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Zaporozhye Region Head Signs Decree on Referendum Asking Residents If They Want to Join Russia

Sputnik News

Ilya Tsukanov

Situated west of the Donetsk People's Republic and northeast of Crimea, Zaporozhye is a major agricultural and industrial center, with a coastline on the Azov Sea. The southern part of the territory has been liberated by Russian and Donbass forces, with northern areas, including the administrative capital of Zaporozhye, remaining in Kiev's control.

Zaporozhye region interim administration chief Evgeny Balitsky has signed a decree on a referendum on the region's status, a Sputnik correspondent has reported.

Balitsky was said to have signed the order during a forum organized by 700 delegates of a local movement calling itself 'We Are Together With Russia' taking place in the city of Melitopol. Attendees unanimously agreed to the need for a referendum on Zaporozhye's status, the correspondent indicated.

Earlier in the day, Vladimir Rogov, a member of the interim administration, said the referendum would likely take place in September, with an exact date to be determined.

Pro-Russian administrations were set up in Zaporozhye and neighboring Kherson Region in the course of Moscow's ongoing military operation in Ukraine, with interim authorities suggesting that majorities of residents want their regions to become part of Russia.

Last week, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kiev and Washington had discussed a scenario to disrupt referendums on the status of regions' outside of Ukraine's control in a telephone call. "We had a long telephone conversation...We also talked about Russia's plans to de-facto annex new occupied territories of Ukraine, and how we can prevent this scenario," Kuleba said.

The call took place on August 1, and included Kuleba, Andrii Yermak, head of the office of the president, Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and from the US side, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley.

Also last week, Igor Zhovkva, deputy head of the Ukrainian office of the president, told reporters that Kiev would "return" the territories controlled by Russia before any referendums were held.

Rogov characterized Zhovkva's remarks as "unscientific fiction" which doesn't correspond to reality, and urged Kiev to "give up its illusions about the seizure of liberated territories." He added that "everyone in Kiev is well aware that if they launch an offensive, it will bog down, and even more territory of post-Ukraine temporarily controled by [Volodymyr] Zelensky will be liberated..."

Zaporozhye is a major industrial region and traditional agricultural powerhouse with rich chernozem (lit. 'black soil') lands rich in minerals for farming. The region is home to the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant - the largest nuclear energy generation facility in Europe, the massive Dnieper Hydroelectric Station and the Zaporozhye Thermal Power Plant, along with a host of mostly Soviet-built industrial enterprises producing everything from steel and aluminum to advanced components for aircraft, cars, and various heavy industrial goods. The region had a population of over 1.6 million people in 2021. Like most regions of Ukraine, Zaporozhye fell on economic hard times in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, with part of its industrial base privatized and dismantled, or choked off from orders after logistical and commercial ties with Russia were severed after 2014.

Zaporozhye became part of the Russian Empire in the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish wars of the 18th century. After the October Revolution of 1917 and a brief period of independence sponsored by German and Austro-Hungarian troops, the region and most of the rest of Ukraine were incorporated into the Soviet Union. Zaporozhye became part of independent Ukraine in 1991 after Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and Belarusian government chairman Stanislav Shushkevich met in secret at a state dacha in western Belarus and penned an agreement on the liquidation of the USSR.

© Sputnik

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