The Moscow-installed authorities in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region said Wednesday they plan to appeal to President Vladimir Putin for the region to become part of Russia. Kherson was the first major city to fall to Russian forces after the start of their military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

“There will be a request to make Kherson region a full subject of the Russian Federation,” said Kirill Stremousov, an official in the Moscow-controlled region, Russian news agencies reported.

He added that “by the end of the year” Kherson will be fully governed by Russian law. The Kherson region is located just north of Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and is essential for supplying the peninsula with water for drinking and irrigation.

Putin announced the “special military operation” in Ukraine on the justification that Moscow was protecting the Russian-speaking population. He said that Russia does not intend to occupy its pro-Western neighbour.

However last week, a senior Russian official from the ruling United Russia party, said Russia plans to stay in southern Ukraine “forever”.

In April, the Russian army said it had taken control of another southern city — Mariupol — on the shores of the Sea of Azov, but Ukrainian forces are still holding out in a vast steel plant.

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