In the Ukraine war, there are increasing signs that Russia, contrary to its protestations, is planning to annex Ukrainian territories: the authorities deployed by Moscow in the conquered Cherson announced on Wednesday that they wanted to apply for the Ukrainian region to be included in the Russian Federation. The Kremlin declared that it was up to the people of Kherson to “decide their fate.”

The capture of the Kherson region has been Moscow’s only real military success since the beginning of the war in February. The capture of the region enabled the creation of a land link between Crimea, the pro-Russian separatist region of Donetsk and Russia. The region north of Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014, is also crucial for the water supply of the peninsula.

Ukrainian officials had already warned that Russia could hold a pro forma “referendum” in Kherson, similar to what it did on the Crimean Peninsula, to tighten its control over the region. A US representative also warned in early May that Russia was planning a manipulated referendum on connecting the region.

Deputy head of the pro-Russian military and civil administration in Kherson, Kirill Stremusov, said Wednesday the authorities would submit an application to make Kherson a “full part of the Russian Federation.” His comments suggested that the authorities wanted to address their concerns directly to President Vladimir Putin without letting the people of the region vote on the move.

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated: “Such fateful decisions must have a legal background, a legal justification, to be fully legitimate, as was the case with Crimea.”

Putin had always justified the invasion of the neighboring country with the accusation of oppression of the Russian-speaking population there. However, he had stated that Russia did not want to occupy Ukraine.

However, Kyiv had already accused the Kremlin of a creeping “annexation” of Kherson after pro-Russian authorities announced the introduction of the Russian ruble in the region. According to Stremusov, a Russian bank could also open in Kherson in the coming weeks.

Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podoliak announced that Ukrainian troops would recapture Kherson. “The invaders might even ask to join Mars or Jupiter,” he explained on Twitter. “The Ukrainian army will liberate Kherson no matter how much they play with words.”

According to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian troops managed to recapture areas around the city of Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine. “The occupiers are gradually being pushed back from Kharkiv,” Zelenskyy said in a video message.

According to the Kharkiv regional administration, the Ukrainian army pushed back the Russian army from several places. The “heavy fighting” in the region, including in Kharkiv itself, continued.

According to the regional administration, a trail of devastation runs through Kharkiv. The bodies of 44 civilians were found under the rubble of a destroyed house in the Russian-controlled city of Izyum. The Russian troops also left behind “death traps”, i.e. mines, after their withdrawals, it was said.


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