Occupying Russian forces have appointed a new “military-civilian administration” in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region amid pro-Kyiv protests and rocket attacks.
Russian soldiers occupied the city of Kherson on the banks of the Dnieper River in early March. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it gained control of the entire Kherson region this week.
Russian troops have dismissed Kherson’s Ukrainian leadership, instead appointing former KGB agent Alexander Kobets as mayor and ex-mayor Volodymyr Saldo as regional head, Russian state media reported Wednesday.
Kirill Stremousov, a fringe figure identified as the new regional administration’s deputy chief, told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that Kherson will begin transitioning to the Russian ruble on May 1.
The city’s previous mayor, Ihor Kolykhayev, had “refused to cooperate” with occupying forces, an unnamed official told RIA Novosti.
The announcement was made as Russian forces dispersed a pro-Ukraine rally with tear gas and stun grenades.
Explosions at a nearby television tower also briefly disrupted Russian state-run broadcasting.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed in a daily briefing Thursday that it had shot down 14 Ukrainian missiles over Kherson.
Stremousov said Kherson did not plan to hold a referendum to establish an unrecognized pro-Russian state similar to the Donetsk and Lugansk republics of eastern Ukraine but ruled out the region’s return to Ukraine.
Days earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that “pseudo-referendums” in Kherson and the destroyed city of Mariupol would spell an end to Moscow-Kyiv peace talks.