Russia will stay in southern Ukraine ‘FOREVER’, senior Kremlin figure claims while touring Kherson


Russia will remain in southern Ukraine ‘forever’, a senior Russian politician has claimed during a visit to the Moscow-controlled city of Kherson.

Andrey Turchak, a senior member of the ruling United Russia party, warned on Friday there will be ‘no return to the past’ for Ukrainians.

He said that Russians and Ukrainians will ‘live together’ in Kherson, the first major city to fall to Russian forces since the start of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

‘Russia is here forever. There should be no doubt about this. There will be no return to the past,’ Andrey Turchak said, according to a statement from the ruling United Russia party.

‘We will live together, develop this rich region, rich in historical heritage, rich in the people who live here,’ Turchak added.

It was the first time a senior Russian official indicated Moscow’s intentions to remain present on Ukrainian territory. 

Andrey Turchak (pictured in 2017), a senior member of the ruling United Russia party, warned on Friday there will be ‘no return to the past’ for Ukrainians

A nurse checks the wounds of Ponomareva Natalia Sergiivna, 41, three days after her family's home was shelled by Russian forces in their frontline village of Vysokopilla in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine on Thursday

A nurse checks the wounds of Ponomareva Natalia Sergiivna, 41, three days after her family’s home was shelled by Russian forces in their frontline village of Vysokopilla in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine on Thursday

Kherson is suffering from a severe shortage of medicine, money and food since Russian forces took control of the city and the surrounding area and blocked off supplies.

Turchak said Moscow would open a humanitarian centre in the city for the delivery of food, medicine and essentials. 

Russia has blocked all humanitarian assistance except its own, which troops deliver before Russian state TV cameras, and which many residents refuse to accept.

Despite Turchak’s claims that Russia will remain in southern Ukraine ‘forever’, Vladimir Putin’s men have suffered a string of battlefield setbacks and Kherson in the south remains the only significant city Moscow has captured.

The Kremlin conceded Thursday that Kyiv’s Western partners had prevented a quick end to Moscow’s campaign by sharing intelligence and weapons with Ukraine, but that this was ‘incapable of hindering the achievement’ of Russia’s military operation.

A destroyed classroom in a school hit by Russian rockets is seen in the southern Ukraine village of Zelenyi Hai near Kherson

A destroyed classroom in a school hit by Russian rockets is seen in the southern Ukraine village of Zelenyi Hai near Kherson

Russia is also still trying to seize a steel plant in the southern city of Mariupol. 

Some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters, by Russia’s most recent estimate, are holed up in a vast maze of tunnels and bunkers beneath the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol  and they have repeatedly refused to surrender. 

Ukraine said a few hundred civilians were also trapped there and as the battle has ramped up in recent days, fears for their safety have only grown.

There is growing speculation that Putin wants to finish the battle for Mariupol so he can present a triumph to the Russian people in time for Monday’s Victory Day on May 9, the biggest patriotic holiday on the Russian calendar. 

The fall of Mariupol would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up troops to fight elsewhere in the Donbas, the eastern industrial region that the Kremlin says is now its chief objective.

Its capture also holds symbolic value since the city has been the scene of some of the worst suffering of the war and a surprisingly fierce resistance.

Service members of pro-Russian troops drive armoured vehicles during Ukraine-Russia conflict near Novoazovsk in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine May 6, 2022

Service members of pro-Russian troops drive armoured vehicles during Ukraine-Russia conflict near Novoazovsk in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine May 6, 2022

While Russian troops pounded away at the steel plant, Russian forces struggled to make significant gains elsewhere, 10 weeks into a devastating war that has killed thousands of people, forced millions to flee the country and flattened large swathes of cities.

The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said on Friday that its forces repelled 11 attacks in the Donbas and destroyed tanks and armoured vehicles, further frustrating Mr Putin’s ambitions after his abortive attempt to seize Kyiv.

Russia gave no immediate acknowledgement of those losses.

Kremlin military chief Rustam Minnekayev last month said that Russia sought control of southern Ukraine, which could provide access to Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, an unrecognised Moscow-backed sliver of land bordering southwestern Ukraine.

Minnekayev, the deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, said Moscow planned to forge a corridor between Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula which Russia annexed in 2014, and the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

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