War in Ukraine, Day 77 | The annexation of the Kherson region provoked gas riots

(Kyiv) Ukraine’s Kherson region, which has been occupied by the Russians since early March, will ask to be annexed by Russia, one of its pro-Russian officials said on Wednesday, while shipments of Russian gas to Germany through Ukraine were planned first affected by the conflict.

Posted at 8:28
Updated at 10:08 am

David STOUT with Dmitry ZAKS in Kramatorsk
Media Agency France

what you need to know

  • The volume of Russian gas flowing through Ukraine to Europe fell on Wednesday, Moscow and Kyiv said;
  • Ukraine’s Kherson region, occupied by the Russians since early March, will ask to be annexed by Russia;
  • On Tuesday evening, the US House of Representatives passed a nearly $40 billion aid package for Kyiv;
  • Ukraine says it tried to disrupt alcohol sales in Russia;
  • The factory in Zaporizhstal, located tens of kilometers from the front, resumed operations in April.
  • Almost a third of Ukraine’s jobs lost to war;
  • Wives of soldiers of the Azov regiment saw the pope and asked for his help.

“There will be a motion (addressed to the Russian president) to integrate the Kherson region as a full-fledged subject of the Russian Federation,” said Kirill Stremoussov, deputy head of the administration of the coastal city of Kherson, the only major Ukrainian city that Russians have in the two and a half months War in Ukraine claimed full control.

“The legal basis […] will be ready before the end of the year,” he said, adding that the Kherson region will not organize such a vote, since the international community did not recognize the 2014 referendum on the annexation of Crimea to Russia.

A high-ranking Russian parliament official, Andrei Tourchak, had already reiterated during a visit to Kherson on Friday that Russia would stay in southern Ukraine “forever”.

For weeks, Kyiv had accused Moscow of wanting to organize a referendum on independence in this region, as it did in Crimea in 2014. Moscow annexed it in no time.

“The invaders might as well ask to join Mars or Jupiter. The Ukrainian army will liberate Kherson no matter what their puns are,” tweeted Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to the Ukrainian presidency.

Destination Transnistria?

The statements come as US intelligence chief Avril Haines warned on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “preparing for a protracted conflict” and seeking “goals beyond Donbass.”

According to her, Russia is targeting Transnistria, a separatist region of Moldova whose southern tip is only about forty miles from the Ukrainian city of Odessa on the Black Sea.

The Ukrainian Southern Command also emphasized that Russian troops were “relentlessly” hitting the Mykolaiv region, the last lock before Odessa.

In late April and early May, explosions shook Transnistria, fueling fears that the conflict would escalate. The European Union announced on May 4 that it would “significantly increase” its military aid to Moldova.

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, neighboring Ukraine in south-western Russia, also said on Wednesday – citing a report by the regional health ministry – that bombings from Ukraine had left one dead and six wounded.

Ukraine’s chief of staff clarified on Wednesday evening that the Russians continued operations in the east, particularly towards Slobozhansky and Donetsk — specifically Roubijné and Lyman to take control of them — but not towards Kharkiv, near which is the village of Pytomnyk “Lay freed” by Ukrainian militants.

Gas deliveries fail

Deliveries of Russian gas to Germany through Ukraine also fell 25% on Wednesday for the first time since the conflict began.

“Due to the reduced transit, the gas volumes transported to Germany via Ukraine (via the Megal gas pipeline) have fallen by 25 percent compared to Tuesday,” the federal government’s energy agency said. However, she assured that this decrease will be offset in particular by larger inflows from Norway and the Netherlands.

Ukrainians and Russians deny mutual responsibility for these disruptions: Ukrainian gas pipeline operator OGTSOU warned Tuesday night that it would close one of the taps delivering gas to Europe on Wednesday, citing a case of “force majeure according to the Russian Army , he said, entered its facilities in the Luhansk region, in the heart of Donbass.

But Russian operator Gazprom refuted this notion of “force majeure” and said it was impossible to divert supplies through another border crossing, as requested by the Ukrainians.

So far, both Moscow and Kyiv have maintained transit flows to Germany. The EU is nonetheless trying to prepare for a disruption in its supplies since Russia ordered payments for supplies to be made in rubles – and in late April halted supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, which refused to comply. Germany has reduced its dependence on Russian gas from 55% to 35% in recent weeks.

“Hundred years” of episodes

These gas disruptions come as Russia slowly gains ground in the Donbass.

In particular, the besieged twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk appear poised to fall at any time, AFP noted. Russian offensives “come in waves,” according to a soldier interviewed at the scene, requiring dangerous operations to evacuate the wounded.

On the other hand, Kyiv is pleased to have pushed back Russian forces that had been firing on the north-eastern districts of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, for weeks, and to have taken some small towns in that region very close to the Russian border .

“The occupiers are gradually being pushed back out of Kharkiv,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video on Tuesday evening, saluting Ukrainian fighters “showing superhuman strength to drive out the invading army.”

In Mariupol, if hundreds of Ukrainian fighters holed up there still hold the Azovstal Steel Plant, they are also constantly being bombed, according to Kyiv.

The Azov regiment defending the steelworks has released photos of wounded soldiers still hiding in the vast steel complex, urging the world once again to “act” for their evacuation.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz predicted on Wednesday that Ukraine would have to fight the consequences of the war for “a hundred years”. “Anyone who lives in Germany knows that bombs that fell during World War II are still being discovered today and that bomb threats continue,” he added at a press conference in Berlin.

In his daily message on Wednesday evening, the President of Ukraine said he had spoken to Mr Scholz about the need to tighten sanctions against Moscow.

“We are gradually doing everything so that the aggressor suffers the most from this aggression,” Zelenskyy noted. He called Ukraine’s fight against Russia a “war against tyranny”.

He had earlier on Wednesday lobbied again for his country’s EU membership, via video conference to students from several French universities, after French President Emmanuel Macron warned on Monday it would take “decades”.

“It’s like a table where the whole family is gathered and where you’re invited but haven’t been given a chair,” Mr. Zelensky said. “And I think that’s unfair. »

The EU is currently trying to persuade its 27 member states to accept a draft embargo on Russian oil blocked by Budapest.

In Vienna, the UN Secretary-General called for contact with Russia to be maintained in order to save lives in Ukraine and prepare for peace, even if there is currently no peaceful solution in sight. “It is clear that there is no chance of an immediate peace agreement or ceasefire at this time,” said Antonio Guterres.

But “this war will not last forever. The time will come when peace negotiations will be on the table. I hope the time will come for the issue to be resolved,” said the man, who agreed to act as mediator.

Also in Washington, where he met President Joe Biden, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called for dialogue, saying the United States and Russia should sit around the same “peace table” to find a way out of the war in Ukraine.

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