Moscow-held Kherson region ‘pauses’ referendum to join Russia

The vote expected in September delayed due to ‘security reasons’, the Russia-appointed administration in Ukraine’s Kherson says.

A photo of a line of people walking towards someone sitting at a table in an alleyway.
People arrive to receive Russian passports at a centre in Kherson after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decree to make it easier for residents of Kherson and Melitopol regions to get passports, in Kherson, Kherson Oblast, Ukraine on July 21, 2022. [File: Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

A referendum on joining Russia has been “paused” due to the security situation, the Russia-appointed administration in Ukraine’s Kherson region said, according to the Russian state-owned news agency TASS.

A “pause has been taken” for security reasons, said a senior Russian military administration representative in Kherson, Kirill Stremousov on Monday.

Referendums on joining Russia were expected to be held in September in Kherson as Russian-installed officials had previously suggested, as well as in neighbouring Zaporizhzhia region and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, to coincide with local elections in Russia.

The referendum is intended to legalise Russian troops’ rule over the territory, which fell into the control of Moscow in the early days of the invasion that started on February 24.

Almost all of the south Ukraine city of Kherson was taken by Russian forces in March.

The Ukrainian army launched a counteroffensive to retake the area in late August.

Stremousov also said the vital Antonivskyi road bridge, which crosses the Dnieper river near Kherson city, was impassable to cars after weeks of Ukrainian shelling.

In recent weeks, Russia’s hold on Kherson, a land bridge for Russian forces to get to and from Russian-annexed Crimea, has appeared increasingly shaky.

A string of assassinations of Russian-installed officials in the region culminated on August 30 with the shooting of Alexei Kovalev, a former legislator for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s party who had joined the Russian-backed Kherson administration.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies