A senior Russian-backed official installed to run the southern region of Kherson in Ukraine said the authorities there are preparing for a referendum to join the Russian Federation.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the military-civilian administration of the Kherson region, said in an interview on his Telegram channel: "Yes, we are preparing for the referendum, and we will hold it."
"The Kherson region will make a decision and will join the Russian Federation. It will become a full-fledged entity that can be like one single state in which the peoples of Russia live like one family," Stremousov said.
Stremousov has been collaborating with Russian officials for several months.
Addressing those anticipating Kherson's liberation by Ukrainian forces, Stremousov said on June 14: "We do not pay attention to it. All your attempts are useless and meaningless. […] We say once again that this is a waste of time."
He also warned those refusing to cooperate.
"All those who do not provide a specific, clear position in the villages on our future development as part of the Russian Federation, you will soon be removed. Many of you will simply be punished," Stremousov said.
On Tuesday, the elected mayor of Kherson city, Ihor Kolykhaiev, was arrested. He has remained in the city throughout the occupation. The deputy head of the interim administration of the Kherson region, Kateryna Gubareva, confirmed his arrest.
The Russian-backed administration is planning to offer Russian passports to residents of Kherson and begin introducing the ruble as its currency.
About 45% of the pre-invasion population has left the region, according to Ukrainian officials, but moving directly to Ukrainian-held parts of the country has become extremely difficult.