The Russian-installed administration in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Oblast is planning to hold a referendum on joining the Russian Federation sometime this year, Russia’s Tass news agency reported.
Russia currently controls about two-thirds of Zaporizhzhia, which is located in the southeast between the Donestk Oblast and the Kherson Oblast. “The people will determine the future of the Zaporizhzhia region. The referendum is scheduled for this year,” said Vladimir Rogov, a pro-Russia official in Zaporizhzhia.
Russia controls most of the Kherson to the west of Zaporizhzhia, and pro-Moscow officials there have also said they’re looking at ways to join Russia. In response, officials in Moscow have said it is up to the people living in the regions.
Russia’s control of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia links Crimea with the Donbas region and secures a water supply for the peninsula, which has been under a years-long Ukrainian blockade.
The talk of referendums and possible annexation by Russia is a sign that the longer the war goes on, the more territory Ukraine may lose. In the early days of the invasion, Russia’s demands were for Ukraine to drop its claim to Crimea and recognize the Donbas region.
Amid growing calls for Ukraine to cede Crimea and the Donbas to achieve a peace deal, Ukrainian officials have strongly rejected the idea and maintain that they want to drive Russia out of all territories, including Crimea.