LUGANSK REGION, UKRAINE - MARCH 23, 2022: A reservist with the People s Militia of the Lugansk People s Republic stands guard in Rubizhne, 84km northwest of Lugansk. Tensions started heating up in Donbass on February 17, with the Donetsk and Lugansk People s Republics reporting the most intense shellfire from Ukraine in months. Early on February 24, President Putin announced the start of a special military operation by the Russian Armed Forces in response to appeals for help from the leaders of both republics. Alexander Reka/TASS PUBLICATIONxINxGERxAUTxONLY TS1291BE

Moscow is taking the next steps to prepare the occupied territories in Ukraine for incorporation. As the “Moscow Times” reports (here in English), the Kremlin has appointed numerous new administrators for the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions.

One of them is a member of parliament who is supposed to promote “economic integration” with Russia. Another now ruling Kherson is a former intelligence officer. Some of the officials now posted to Ukraine previously worked on the annexation of Crimea.

In southern Ukraine, Moscow is already issuing Russian passports to citizens, has swapped phone codes and providers, and used Russian banks. Votes are to follow soon as to whether the areas will join Russia.

However, Russia is fighting against time with its plans. Unlike in the Donbass, the Ukrainians have been steadily gaining ground here with counter-offensives for weeks. Behind the front, partisans attack the occupiers with attacks. The Russian military leadership has to send reinforcements again and again. Western experts assume that Ukraine has a better chance of retaking the south of the country than the east. In economic and military-strategic terms, the south is more important than the east anyway.

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