Russia said it has connected the entire Kherson region of southern Ukraine with Russian television channels, which will now be available “free”, the military announced.
Bordering the annexed Crimean peninsula, the Russian army conquered the Kherson region in the early days of its war in Ukraine.
Since then Moscow has introduced the Russian currency, the rouble, and Russian passports are beginning to be distributed.
“Specialists from transmission units of the Russian armed forces have connected and reconfigured to broadcast Russian channels the last of seven television transmitters in the Kherson region,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.
It claims about a million people in the region can now watch the main Russian television channels including those of the public broadcasting group, which actively pushes pro-Kremlin propaganda.
Moscow has repeatedly denied referring to the invasion as a war, instead calling it a “special military operation”, a claim derided by the West.
Flags and passports as Russification continues
Russia has installed its own pro-Kremlin officials in a number of Ukrainian towns and cities, and on Sunday began issuing Russian passports to residents in one city who requested them, as Moscow sought to solidify its rule over captured parts of the country.
At one of the central squares in Kherson on Sunday, Russian bands played a concert to celebrate Russia Day, the holiday that marks Russia’s emergence as a sovereign state after the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti.
In the neighbouring Zaporizhzhia region, Moscow-installed officials raised a Russian flag in Melitopol’s city centre.
Ukrainian media reported that few — if any — local residents attended the Russia Day festivities in the two cities.
Russia Day was also celebrated in other occupied parts of Ukraine, including the ravaged southern port of Mariupol, where a new city sign painted in the colours of the Russian flag was unveiled on the outskirts and Russian flags were flown on a highway leading into the city.
Also, the Russia-aligned administration in Melitopol started handing out Russian passports to those who applied for Russian citizenship. RIA Novosti posted a video of a Moscow-backed official congratulating new Russian citizens and telling them: “Russia will not go anywhere. We are here for good.”
President Vladimir Putin earlier this year issued a decree fast-tracking Russian citizenship for residents of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. In captured cities in the south and east, Moscow has also introduced the ruble as official currency, aired Russian news broadcasts and taken steps to introduce a Russian school curriculum.
The Kremlin’s administrators in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions have voiced plans to incorporate the areas into Russia, despite protests and signs of an insurgency among local residents.