When Russian forces captured Kherson two months ago, many civilians took to the streets to protest. The Russians responded by throwing flash grenades and shooting civilians.
Since then, the Russian ruble has been introduced, Ukrainian telephone and Internet connections have been cut off, and Ukrainian television channels have been suspended. Even the Russian curriculum is offered. Residents find it increasingly difficult to connect with the outside world. They can no longer flee to safe areas in Ukraine.
Since early March, there have been rumors of a possible referendum in the Kherson region, where residents can vote to secede from Ukraine. Similar mock polls were held in Donbas and Crimea in 2014.
About 90 percent of the population of Donbass would have voted for independence, and 95 percent of the population of Crimea would have voted for annexation to Russia. The Ukrainian government and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called the referendums “illegal” and “fraudulent”.
On April 16, ballot papers for a referendum were to be printed in Kherson, the Ukrainian Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights claimed. Sources close to the Kremlin also confirm that a referendum is being prepared, according to the usually reliable Russian news site Medusa.
The city is located near the Crimea and is an important base for the Russian offensive in southern Ukraine. With approximately 300,000 inhabitants, it is the largest city completely controlled by the Russians.
On May 9, Russia will celebrate the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, and Putin will want to show his people progress on that day. Since the offensive in Donbass is slow, Putin may use the referendum in Kherson to prove that “de-Nazification” in Ukraine is going well.
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