Russia's state-run RIA Novosti news agency is reporting for the first time Wednesday that the Russian military occupied southern Ukrainian city of Kherson will soon petition the Kremlin to become part of the Russian Federation.
It was in late April that a pro-Moscow "military-civilian administration" was installed after Kherson fell to the invading forces, complete with a local transition to the Russian ruble. While the news hasn't been officially confirmed by the Kremlin, it's significant that the report surfaced through RIA and not Ukrainian or opposition sources, suggesting such referendums or even simple declared annexations in captured regions could be imminent.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has in his latest statements invoked Crimea - which came under Russian control due to a Kremlin-backed 'popular referendum' in 2014 - as a model for what could happen regarding Kherson's political future. He stressed it would be "up to local residents" and that the process would be "absolutely clear and legitimate".
Additionally, according to The Moscow Times, "Occupied Kherson, as well as the Pryazovske region on the Sea of Azov, reportedly began trading with Crimea shortly after Russian forces installed pro-Moscow administrations in the area."
And Reuters writes of more signs of annexation of the city coming soon as follows: "TASS cited the Russian-controlled administration as saying that pension bodies and a banking system would be created from scratch for the region, and that branches of a Russian bank could be open there before the end of May," according to its report.
However, some correspondents are saying there won't be a referendum, or possibly just the appearance of one as a pretext...
Kirill Stremousov, a Russian-aligned figure in Kherson, says a referendum is not needed to make Kherson a people's republic— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) May 11, 2022
Kherson is going the route of direct annexation, which procedurally differs from what Russia has broached for Luhansk or Donetsk
Meanwhile, Ukraine's defense ministry is vowing that the local population will "resist" such annexation attempts, despite eastern and southern areas of the country having large pockets of pro-Russian and Russian-speaking citizens.
Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine Hanna Malya in fresh statements said this week that the fierceness of local Ukrainian resistance has prevented this scenario from taking effect thus far.
"Russians failed to capture the territories instantly as it was in 2014. They do not have such support from the local population. On the contrary, our citizens strongly resist, not only the citizens but also the state of Ukraine," she described.
Southern Axis Update:— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) May 8, 2022
By all indications, #Russian forces will announce the creation of a #Kherson People’s Republic or possibly directly forcibly annex Kherson Oblast in the coming weeks and possibly as soon as May 9.https://t.co/Ya6pu4yieD pic.twitter.com/HLEocJaHaL
"But you have to understand that we cannot discuss in public the ways in which the state may act in the temporarily occupied territories. But the fact that the so-called referendums have not yet taken place and cannot take place shows that Ukraine is doing its job effectively," Malyar emphasized.