MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian-installed official in Ukraine’s Kherson region said on Monday that plans for a referendum on joining Russia had been “paused” due to the security situation, the Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-appointed military-civilian regional administration, also said the vital Antonivskyi road bridge, which crosses the Dnipro river near Kherson city, was impassable to cars after weeks of Ukrainian shelling.
Russian-installed officials had previously suggested that referendums on joining Russia would be held in September in Kherson, as well as in neighbouring Zaporizhzhia region and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, to coincide with local elections in Russia.
Almost all of Kherson region was taken by Russian forces in March, and Kherson city remains the only Ukrainian regional capital captured by Russia since it sent armed forces into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
In recent weeks, Russia’s hold on Kherson, a land-bridge for Russian forces to get to and from Russian-annexed Crimea, has appeared increasingly shaky.
A string of assassinations of Russian-installed officials in the region culminated on Aug. 30 with the shooting of Alexei Kovalev, a former lawmaker for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s party who had joined the Russian-backed Kherson administration.
Ukraine said last week that it had launched a counter-offensive aimed at retaking the region after shelling bridges and ammunition depots for weeks.
(Reporting by Reuters; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Kevin Liffey)