1. Ukraine’s Kherson region prepares for referendum on Russia union
The Russian-controlled region of Kherson in southern Ukraine has begun preparations for a referendum on joining Russia, according to a local official.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Moscow-imposed administration, told Reuters on Tuesday that the vote would take place in “the coming half-year” without specifying an exact date.
“We’re preparing for the referendum and we will carry it out,” he said on Telegram, adding that local residents would be allowed to choose between becoming part of Russia or not.
Many believe that the referendum is only done as a formality and that the Kremlin will ensure the result goes in Russia’s favour.
The Russian official added that the people there will be treated as Russian nationals. He also said that a passenger railway linking Moscow and Kherson would be provided.
The region has been under Russian control since the early days of the war, with its capital city, Kherson, captured by Moscow’s troops on 2 March.
The distribution of Russian passports started weeks ago in the Russian-controlled areas, which have now been occupied for four months.
2. Russians fight to encircle Ukraine’s last stronghold
Russian forces battled Wednesday to surround the Ukrainian army’s last stronghold in the country’s long-contested eastern region.
Moscow is fighting to capture Lysychansk and surrounding villages in the Luhansk region, where Ukrainian troops are currently battling to prevent their encirclement.
The UK’s defence ministry said Russian forces were making “incremental advances” in their offensive to capture the city.
Lysychansk is the last major area in the Donbas region under Ukrainian control, following the retreat of Ukraine’s forces from the neighbouring city of Sievierodonetsk.
Russian troops and their separatist allies control 95% of Luhansk and about half of the Donetsk region — the other province that makes up the eastern industrial area of Donbas.
The latest assessment by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said the Ukrainians were likely in a fighting withdrawal to seek more defensible positions while draining the Russian military of manpower and resources.
3. UK sanctions Russia’s ‘Nickel King’
The United Kingdom announced Wednesday it is applying new sanctions on an oligarch known as Russia’s “Nickel King”.
Vladimir Potanin, described by London as Russia’s second-richest man, gained notoriety recently for buying up assets from firms exiting Russia over the Ukraine invasion.
Potanin was included in the latest wave of sanctions announced by the UK, which includes business figures, financial firms and other entities.
London, along with its Western allies, has slapped sanctions on Russian elites, banks and strategic industries since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.
“Today’s sanctions show that nothing and no one is off the table, including Putin’s inner circle,” a UK government spokesperson said.
Potanin is one of Russia’s richest people, although his net worth depends largely on the value of his 36 per cent stake in Nornickel, the world’s largest producer of refined nickel and palladium.
4. Russian missile strike on Mykolaiv kills three, injures at least five
At least three people were killed and five wounded by a Russian missile strike on a residential building in Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv on Wednesday, said local authorities.
Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said eight missiles had hit the city and urged residents to evacuate. He claimed the building appeared to have been hit by a Russian X-55 cruise missile.
A rescue effort has been launched by local authorities to look for survivors.
Photographs from the scene showed smoke billowing from a four-storey building with its upper floor partly destroyed.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that its forces carried out strikes on a military training base for “foreign mercenaries” near the city.
Euronews could not independently verify the claim.
Although Moscow denies targeting civilians, the number of missile strikes across Ukraine hitting civilian targets such as residential buildings and shopping centres has gone up in recent days.
5. Russian lawyer detained for ‘false information’
A Moscow court on Wednesday ordered the two-month detention of a lawyer accused of “disseminating false information” over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Dmitri Talantov was arrested on Tuesday and his home was searched in Izhevsk, in the Udmurtia region, some 1,300 kilometres east of the Russian capital, Moscow.
He could face up to ten years in prison if found guilty.
Talantov was charged with “disseminating false information” about the Russian armed forces. This was made an offence in early March in what has been called an attempt to silence critics of the aggression against Ukraine.
On Wednesday, the Cheriumushkinsky court in Moscow “ordered Talantov to be detained until 21 August 2022”, said a spokeswoman for the court quoted by the Interfax agency.
Investigators say he posted an illegal message in April on his Facebook page about the actions of Russian troops in the Ukrainian towns of Bucha, Irpin, Kharkiv and Mariupol.
He is accused of having acted with “hate motives” and faces 10 years in prison.
Dmitry Talantov is Chairman of the Chamber of Lawyers of the Udmurtia region.
Since August 2021, he has been one of the lawyers for the imprisoned journalist Ivan Safronov, currently on trial in Russia for high treason.
In a statement, the NGO International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) denounced the “arbitrary detention” of Talantov and demanded his immediate release.
Dozens of people who publicly criticised the conflict in Ukraine have been prosecuted in Russia. Most have been fined, but others face heavy prison sentences.