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Is Russia set to establish a permanent military base in Ukraine’s Kherson region?

A Russian combat operation in progress (All images courtesy: Ministry of Defence, Russia)

The Russian-controlled administration in southern Ukraine's Kherson region has once again reiterated its intention of joining Russia and also urged Moscow to establish its permanent military base to guarantee full security.

Kirill Stremousov, Deputy Head of the military-civilian administration of the region, has said Kherson will not "rush to a referendum" since its results "will not be recognised by Western countries anyway".

The integration into the Russian Federation, he told the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday, would be gradual after establishing a peaceful life on the territory. The Russian language will also be given the status of a state language along with Ukrainian in the due course.

"According to our plan for integration into the Russian Federation, we must complete the process of transition to all standards of Russian legislation by the end of the year, and only then we can decide on a referendum and our future status," the deputy head of administration told the news agency in an interview.

Kherson

Located in the Black Sea lowland on both banks of the Dnieper just north of Crimea, the territory was one of the first to come under Russian control in March after Moscow began its 'special military operation' in Ukraine on February 24.

The region remains strategically important to both Russia and Ukraine. Not only does it provide a land connection between Crimea and Russian-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine but also has a Black Sea port, the first to fall during the ongoing operation.

The remarkable geographical position of the region, at the crossroads of transport routes, including access to two seas – the Black and Azov, combines with favourable climatic conditions. It has about 2 million hectares of agricultural land and the largest amount of arable land in Ukraine.

There are also 19 large and small rivers in the region, and the most extensive irrigation system in Europe with an area of more than 400 hectares. The coastal territories are part of the South Ukrainian oil and gas region. Two of the three national reserves of Ukraine are also located in the Kherson region – Askania-Nova and the Black Sea State Reserve, known throughout the world for their unique flora and fauna.

Sappers of the Russian Guard clearing beaches on the Black Sea coast in Kherson region

It is not for the first time that Stremousov has spoken about the region joining Russia and having no plans to be a separate independent republic.

IndiaNarrative.com had reported earlier this month about local authorities' plan to issue Russian passports to willing residents of the region by the end of the year.

Stremousov told RIA Novosti on Monday that the "entire population" of the region is interested in Russia establishing a military base there.

"The Russian army has become a guarantor of the preservation of peace and security in our region," Stremousov stressed, saying that the Ukrainian troops are constantly shelling the region and Kyiv has "stopped paying pensions" to local residents.

While Russian President Vladimir Putin' Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov has stated that the decision of integration should be made by the inhabitants of the region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused the Kremlin of "preparing committees against the legitimate government" on Ukraine's land.

"They are trying to organise the so-called 'KPR' (Kherson People's Republic) – as stillborn as the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic," Zelenskyy had said earlier this month.  

Also Read: Russian passports for Kherson citizens could be a reality by year end