Kremlin Directly Controls Occupied Ukraine Regions During War – Kommersant – The Moscow Times

The Kremlin maintains direct control over the four Ukrainian regions that Moscow claims as its own territory amid continuing fighting and a lack of established borders, Russia’s Kommersant daily reported Monday, citing unnamed presidential administration sources. 

Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions are not included in any of Russia’s eight federal districts and do not have their own presidential envoy, according to the publication.

Citing two Kremlin sources, Kommersant said Moscow could move to integrate the partially occupied territories into Russia’s regional administrative system either after regional elections this fall or whenever Moscow declares an end to what it refers to as its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The Kremlin has also not signaled to Moscow-controlled authorities in these regions to lay the groundwork for their incorporation, Kommersant cited two unnamed people close to the leaders of two unidentified occupied Ukrainian territories.

The issue of forming federal districts may gain relevancy “in the process of stabilization and complete liberation of these territories,” according to Viktor Vodolatskyi, member of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, who oversees the Luhansk region.

“The presidential administration has taken over the functions of the federal district and is successfully coping with the task,” Kommersant quoted Vodolatskyi as saying.

The captured territories could be integrated into Russia’s regional structure following legislative elections there on Sept. 10, 2023, said Duma lawmaker Igor Kastukevich, who oversees the Kherson region.

Moscow has been claiming the four Ukrainian regions to be legally Russian territory after a series of rushed referendums in September 2022 that were widely condemned as a sham by the international community.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the accession of all four Ukrainian regions into law in October.

Russian media reported ahead of these moves that the four captured Ukrainian regions could become part of the Crimean Federal District, which Moscow illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week the administration was “studying various options” of incorporating the Ukrainian regions into Russia’s regional administrative hierarchy.

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