The Kremlin is thought to have downgraded its overall war goals over the last few months, from conquering the whole of Ukraine to just tightening its grip over the areas to the east and south of the country which it is already occupying.
According to the latest daily update from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), this probably involves forcing Ukrainian residents in these areas to accept Russian Federation passports.
The MoD suggested on Monday that Russian troops are “almost certainly coercing” the local people to take up these documents.
It continued: “Residents in Kherson have been warned that those who have not accepted a Russian passport by June 1 2023 will be ‘deported’ and their property seized.”
Kherson is one of the regions of Ukraine which was illegally annexed by Moscow back in September, following a faux referendum on whether locals wanted to join Russia or not.
But, Russia does not actually control the capital city of the region right now. It pulled out of the city back in November, even though it was the only region capital Moscow had been able to secure since the invasion began.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is believed to be working on a counter-offensive, having allegedly crossed the Dnipro River in Kherson for the first time since the war started over the weekend – although the Russian installed head of the occupied region denies it.
Kherson is a critical region for both sides as it’s key to control in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula Russia seized back in 2014.
Forcing Russian culture upon other ethnic minorities is known as “Russification”, a policy which became prominent during the Russian Empire back in the 19th Century.
The Kremlin has not just brought back this policy recently, though. According to the MoD, it was doing this before the February 2022, too, in eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The MoD continued: “Russia is likely expediting the integration of the occupied areas of Ukraine into the bureaucracy of the Russian Federation to help paint the invasion as a success, especially in the run-up to the 2024 presidential elections.”
Russian president Vladimir Putin’s fate is thought to be pretty tied up in the outcome of this morale-sapping war since he led the decision to invade back in February 2022.