KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian officials on Saturday accused Russia of planning a fake referendum on the creation of a pro-Moscow “people’s republic” in the southern Black Sea city of Kherson.
Russian forces seized the port city, which has a population of 290,000, on March 3 after a three-day siege. It was the first major city to fall after the invasion of Moscow.
“The Russians are now desperately trying to organize a fake ‘referendum’ for a fake ‘people’s republic’ in Kherson,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.
Due to the “lack of popular support”, such a referendum “will be fully organised”, he added.
“Tough sanctions against Russia must follow if they continue. Kherson is and always will be Ukraine,” the Minister added.
Kuleba drew a parallel with Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in 2014, when it held a referendum on joining Russia after deploying troops there.
Kherson’s plan followed a “2014 playbook”, Kuleba said.
Ukrainian mediator Lyudmyla Denisova wrote on Telegram that Russian occupation forces were phoning lawmakers in the local legislature, asking them to vote for the plan.
Denisova said such a referendum would be illegal in the occupied territory, because under Ukrainian law any territorial issue can only be resolved by a national referendum.