According to recent reports from the region’s leaders, the Ukrainian city of Kherson, which Russian forces have held since the early onset of the invasion of Ukraine, is now asking Russia to let them be part of their country.

Russian state-controlled media group TASS reported that the Deputy Head of the Regional Military and Civilian Administration in Kherson Kirill Stremousov said he was asking for direct absorption into Russia but expressed that he did not want a referendum but rather a direct annexation.

“The city of Kherson is Russia; there will be no the KNR [Kherson People’s Republic] on the territory of the Kherson region, there will be no referendums,” he clarified. “It will be a single decree based on the appeal of the leadership of the Kherson region to the President of the Russian Federation, and there will be a request to make [Kherson] into a full-fledged region of the Russian Federation.”

“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,” TASS reported the deputy head stating.

“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.”

However, it is important to note that Kirill Stremousov is a Russian-appointed official to control the city and was always expected to work for the Russian side. To jog your memory, Stremousov is the man who swung his baby daughter by her legs, stating that he could hear his daughter’s bones popping. He also claimed that swinging his daughter by her legs made the baby feel good for some odd reason as it was an ancient gymnastics technique from the olden times.

Pro-Russian leader of Kherson Kirill Stremousov swinging his daughter around (Slava UA). Source:
Pro-Russian leader of Kherson Kirill Stremousov swinging his daughter around (Slava UA/Twitter)

According to him, he does not like referendums as it was not internationally recognized by the world, so he prefers that Kherson be annexed directly by Russia. Many analysts say that this would not make sense as the world would not recognize the legitimacy of the Russian claims over Kherson, but this is what Stremousov said nonetheless.

“This will be one single decree based on the appeal of the leadership of the Kherson region to the president of the Russian Federation, and this will include the region inside the Russian Federation.”

Despite his request, it seems like the majority of the people living in Kherson do not want to be part of Russia. Of its original inhabitants left when it was taken over by Russian forces at the early onset of the war. However, if Russia decides to annex Kherson, the process would be quite similar to that of Crimea’s annexation in 2014. The only difference is that Crimea went through a referendum led by a Russian puppet government.

As a result of his treason to Ukraine, he is now wanted by the government and reportedly has a bounty of $16,000. It is unlikely that the Ukrainian Armed Forces would take his betrayal lightly. Hence, his only hope is that the Ukrainians do not recapture Kherson or that the authorities do not find him as Ukrainians had been obtaining key areas in Kharkiv. If the same counteroffensive is successful in Kherson, he is in big trouble. In fact, a small-scale counteroffensive has been going on in Kherson for quite some time, and they’ve managed to gain back some areas but not its entirety.

The city of Kherson, even without the annexation yet, has been reported to be forced to switch currencies to the Russian ruble. They have also cut off access to Ukrainian TV and the internet, forcing them to use the Russian internet and media. Residents have also been urged to listen to pro-Russian radio stations. Currently, the Ukrainians have conducted some 100 artillery and aviation strikes against Russian positions in Kherson in an attempt to weaken its hold on the city.

In fact, Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak has stated that they will recapture Kherson no matter the cost, saying: “The invaders may ask to join even Mars or Jupiter. The Ukrainian army will liberate Kherson, no matter what games with words they play.”

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In contrast, Russian Secretary-General of Russia’s ruling party Andrei Turchak stated that “Russia is here to stay forever” and that there should be “no doubt about it” as they will be not returning Kherson to the “past.”

In a direct contradiction with Stremousov, Turchak claimed that the status of Kherson would be determined by its residents. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In any case, the status will be determined by the residents,” he said.

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also agreed with Turchak, stating that the fate of Kherson would be “decided by the residents of the Kherson region” and would have to be done in coordination with lawyers and legal experts for it to be legitimate as Crimea, he claimed. However, even with legal experts on his side, we doubt that the world would recognize the annexation or referendum as legitimate anyway.

If ever a referendum were to take place in Kherson, UK intel stated that it would be ” almost certainly manipulate the results to show a clear majority in favor of leaving Ukraine” and that citizens of Kherson would likely protest this referendum, albeit risking their lives for it.