Russia: Coup against Putin already underway claims Budanov
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According to Kyiv, the Kremlin is planning a referendum in Russian-controlled Kherson in September. Meanwhile, a Russian official in the region made an official call for annexation – a move that would confirm Moscow’s permanent occupation of Ukrainian territory captured since February. These contradictory pieces of information “suggest considerable confusion” among Vladimir Putin’s teams, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.
Kherson lies on the Dnipro River near the Black Sea, only about 60 miles from Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula seized and annexed by Russia in 2014.
Its call for annexation was made by Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the military administration Russia put in place to run Kherson in late April.
He said in a televised briefing on Wednesday, May 11: “The city of Kherson is Russia; there will be no the KNR [Kherson People’s Republic] on the territory of the Kherson region, there will be no referendums.
“It will be a single decree based on the appeal of the leadership of the Kherson region to the president of the Russian Federation, and there will be a request to make [Kherson] into a full-fledged region of the Russian Federation.”
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The ISW said in its latest assessment of the conflict, which began nearly three months ago, that there is “considerable confusion” at the Kremlin.
The institute said: “Russian occupation authorities continue to face administrative problems that prevent Russia from establishing full control over occupied territories.
“The Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that the Kremlin is planning a referendum in Kherson Oblast on September 11, adding that Russian forces will attempt to recruit local collaborators throughout the summer.”
It added: “The wildly varying reports of possible dates for a referendum in Kherson (and denials that there will be any annexation) suggest considerable confusion within the Russian leadership at various levels about Russia’s prospects for securing the area and, possibly, the best way forward.”
On Saturday, May 15, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said a request from authorities in Kherson to join the Russian Federation is part of Moscow’s strategy to use rigged votes to place Ukrainian regions under Russian control.
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It said in its daily intelligence update: “A central part of Russia’s original invasion plan was highly likely to use rigged referendums to place the majority of Ukraine’s regions under long-term pro-Russian authority.
“The fact that Russia has only succeeded in imposing a pro-Russia local leadership in Kherson highlights the failure of Russia’s invasion to make progress towards its political objectives in Ukraine.”
It added that Russia will “almost certainly” manipulate the results of any referendum.
Separately, Petr Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said Moscow is preparing to hold a vote on whether the city will join Russia, following the announcement of a similar poll in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia.
He told the Observer on Saturday: “We have some information that the Russian authorities are preparing a referendum and could even call it tomorrow, but we don’t know yet if this is the case.
“But we see lots of integration of Mariupol into the Russian system, the education system, the banking system.”
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