Russian-backed officials seek to bolster rule in Ukraine

Kremlin-installed officials in the occupied south Ukraine Russia celebrated Russia Day Sunday and began issuing Russian passports to residents of a city who requested them, while Moscow sought to cement its rule over conquered parts of the country.

In one of the central squares in the city of Kherson, Russian bands played a concert on the occasion of Russia Day, the holiday marking Russia’s emergence as a sovereign state after the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

In the neighboring region of Zaporizhzhya, officials installed in Moscow have raised a Russian flag in the city center of Melitopol.

Ukrainian media reported that few, if any, locals attended the Russia Day festivities in the two cities.

Russia Day was also celebrated in other occupied parts of Ukraine, including the ruined southern port city Mariupolwhere a new city sign painted in the colors of the Russian flag was unveiled on the outskirts and Russian flags were flown on a highway leading into the city.

APTOPIX Russia Ukraine War
A man cycles in front of a building destroyed by attacks in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, June 12, 2022.

Natacha Pisarenko / AP

Also, the Russia-affiliated government in Melitopol began handing out Russian passports to those applying for Russian citizenship. RIA Novosti posted a video of a Moscow-backed official congratulating new Russian citizens saying: “Russia is not going anywhere. We are here for good.”

President Vladimir Putin issued a decree earlier this year that accelerated Russian citizenship for residents of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions. In conquered cities to the south and east, Moscow has also introduced the ruble as its official currency, broadcast Russian newscasts and took steps to introduce a Russian school curriculum.

The Kremlin administrators in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions have expressed plans to take the areas into Russia, despite protests and signs of revolt among local residents.

Russian-installed officials in Melitopol on Sunday reported an explosion in a garbage can near the city’s police station and said two residents had been injured.

Another explosion was reported at an electrical substation in the city of Berdyansk, which is also under Russian control. The Kremlin-backed government spoke of a terrorist attack and officials said electricity was cut in parts of the city.

On the battlefield, Russia said it is using missiles to destroy a large depot in western Ukraine that contained anti-tank and air defense weapons supplied to Kiev by the US and European countries. It said the attack took place near the town of Chortkiv in the Ternopil region.

Ternopil Governor Volodymyr Trush said four Russian missiles damaged a military installation and four residential buildings in Chortkiv. More than 20 people were injured, including a 12-year-old girl, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

“This attack made no tactical or strategic sense, like the absolute majority of other Russian attacks. It is terror, just terror,” he said in a video address.

In light of the attack, Zelenskyy again made a case for modern missile defense systems from the US and other Western countries, saying: “These are lives that could have been saved, tragedies that could have been avoided if Ukraine had listened.”

There was also heavy fighting for control of Sievierodonetsk, an eastern city in Luhansk Province with a pre-war population of 100,000 that has become central to Russia’s campaign to capture the Donbas, the industrial heart of Ukraine.

Russian troops shelled a chemical factory in Sievierodonetsk where up to 500 civilians, including 40 children, had been holed up, Luhansk government Serhii Haidai said.

A pro-Moscow official, the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, Rodion Miroshnik, said 300 to 400 Ukrainian troops were also left behind in the factory. He said attempts are being made to evacuate the civilians.

Leonid Pasechnik, head of the Luhansk People’s Republic, said Ukrainians taking their stand in Sievierodonetsk should save themselves the trouble.

“If I were them, I’d already make a decision” to surrender, he said. “In any case, we are going to achieve our goal.”

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