A “complete information blockade” is being imposed in several Russian-held cities of southern Ukraine, and Russian troops are now selling SIM cards to residents, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday.
“There is no internet and no mobile connection in Kherson region for almost 24 hours,” according to Hennadii Lahuta, the head of Kherson's regional military administration. “The occupiers are selling Russian SIM cards in the city. You need to provide your passport data in order to purchase a SIM card. I urge you not to do so and not to provide your personal data to the occupiers.”
Lahuta said loudspeakers in Kherson are telling residents that the Ukrainian authorities are to blame for the lack of communication, but he denied that, saying, “Ukraine is doing everything possible to bring mobile communication and the internet back to the Kherson region.”
Separately, the Ukrainian press center Ukrinform said that Ihor Kolykhaiev, the mayor of Kherson, didn't get in touch today despite a planned online briefing at 1 p.m. local time. The press center said it will try to reconnect with him on Wednesday.
The Ukrainian military’s Operational Command South said fighting and shelling continue in the entire Kherson region.
"Many settlements are without electricity, water and gas supply. The region is in need of medicine and humanitarian aid,” it said.
Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported Tuesday that the Kherson region will become part of the Russian Federation in the near future, according to the Russian-appointed local official Kirill Stremousov.
RIA-Melitopol, a Ukrainian news website, also reported that Stremousov said the Russian ruble has been put into full circulation as currency in Kherson as of Monday, along with the Ukrainian hryvnia.
To the east of Kherson in the Russian-held city of Melitopol, Russia has “made another complete information blockade,” said Ivan Fedorov, the exiled mayor of Melitopol.
“Today, the Internet and communication of Ukrainian mobile operators are completely disconnected,” Federov said. “It is impossible to contact relatives and friends, only the way is an unknown Russian operator. Queues for (SIM) cards for 100-200 people.”
In the Zaporizhzhia region, which includes Melitopol, three out of the five districts are without communications, according to Oleksandr Staruh, head of the regional military administration.