Russian authorities controlling southern Ukraine said they have begun distributing Russian passports to locals in Kherson and Melitopol.
Ukraine condemns the “introduction” of Russian citizens into its territory, describing it as “Russification”. President Vladimir Putin is speeding up this procedure.
Russian news agency TASS said the first 23 residents of Kherson were given Russian passports at a ceremony on Saturday.
TASS says thousands have applied for passports, but this cannot be verified.
“All our comrades in Kherson want to get (Russian) passports and citizenship as soon as possible,” said Volodymyr Saldo, the Russian-appointed military governor of Kherson.
Ukraine condemned the move as an “open violation” of its territorial integrity, saying President Putin’s decree was “legally invalid”.
This policy comes in the wake of the distribution of passports from Russia to residents of regions of Ukraine, which have been occupied by its forces since 2014 – Crimea and a large part of the Donbas.
Russia annexed Crimea and created “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk – movements that were internationally condemned.
Ukraine now fears that the same operation is taking place in areas occupied by Russian forces in the current occupation. Once the local population becomes Russian, the Kremlin can claim to have to “protect” them.
There are reports of Ukrainians opposing a Russian order to use the ruble, instead of the hryvnia, in Kherson.
Melitopol is located in the southeastern region of Zaporizhia, most of which is under the control of Russian forces, including the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
In Russian-controlled Crimea and Donbas – the industrial zone made up of Donetsk and Luhansk – Moscow imposed its ruble currency, forcing schools to adopt Russian educational curricula.
It also ousted local officials appointed by Kiev – and repeated the move in the newly occupied territories.
On the battle fronts, Ukraine called on its Western allies to speed up the delivery of artillery and long-range ammunition, to counter Russian advance on the Mykolaiv front in the south of the country.
Ukrainian officials announced that ammunition had begun to run out, while the eastern and southern fronts were witnessing intense Russian artillery bombardment.
Vitaly Kim, Mykolaev’s governor, said the battle around the region, located in the south of the country, had turned into an “artillery battle”, adding that the Russian army was using more force as Ukrainian forces were running out of ammunition. .
“European and US support is of great importance to us,” Kim said.
For its part, the British Ministry of Defense said in the latest intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine that the eastern city of Severodonetsk is still witnessing fierce street fighting and the Ukrainian and Russian sides are likely to suffer a large number of casualties.
Defense Ministry reports indicated that Russian forces had not yet made any progress south of the city. She added that Russia is using heavy artillery fire and airstrikes in an effort to overcome Ukraine’s defense.
The British Ministry of Defense has revealed that Russia suffers from a lack of modern, more accurate missiles and is using heavy anti-ship missiles to hit ground targets in Ukraine, and these missiles were created primarily to destroy enemy aircraft carriers using a nuclear warhead. .
When used in a ground attack with a conventional warhead, these missiles are very inaccurate and can therefore cause significant collateral damage and civilian casualties.
The future of the global system
For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stressed that the outcome of the war in his country will affect not only Ukraine but the future of the international system.
“The future rules for managing the world on the battlefields currently taking place in Ukraine are being determined,” Zelensky said.
Speaking via a video link to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, he added that his country is seeking to expel Russians from areas it has controlled since the start of the war.
He stressed that Ukrainian forces are strongly defending themselves to repel fierce Russian attacks in the east of the country, especially around the city of Severodonetsk.
Referring to the support provided so far by the West and allies in Asia, Zelensky said it was critical that countries sending aid not be delayed.
Zelensky also noted that Russia is still closing ports in the Black and Azov Seas, preventing Ukrainian food exports to the world market.
“If we are not able to export our food, the world will face an acute and severe food crisis and famine in many countries, especially in Asia and Africa,” he added.
Acceptance expressed in the union
Despite intense fighting, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Ukraine on Saturday to talk to President Zelensky about his country’s bid for EU candidate status.
Kiev is pressuring EU countries for swift accession, but there are warnings from EU officials and leaders that the road to membership is long and could take years or decades.
Ukraine sees the possibility of membership in the European Union as a way to reduce its geopolitical vulnerability, which was exposed by the Russian war within its borders.
“We will appreciate with the president the joint work required for the reconstruction and progress of Ukraine on its European path,” von der Leyen wrote on Twitter after her arrival in Kiev.
She told a group of journalists traveling with her that discussions would “feed on our assessment” of Ukraine’s readiness to be a candidate country to start protracted negotiations, including the required reforms.
She said she would reveal “soon” the assessment prepared by her commission.
EU commissioners and officials are expected to consider Ukraine’s bid next week, ahead of a June 23-24 summit likely to address the issue.