Ukraine says Russia will hold referendum in Mariupol

Ukrainian officials say Russia is preparing a referendum in the southern port city of Mariupol on annexing the country.

Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the Mariupol mayor, said some sources in the group of those who have not yet evacuated believe Russia is preparing a vote on the city’s future.

Mariupol, once a seaside resort of 400,000 people, is largely under Russian control, although more than 1,000 Ukrainian troops are holed up at the Azovstal Steel Works.

Smoke billows from an explosion at the Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol on May 8.  Photo: Reuters.

Smoke billows from an explosion at the Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol on May 8. Picture: Reuters.

According to Andryushchenko, an announcement about the referendum could come as early as May 15, although he noted that there is no evidence that Russia has set up polling stations.

“We have received information that the Russian authorities are preparing a referendum and may even announce it tomorrow. We don’t know if this is the case yet, but we’ve seen a lot of activity. of Mariupol are integrated into Russian systems like education, banks,” Andryushchenko said on April 14.

Russia did not comment on this information.

Military Department of Ukraine.  Graphic: Washington Post.

Military Department of Ukraine. Graphic: Washington Post.

Mariupol is a strategic city on the Azov Coast, the crossroads corridor that connects the Crimean peninsula with the breakaway region in eastern Ukraine. Mariupol is also a major port city in the Donbass region, where two breakaway polities, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), are unilaterally recognized and protected by Russia. If this city is controlled, Russia will connect the strategic corridor and completely block Ukraine’s gateway to the Sea of ​​Azov.

Russian forces are said to be consolidating their military presence on controlled targets in southern Ukraine while fighting anger in the east. On May 11, an official in the Russian-controlled province of Kherson in southern Ukraine outlined a plan to ask President Putin for a merger before the end of the year.

Located in the northern part of the Crimean Peninsula, Kherson Province plays an important role in the region’s drinking water supply and irrigation. The city of Kherson, the provincial capital, is considered an important link in Russia’s logistics chain through the Crimean peninsula to deliver artillery and heavy equipment by rail to southern Ukraine.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine had previously emphasized that “all fake referendums in the temporarily occupied territories are invalid and have no legal value”.

Vu Hoang (Corresponding Guardian)