The Ukrainian region of Kherson, occupied by the Russians since the beginning of March, will ask to be annexed by Russia, said Wednesday one of its pro-Russian officials, while deliveries of Russian gas passing through Ukraine seemed for the first time affected by fighting. Europe 1 takes stock of the evolution of the situation.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, two days after Vladimir Putin’s military parade. A pro-Russian official in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, which has been occupied by the Russians since March, said on Wednesday the region would seek annexation by Russia. “There will be a request (addressed to the Russian president) to integrate the Kherson region as a full subject of the Russian Federation,” Kirill Stremoussov, deputy head of the administration of the coastal city, told Russian agencies. of Kherson, the only major Ukrainian city over which the Russians have claimed total control in the two and a half months of war in Ukraine.
Kherson ready for annexation by Russia
The Ukrainian region of Kherson, occupied by the Russians since the beginning of March, will ask to be annexed by Russia, said Wednesday one of its pro-Russian officials. “The whole legal basis (…) will be ready before the end of the year,” added Kirill Stremoussov, deputy head of the administration of the coastal city, affirming that since the international community had not recognized the referendum of Crimea’s annexation to Russia in 2014, the Kherson region would not organize such a vote.
On Friday, a senior Russian parliamentary official, Andrei Turtchak, assured from Kherson that Russia would remain “forever” in southern Ukraine. kyiv has been accusing Moscow for several weeks of wanting to organize a referendum on independence in this region, as was done in 2014 in the regions of Lugansk and Donetsk when pro-Russian separatists partially took control. Moscow recognized their independence just before invading Ukraine on February 24.
“There will be no People’s Republic of Kherson. If anyone wants a new annexation, more powerful sanctions will hit Russia,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on April 22.
Will Russia extend the invasion to Transnistria?
These statements come as US intelligence chief Avril Haines warned on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was preparing “for a protracted conflict” and wanted to achieve “goals beyond Donbass”, counting on a gradual weakening of the Western determination to stop it. According to her, Russia has in its sights, beyond the south, Transnistria, a separatist region of Moldova whose southern tip is only about sixty kilometers from Odessa.
According to the Ukrainian command for the south, Russian troops are in the process of hitting “mercilessly” the region of Mykolaiv, the last lock before the metropolis of Odessa. “Private homes, agricultural facilities were damaged and the electricity supply to one of the localities was interrupted,” he said overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday. In late April and early May, explosions shook Transnistria, fueling fears of an extension of the conflict. The European Union announced on May 4 that it would “considerably increase” its military aid to Moldova.
Drop in gas deliveries
Deliveries of Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine were also down on Wednesday, for the first time since the start of the conflict. Ukrainian gas pipeline operator OGTSOU has accused Russian forces of “interfering” in its facilities in the Lugansk region and preventing the usual flow of gas from being maintained. He said Wednesday that the Russian giant Gazprom had cut off the tap to one of the Ukrainian branches of the gas pipeline, and requested the transfer to another crossing point.
Gazprom said it was impossible to reroute deliveries, while volumes transiting through another crossing point – located in Sudja, in the Russian border region of Kursk – have already increased. But not enough to compensate for the drop – by 18% on Wednesday, according to the Ukrainians – in volumes transiting through the Lugansk points. “We are closely monitoring the situation,” reacted Wednesday the German Ministry of the Economy, whose country is one of the main European customers of Russian gas. “Germany’s energy security is currently guaranteed,” he added, however.
So far, both Moscow and Kyiv have kept gas flowing, although the European Union has struggled to prepare for a disruption in its supplies since Vladimir Putin ordered payment for deliveries in rubles – a contractual change that she finds unacceptable.
“One Hundred Years” of Consequences
The Azov regiment, which defends the steelworks, published the photos of wounded soldiers who are still hiding in this huge steel complex, again calling on the world to “act” for their evacuation. Ukraine will have to “fight for a hundred years” against the consequences of the war, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz predicted on Wednesday. “Those who live in Germany know that bombs dropped during the Second World War are still being discovered today and that bomb threats continue,” he added during a press briefing in Berlin.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with him again on Wednesday for his country’s accession to the EU, by videoconference in front of students from several French higher education establishments after French President Emmanuel Macron warned on Monday that it would take decades”. “It’s like a table where the whole family is gathered, and where you are invited, but you have not been given a chair,” Zelensky said. “And I think that’s unfair. Ukraine is a country that respects the countries of the European Union, and wants to enjoy the same respect, no more, no less.”
No chance of a peace agreement according to Guterres
In Vienna, where he was for a UN meeting, the UN Secretary General called for maintaining contact with Vladimir Putin’s Russia to save lives in Ukraine and prepare for peace, even if no peaceful settlement of the conflict is currently looming. “It is clear that right now there is no chance of an immediate peace agreement or ceasefire,” said Antonio Guterres.
But “this war will not last forever. The time will come when peace negotiations will be on the table. The time will come, I hope, for a solution to the problem”, underlined the 73-year-old official, who offered his good offices to mediate. In Washington where he met President Biden, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi also called for dialogue, saying the United States and Russia should sit around the same “peace table” to find a way out. to the war in Ukraine.
The offensive continues in the Donbass
These gas disruptions come as Russia continues its offensive in the Donbass, slowly gaining ground. The twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lyssychansk, besieged, in particular seem to be able to fall at any time, noted AFP. The Ukrainian army seems to have more and more difficulty in holding the front line, with Russian offensives which “come in waves”, according to a soldier interviewed on the spot, requiring perilous operations to evacuate the wounded.
On the other hand, kyiv is pleased to have pushed back the Russians who had been firing for weeks on the north-eastern districts of Kharkiv, the country’s second city, and to have taken over some small towns in this region close to the Russian border. “The occupiers are gradually being pushed back from Kharkiv,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video late Tuesday, praising Ukrainian fighters who “show superhuman strength to drive out the invading army.”
In Mariupol, if the hundreds of Ukrainian fighters who entrenched themselves there still hold the Azovstal steelworks, they are also constantly bombarded, according to kyiv.
Vote on US military aid
On Tuesday evening, the American House of Representatives adopted an aid envelope for kyiv of nearly 40 billion dollars, including an economic and humanitarian component, but also arms and ammunition. It must now be voted on in the Senate, at the end of the week or at the beginning of next week, before being promulgated by the American president.
The EU still wants to impose an embargo on Russian oil
The European Union continues to try to convince its 27 member states to adopt a draft embargo on Russian oil, currently blocked by Budapest. An agreement is possible “within the week”, assured Tuesday the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune. This project is part of a sixth package of sanctions against Russia in preparation in Brussels. Witnessing the effects of unprecedented Western sanctions on the Russian economy, sales of new cars continued to collapse in Russia in April, falling 78.5% over one year.
Almost normal situation in kyiv
But the Ukrainian economy is suffering even more. Some 30% of jobs have been lost there since the start of the war, the International Labor Organization said on Wednesday. The IMF had predicted in mid-April a fall in Ukrainian GDP of 35% in 2022, against -8.5% for Russian GDP.
However, kyiv seems to be gradually returning to normal: nearly two-thirds of the 3.5 million inhabitants of the capital, which had emptied the majority of its inhabitants at the start of the conflict, have now returned, according to its mayor. Vitali Klitschko. Restaurants have reopened and sidewalk cafes are once again attracting customers, where many seem to ignore the anti-aircraft sirens that still sound regularly.