Kherson residents ditch Russian SIM cards for Ukrainian ones

Russia retreat Kherson

By Joseph Campbell and Felix Hoske

KHERSON, Ukraine (Reuters) - Hundreds of residents in the newly-liberated city of Kherson queued up in the rain to switch the Russian SIM cards in their mobile phones for local ones on Thursday, only days after the city was retaken by Ukrainian forces.

"We finally have our victory, we've been liberated. Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes," said 54-year-old local resident and seamstress Svitlana Kostikova, who said she had had no option but to use a Russian SIM card.

"I deleted all of my apps, and then was forced by circumstances to use it, to have a connection," she said.

The government in Kyiv, which says Russian troops destroyed the Kherson telecommunications system before leaving, has set up relay stations around the city.

Booths were erected around the city's main square by local telecoms providers, including Kyivstar and Vodafone, where residents had the option of either acquiring a free SIM card or paying to skip the queue.

"My SIM card burned when my apartment was hit by a rocket. The whole building burned down, a four-storey building, 65 apartments," said Semyanova Liudmyla, 67, after picking up her free card.

A local Kyivstar employee showed a handful of Russian SIM cards, which she said were either handed out for free or sold by the Russian government during the occupation.

(Reporting by Joseph Campbell and Felix Hoske, editing by David Ljunggren and Rosalba O'Brien)