As fighting intensifies in Ukraine’s east, the head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration Hennadiy Lahuta said this week that over 20 settlements in the city of Kherson have been liberated from Russian invaders.
“More than 20 populated localities have been liberated at the side of Dnipropetrovsk region,” Lahuta said during a national telethon, adding that roughly half of the population of Kherson had left the area already.
The news comes after Russian forces made some gains in the Kherson, Luhansk, and Donetsk. Lahuta said that Ukrainian forces continue to advance further south, pushing back Russian soldiers in the process.
Ukraine’s Dilemma: Does Russia Want to Annex Kherson, Too?
In a press briefing on Tuesday, United States Department of State representative Ned Price indicated that Russian forces may be looking to annex Kherson Oblast as well as the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.
“The Kremlin is probably weighing a few approaches: from recognizing a so-called ‘people’s republic’ as Russia forcibly did in Donetsk and Luhansk, to an attempted annexation just as Russia did in Crimea,” Price said on Tuesday.
Price also suggested that Kherson could be made “independent” through a sham referendum, much like the referendum held by Russia in 2014, despite having no legal authority to do so.
If Russia maintains control of the region, a referendum could well be how the Kremlin justifies annexing the area. The plan was all but confirmed by the deputy head of the pro-Krenlin Kherson Military-Civilian Administration Kirill Stremousov, who said that the process “might involve a referendum” but that it won’t happen by the fall.
“We’re preparing an administrative system and then towards next year we will see what the situation is like,” Stremousov said.
However, with Russian soldiers already retreating from parts of the region and new medium-range missile systems on their way from the United Kingdom and the United States, recent advances made by Russian forces could soon be undone.
Watch Ukraine Strike Russian Positions in Kherson
Video footage of Ukrainian fighters striking Russian positions in Kherson were shared on Telegram this week, showing the devastation caused by fighting in the region.
The video reportedly shows artillery strikes by Ukrainain M777 howitzers on Russian tanks and forces in Davydiv Brid, Kherson. The footage shows Ukrainian soldiers loading the howitzers on the ground, and drone video footage shows the missiles landing on Russian positions throughout the region.
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) June 1, 2022
The missiles strike what appear to be civilian buildings, likely no longer occupied by local residents, but instead used by Russian soldiers as bunkers and hideouts.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.