Russia cuts internet and imposes use of its currency in occupied Ukrainian city

Local officials see this as a Russian attempt to erase national identity and demonstrate its control over the city of Kherson; already the signal cut aims to limit real information of the war

Image Bank/PexelsRussian ruble
Russian ruble to start being used in the Ukrainian city of Kherson

Russian forces that control the city of Khersonin the south of Ukrainebegan to impose this Sunday, 1, the transition from the Ukrainian currency to the russian rublea movement that local authorities described as an attempt to obfuscate the national identity of the people who live in this region and thus incorporate it into the sphere of influence of the Russia. At the same time, Ukrainians reported that almost all cellular and internet services in the area were down. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry accused Russian forces of cutting off the service, saying it was an attempt to prevent Ukrainians from accessing true information about the war. According to an intelligence update released by the Ministry of Defense of United KingdomRussia was trying to legitimize “its control of the city and surrounding areas through the installation of a pro-Russian administration”.

Taken together, the moves “are likely indicative of Russia’s intention to exert strong political and economic influence on Kherson in the long term,” the British Defense Ministry said. Adding that lasting control over the territory would provide security for Russia’s control over the Crimea and would allow his forces to sustain advances in the north and west. Speaking on Russian state television, Kirill Stremousov, a pro-Moscow politician installed after the city’s fall, said there would be a four-to-five-month transition from the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia, which has been in use since 1996. Ukrainian currency circulated alongside the ruble during these months. Stremousov said the move was necessary because “the pension fund and the treasury left the territory of the Kherson region” during the conflict. “We plan to introduce the ruble zone [para fornecer] assistance, first and foremost, to retirees, socially unprotected segments of the population and, of course, state employees,” Stremousov said in an interview with Rossiya 24 TV channel.

Population without internet

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government said that internet connections and mobile phone networks had dropped in the Kherson region and part of the Zaporizhzhia region. Ukraine’s State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection said in a statement that it was a deliberate act, aiming to “leave Ukrainians without access to true information about the unfolding of the war waged by Russia against Ukraine”. NetBlocks, a civil society group that monitors internet access around the world, confirmed Saturday on Twitter that “occupied southern Ukraine is now in the midst of a near-total internet blackout.” Stremousov told Russian news agency RIA Novosti last week that “the question of the Kherson region returning to Ukraine” was “impossible”. Local officials estimate that nearly half of the region’s population has fled, and accounts of departed witnesses paint a picture of an increasingly repressive environment.

Guterres visits Ukraine and supports investigation

Antonio Guterres called on Russia to cooperate with an investigation of possible war crimes. The letter “Z” – the invasion force symbol – can be seen in photographs and videos scrawled on buildings and the Russian flag flutters over government buildings. Outside one, according to local media, a statue of Lenin has recently been put back. Russian television shows dominate the airwaves, although a recent explosion in a television tower briefly interrupted broadcasts.

Link Kherson to Crimea

Kherson Mayor Ihor Kolikhaiev – who was expelled by Russian authorities – said in an interview published Thursday in the Ukrainian newspaper NV who saw “no sign” that Russia would hold a referendum to declare a separate “Kherson People’s Republic”, as Moscow has done in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions previously. “What I see: there won’t be a referendum,” Kolihaiev said. Instead, he said, Russia would “probably” link the Kherson region to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. [para a Rússia] in creating another ‘quasi-republic’”, he said. Kolihaiev could not be reached by phone or email on Sunday. he told the BBC on Saturday the 30th, who did not believe that the introduction of Russian currency would work because the only banking system in the region was Ukrainian, not Russian.

The Russian occupation has met with resistance, with furious street protests and more clandestine military efforts only hinted at in daily updates from Ukrainian commanders. But it is increasingly difficult to verify information coming from the region. On April 19, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate accused the Russians of preparing fake referendums to “legalize” occupation administrations in temporarily occupied areas, including Kherson. But Ukrainian officials believe those plans were scrapped after widespread protests, as the Russians plan to find a way to “absorb” the Crimea region.

Kherson was the first major city to fall to Russia, and it was largely spared the kind of destruction unleashed by Russian forces on many towns and villages. The province of Kherson, at the mouth of the Dnieper River, on the border with Crimea, is the axis of the Russian offensive in the south. The Russians have tried to strengthen their position in the region, even as Ukrainian forces have made repeated counterattacks. The Ukrainian military high command warned on Sunday that Russian forces are “struggling to reach the administrative borders” of Kherson in order to “create favorable conditions” to attack the towns of Mikolayiv in the northwest and Krivi Rih in the northeast.

*With information from Estadão Conteúdo.

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