Russia could remain in Ukraine after 100 days of war

When Vladimir Putin deployed troops to Ukraine in late February, the Russian president vowed his forces would not occupy the neighboring country. But as the invasion reached its 100th day On Friday, it seemed increasingly unlikely that Russia would give up territory it won in the war.

The ruble, now an official currency in the southern Kherson region, is set to replace Ukraine’s hryvnia. Residents there and in the Russian-controlled parts of the Zaporizhia region will be offered Russian passports. The Kremlin-appointed administrations in both regions have discussed plans to become part of Russia.

The Moscow-backed leaders of the separatist areas in the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbass region of eastern Ukraine have similar intentions. Two days before the invasion began, Putin recognized the self-proclaimed separatist republics as independent states. The fighting has intensified in eastern Ukraine, while Russia is trying to “liberate” the entire Donbass.


The Kremlin has largely kept quiet about its plans the cities, towns and villages it rocketed, encircled, and finally captured. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it is up to people living in occupied territories to decide where and how to live.

The annexation of more land from Ukraine was never the main goal of the invasion, but Moscow is unlikely to give up its military achievements, according to political analysts.

“Of course (Russia) intends to stay,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. For Russia, “It’s a pity to give away what was occupied, even if it wasn’t part of the original plan.”

Putin has been somewhat vague about the objectives of the invasion, saying it was aimed at “demilitarizing” and “denazifying” Ukraine. It was generally assumed that the Kremlin originally intended set up a pro-Moscow government in Kyiv and prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and taking other steps away from Russia’s sphere of influence.


Russia captured much of Kherson and neighboring Zaporizhia early in the war, gained control of most of Ukraine’s Azov Sea coast, and secured a partial land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

There was hardly a warm welcome from the locals. Residents of the cities of Kherson and Melitopol took to the streets to protest against the occupation and faced Russian soldiers in squares. Ukrainian officials warned that Russia could do so hold a referendum in Kherson to declare the region an independent state.

No such referendum has taken place, although the Russians seemed determined to stick to both regions.

They installed people with pro-Kremlin views to replace mayors and other local leaders who went missing in kidnappings, Ukrainian officials and media said. Russian flags were raised. Russian state broadcasts promoting the Kremlin version of the invasion replaced Ukrainian TV channels.


The Russian ruble was introduced this month as the second official currency in both the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions — at least in the parts under Russian control — and pro-Russian administrations began offering a “one-off social payment” of 10,000 rubles (about $163) to offer ) to the local residents.

High-ranking Russian officials began touring the regions and touting the areas’ prospects for integration with Russia. Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin visited Kherson and Zaporizhia in mid-May and hinted that they could become part of “our Russian family”.

A senior official of the ruling United Russia party in the Kremlin, Andrei Turchak, put it even more bluntly at a meeting with Kherson residents: “Russia is here forever.”

Members of the pro-Kremlin governments in both regions soon announced that the areas would seek incorporation into Russia. While it remains unclear when or if it will happen, Russia is laying the groundwork.


An office of the Russian Migration Service has opened in Melitopol to accept applications for Russian citizenship under an accelerated procedure, which Putin has extended to residents of the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions. The fast-track procedure was first introduced in 2019 in rebel-held areas of Donbass, where more than 700,000 people have received Russian passports.

Oleg Kryuchkov, an official in Russia-annexed Crimea, said this week that the two southern regions have switched to Russian Internet providers; State media showed footage of people queuing to get Russian SIM cards for their phones. Kryuchkov also said that both regions are switching from the Ukrainian +380 to the Russian country code +7.

Senior Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky, a member of Russia’s delegation to stalled peace talks with Ukraine, said referendums on joining Russia could be held in Donbass, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions as early as July.


Asked about such a scenario, Kremlin spokesman Peskov reiterated Thursday that it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future, but because of the ongoing fighting, the conditions are not suitable for organizing referendums on annexation.

Tatyana Stanovaya, founder and CEO of R.Politik, an independent think tank on Russian politics, believes Putin does not want to rush the referendums and risk them being denounced as bogus.

“He wants the referendum to be real, so the West can see that Russia was actually right, people want to live with Russia,” Stanovaya said.

Ukrainian experts say it will not be easy for the Kremlin to find genuine support in southern Ukraine.

Volodymyr Fesenko of the Kyiv-based think tank Penta Center said residents of the southern regions identify much more strongly as Ukrainians than people in areas closer to Russia or run by the Moscow-backed separatists for eight years.


“We are already seeing that the Russian occupation administration is being forced to tighten the screws and intensify repression in the southern regions as it cannot effectively control the protest mood,” Fesenko said. “And that’s triggering a new wave of dissatisfaction among the population, who got nothing but Russian SIM cards and high Russian prices.”

Local residents agreed with Fesenko’s opinion.

Petro Kobernyk, 31, an NGO activist who fled Kherson with his wife, said Russian repression began in the early days of the occupation.

“Hundreds of pro-Ukrainian activists, including my friends, are being held in the basements of the security services,” Kobernyk said over the phone. “Those who take an active stand are kidnapped and tortured, threatened and expelled from the region.”

His claims could not be independently verified. Russian forces are keeping people in an “information vacuum” as Ukrainian websites are no longer available, Kobernyk said.


He described a bleak life in Cherson. With many shops closed, the city has “turned into an endless market where people barter goods for medicine and food.”


Follow all AP stories on the war in Ukraine at https://apnews/hub/russia-ukraine.

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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/03/russia-may-be-in-ukraine-to-stay-after-100-days-of-war/ Russia could remain in Ukraine after 100 days of war

Sarah Y. Kim

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