This spring a new tradition has appeared in Odesa. An increasing number of residents go to the shore early in the morning, before dawn, and greet the sunrise. Videos of the “Odesa” sunrises appear on social networks every day. Often spectacular, these videos are accompanied by texts that all contain the same underlying message: “If you can’t change anything, then just enjoy every moment of beauty.”

These days, when the real hot summer is about to begin, those who come to watch the sunrise also swim in the sea. The water is slowly warming up and now it seems to many that the Black Sea water in Odesa and near the city is cleaner than it used to be. The environmental situation has benefited from the fall in the number of ships entering Odesa and neighboring Ukrainian ports.

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There are also fewer Russian warships in the Black Sea. More precisely, thanks to Ukrainian naval drones, part of the Russian navy now lies at the bottom of the sea. To evade further attacks, Russia has moved its ships from Crimea to the port of Novorossiysk on the Caucasus coast, and to the Caspian Sea.

The ban on industrial fishing, including fishing from boats, has led to a huge increase in fish and even someone with little experience using a fishing rod can pull in a good catch, which local people are happy to buy.

While Odesa residents are enjoying dawn seascapes, in Melitopol, north of the Azov Sea (694 km southeast of Kyiv) the Russian authorities are tightening their grip on Ukrainian private property.

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Recently, the Russian authorities announced a program to nationalize the private housing of Ukrainian residents who left the occupied territories. Ukrainians who do not want to lose their property must urgently come to Melitopol, Henichesk, and other cities and villages captured by the Russian army to re-register their houses, apartments, and land plots according to Russian law. First, however, they need to apply for a Russian passport.

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If the owners of the property do not get Russian documents for themselves and their property, or if bills for water and electricity have not been paid for one year, housing and any other property of Ukrainian citizens will be nationalized and transferred by the occupation administration to new owners. Most likely, these new owners will be immigrants from the Russian Federation.

Most refugees from the occupied territories have already mentally said goodbye to their houses and apartments. But some are determined to maintain their right to property there. To do this, they embark on the risky journey to occupied territory.

According to Russian rules, citizens of Ukraine can only enter the Russian Federation through Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. This means that they must fly from Europe to Istanbul or Dubai and transfer to a Russian airline.

Even if a Ukrainian citizen manages to get to Sheremetyevo, there is no guarantee that he or she will be allowed into Russia. What is more, even if they pass all the checks and end up on the territory of the Russian Federation, they may not achieve the goal of securing their property.

One former resident of Melitopol, who did not want to give his name, said that at least 50 citizens of Ukraine, residents of currently occupied territories, flew with him on a plane to Sheremetyevo airport. After long interrogations and checks, only two were allowed into Russia, including him.

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He reached Melitopol and immediately went to apply for a Russian passport which he received a week and a half later. However, the occupation administration then refused to issue documents for his apartment.

It turned out that the entire building in which his apartment is located had already been “nationalized” and earmarked for future migrants from Kazakhstan, Belarus, and the Russian Federation itself.

The Russian government has made Melitopol the capital of “its” Zaporizhzhia region and the city’s population is now over 150,000 – slightly larger than before the war when it was estimated to be just under 149,000.

The Russian authorities, together with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched the “Zaporizhzhia Virgin Lands resettlement program” through which families are lured to the occupied territory with the promise of high salaries and good social conditions.

Meanwhile in Kyiv, another beautiful viewing point has appeared thanks to the completion of a pedestrian bridge. Constructed using steel from the now-destroyed Azovstal plant, the bridge is a monument to the plant, its workforce, and the men and women who died defending it.

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From this bridge, there is a very beautiful view of the Obolon district of Kyiv on the right bank of Dnipro. Closer to autumn, when the days become shorter, people who want to watch the dawn will also come here. For now, this is impossible because in Kyiv, unlike in Odesa, dawn comes before the curfew ends.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post. 

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