Russia is planning a “staged referendum” in the southern city of Kherson aimed at justifying its occupation, according to the UK Ministry of Defence’s latest report.
It says that the city is key to Russia’s objective of establishing a land bridge to the Crimean peninsula – which was annexed by Russia in 2014 – and dominating southern Ukraine.
It adds that Russia employed this tactic in order to retrospectively justify its seizure of Crimea.
Kherson is the only major city Russia has managed to seize since it invaded in late February. But some surrounding areas have since been retaken by Ukrainian troops, and fighting in the region continues.