Russia plans to hold a referendum in the Ukrainian city of Kherson in a bid to link Russia with Crimea

Putin has deployed Iskander-M mobile battlefield missile launchers within 40 miles of the Ukrainian border, the Ukrainian military has said.

The mobile system’s two ballistic missiles have a range of up to 500 km (300 miles) and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.

It comes as Russia plans to hold a referendum in the city of Kherson in a bid to create a tie with Crimea and justify its invasion of southern Ukraine, the Defense Ministry has claimed.

Russia previously staged a rigged vote on Crimea joining the Russian Federation in 2014, in which 97% voted in favor – a result as US President Barack Obama said he would “never recognized”.

On Sunday evening, the Defense Ministry said Russia was planning a similar move to Kherson where it planned to establish a land bridge to Crimea.

The southern Ukrainian city was one of the first settlements to fall to Russian troops after the outbreak of war. There had been hopes that Ukrainian soldiers could liberate the residents of Kherson as Russian forces withdrew to the east of the country.

In an intelligence update, the Defense Ministry said: “Russia is planning a referendum to be held in the southern city of Kherson aimed at justifying its occupation.” The city is essential to Russia’s goal of establishing a land bridge to Crimea and dominating southern Ukraine.

“Russia previously held an illegitimate referendum on Crimea joining the Russian Federation in 2014 to retrospectively justify its takeover of the peninsula.

“Russia’s national elections have been plagued by allegations of voter fraud and have seen top-level opposition barred from contesting.”

Russia plans referendum in Kherson city to justify invasion of southern Ukraine, Defense Ministry says

Russia previously staged a rigged vote on Crimea joining the Russian Federation in 2014. Pictured: Pro-Russian supporters in Crimea celebrate the results of the 2014 vote

Russia previously staged a rigged vote on Crimea joining the Russian Federation in 2014. Pictured: Pro-Russian supporters in Crimea celebrate the results of the 2014 vote

The 2014 vote in Crimea was not supported by the US, EU or Ukrainian government who all declared the ballot illegal

The 2014 vote in Crimea was not supported by the US, EU or Ukrainian government who all declared the ballot illegal

In the vote held in Crimea in 2014, the final results showed that 96.6% of voters supported the transfer of control of the Kyiv region to Moscow.

It came after then Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk vowed to hunt down ‘separatist leaders’ in Crimea, warning that the ground would ‘burn under their feet’.

The US, European and Ukrainian governments declared the ballot illegal and said they would not support the result.

The Kremlin backed Crimean officials, and President Putin told Obama the vote “was in accordance with international law.”

However, Obama responded by saying the vote “will never be recognized” by the United States, and instead warned Russia against further military action outside Crimea.

Earlier on Sunday, the scale of Russian troop losses in Ukraine swung to 21,000 as Putin’s war entered its third month.

The latest statistics, released by Ukraine’s ground forces this morning, suggest that 21,800 Russian fighters were killed amid fierce resistance by Ukrainian armed forces and territorial defense units – although this figure could not be verified. .

Meanwhile, ground forces claim to have inflicted extensive damage to Russian military equipment and machinery.

A total of 873 tanks were reportedly destroyed, along with 2238 armored vehicles, 179 aircraft, 154 helicopters and 408 artillery systems.

Putin’s forces crossed the border on February 24 from the north, east and south, and quickly moved towards Kyiv.

But they were forced to withdraw from the capital’s outskirts in late March and refocus their efforts on a targeted offensive in the eastern Donbass region after Ukraine managed to repel their advances, inflicting heavy casualties.

The wreckage of a downed Russian helicopter lies in a field near Kharkiv on April 16, 2022

The wreckage of a downed Russian helicopter lies in a field near Kharkiv on April 16, 2022

The considerable losses of Russian troops were attributed to poor tactical decisions by Russian military leaders and a considerable underestimation of the capabilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

At the start of the war, the Russian army dwarfed that of the Ukraine and led many to believe that the invasion would be quick and effective.

On February 24, the Russian army had 280,000 full-time active soldiers against 125,600 for Ukraine.

But the number of Russian soldiers needed to take over the whole country and control the entire population would be close to a million, according to Michael Clarke, a visiting professor in the department of war studies at King’s College. London – suggesting the Kremlin has woefully underestimated the amount of force. necessary to force its neighbors into submission.

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