Pope Francis meets with wives of Ukrainian soldiers defending Azovstal steel plant

The new Russian-installed leadership of the Ukrainian region of Kherson plans to make a formal request to become part of the Russian federation.

“Authorities of Kherson region will appeal to the President of Russia with a request to include the region into Russia,” says a statement on a new Telegram channel which appears to be linked to the pro-Russian administration.

The announcement was swiftly reported by Russian state media.

The appeal is attributed to Kirill Stremousov — the newly appointed deputy head of the military-civilian administration in Kherson.

At the weekend, Stremousov said that “citizens residing in the Kherson region will have the right to obtain Russian citizenship.”

“We are not planning referendums, and we are not planning the creation of republics,” he said.

“We are talking about the fact that we will integrate as much as possible into the Russian Federation according to all the opportunities that we have.

“And all those citizens who are on the territory of the Kherson region will have the right to obtain Russian citizenship and Russian passports.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian President, tweeted his response to the announcement from Kherson.

“The invaders may ask to join even Mars or Jupiter,” he wrote. “The Ukrainian army will liberate Kherson, no matter what games with words they play.”

What Russia is saying: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday it should be the decision of the people of Kherson when asked if Russia is ready to accept the Kherson region should the local authorities make such a request. 

“It is up to the citizens of the Kherson region to decide whether such an appeal will happen or not and to determine their own destiny,” Peskov told journalists on a regular conference call. 

Commenting on the legitimacy of such a procedure and whether it should be done through a referendum or by a decree, Peskov added it should be done in a “legitimate” way.

“This issue should be clearly and carefully verified and assessed by lawyers and legal experts because such fateful decisions should have a clear legal background, a justification, they should be absolutely legitimate, as was the case with Crimea,” he said.

Russian forces are occupying much of the southern Ukrainian province of Kherson, including the city of Kherson. 

CNN’s Anna Chernova contributed reporting to this post.

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