is built here without Korban putting a considerable sum in his pocket. Good, that President Volodymyr Zelensky stripped him of his citizenship,” says one woman.

The Russian artillery did not reach as far as Dnipro

A man says it struck in the south-west of Dnipro. He just got off the phone with his buddy. “I always get high blood pressure as soon as the air alert starts. It’s been like this since the war. Then it got better, I had my 120/80 stable. Since February he’s been going upstairs when the alarm goes off again.” “What war back then?” someone asks. “I was in Afghanistan,” he replies.

“It’s still okay here with us,” another man in overalls interjects. “But I have acquaintances in Zaporizhia. Fear is a permanent condition. They don’t know whether they should get up in the morning or not, whether they should be able to drive to work or whether they should go straight to the basement – if they aren’t down there at night.”

Indeed, for many people, Dnipro is dating the Donbass flee, the first port of call. The Russian artillery did not reach as far as Dnipro. That means the people here are not exposed to Russian air raids on a daily basis, like the population in northern Kharkiv or in Zaporizhia.

Those who have some money move to Dnipro from Kharkiv, Zaporizhia and other places in the east. Those who have a little more money move on – to Kyiv or even Uzhhorod. And those who aren’t afraid to jump in at the deep end go to Poland or Germany.

Mykola Lukashuk, head of the Dnipropetrovsk District Council, says: “Today, more than 369,000 internally displaced persons live in our region, including more than 120,000 children. Many came to us without papers. 3.2 million people live in the Dnipropetrvosk region. Already in the first days of the war we had over 500,000 internally displaced persons here.”

Good news and bad news

A few hours later, the extent of the morning shelling became known. Two factories, including “Pivmasch”, quoted the portal NV Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal, were hit. Pivmash, better known by the Soviet name “Yushmash”, produced the dreaded SS20 missiles during the Cold War.

23 residents of Dnipro were injured in this rocket attack on Thursday, reports NV, citing Dnipro Mayor Boris Filatov, among others. Residential houses were also the target of the attack.

That same night, strana.news reports, citing Kirill Tymoshenko, deputy head of the presidential office, that four people were killed in a shelling on residential buildings in the city of Volnyansk in the Zaporizhia region.

Dnipro has a million inhabitants. In Soviet times, it was a center of Soviet nuclear armament because of the Yushmash rocket factory. That is why the city was closed to foreigners until 1987. On May 19, 2016, the city was renamed from Dnepropetrovsk to Dnipro by decision of the Parliament.

The attack on Pivmash shows one thing: Moscow has understood that it cannot take the city. That’s good news. But now the fear is over. That’s the bad.

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