The Moscow-appointed leader of Ukraine’s Kherson region said Wednesday that he would ask Russian President Vladimir Putin if Kherson could join the Russian Federation, Russia’s Tass news agency reported.
Kirill Stremousov said he will ask to join Russia without a referendum. “The referendum, which was absolutely legally held in Crimea, was not recognized by the world community, which did everything not to recognize Russia as a full-blown member of the global community,” he said.
“Therefore, this will be one single decree based on the appeal of the leadership of the Kherson region to Russian President Vladimir Putin. There will be a request to make the Kherson region a full-fledged constituent of the Russian Federation,” he said.
After Stremousov’s comments, the Kremlin signaled it might favor holding a referendum. “That is the decision of the residents of the Kherson region after all, and it is also the residents of the region who should determine their fate,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“Such a fateful decision should have an absolutely clear legal background, a legal justification, be absolutely legitimate, just as it was in the case of Crimea,” Peskov said.
Kherson was the first major city that Russia took after it invaded Ukraine. The Kherson oblast lies just north of the Crimean peninsula, which Russia absorbed after the US-backed outsing of Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
Russia’s control of Kherson and the neighboring Zaporizhzhia links Crimea with the Donbas region and secures a water supply for the peninsula, which has been under a years-long Ukrainian blockade.
Stremousov and Moscow had previously taken steps that signaled Russia was planning to annex Kherson. On April 28, Stremousov announced a plan for Kherson to introduce the ruble as a currency and to fully transition to the Russian currency over the next four to five months.