Kherson in the south of Ukraine was one of the first cities to come under Russian control after Moscow began its 'special military operation' on February 24 (File image courtesy: Kremlin.ru)
As local media reported about the Russian-controlled administration in Kherson urging Moscow to liberate the city from Ukraine, it has been revealed that the issuance of Russian passports to willing residents of the region will begin before the end of 2022.
"The next stage will be the proposal to issue passports of a citizen of the Russian Federation to everyone. I think that this year we will already begin issuing passports," Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the military-civilian administration of the Kherson region, was quoted as saying to Krym-24 television by Russian news agency Tass.
The territory in the south of Ukraine was one of the first to come under Russian control after Moscow began its 'special military operation' on February 24.
The Russian Defence Ministry has reiterated time and again over the past few weeks that "peaceful life is gradually being restored" there.
Located just north of Crimea, Kherson 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.
After the "reunification" of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with Russia, the Kherson region held huge significance for Moscow.
It has also been the main supplier of agricultural products to the Crimean market. The Russians also control the Kakhovskaya Hydroelectric Power Station and the North Crimean Canal - two massive facilities in south Ukraine of a lot of importance to Crimea.
When asked about the deputy head of the Kherson region of Ukraine, Kirill Stremousov's comments about the region's leadership intending to ask the Russian president to annex the region to Russia, Vladimir Putin' Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said that the decision should be made by the inhabitants of the region.
"Certainly, whether or not there should be such treatment, the residents of the Kherson region should still decide. And the residents of the Kherson region should also determine their fate," said Peskov.
Reacting immediately, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that any "pseudo referendums" would put at risk the peace talks between the two countries.
"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. They are preparing 'committees' against our legitimate government on our land. Kherson Region Council has decided it is a part of Ukraine," he said Wednesday night.