Moscow implements its plans to annex the occupied Ukrainian regions to the “Russian family”

After its success in the port city of Mariupol, Russia appeared to be paving the way on Thursday to annex parts of southeastern Ukraine, which a senior Kremlin official described as having “a worthy place in our Russian family”.

newspaper reported The New York Times Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khosnolin toured the region this week, outlining plans to take full control of critical infrastructure, including Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, where Russia has fortified its defensive positions and extended its authority over local areas.

“I came here to provide maximum opportunities for integration,” Khosnolin was quoted by Russian media as saying. Russia focused on the southeast in its recent attacks after withdrawing from the Kyiv region.

In another indication that Moscow was preparing to press for the annexation of the areas it had seized – as it has done in Crimea since seizing it from Ukraine in 2014 – the New York Times says that Russia has introduced the ruble in these areas to replace the Ukrainian currency, and is working to install politicians By proxy in local governments, imposing new school curricula, redirecting internet servers across Russia and isolating residents from Ukrainian broadcasts.

Khosnolin said that Russia had intended to impose fees on Ukraine for electricity generated from the Ukrainian nuclear reactor that Russian forces seized in the first weeks of the invasion, a plan Kyiv described as “blackmail”.

Reuters quoted the Russian Information Agency that the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Europe in terms of capacity, will provide Russia and Ukraine with energy if the latter pays for it.

Russian forces had captured the Zaporizhia station from Ukraine.

Khosnolin added that Russia will finance the reconstruction of the Ukrainian lands that it controlled, and will repair the roads linking those regions with Russia, saying that Russia has “liberated” the lands and will rebuild them.

Russia’s moves came as the United States sought to further escalate pressure on the Kremlin. The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine.

President Joe Biden also pledged to help get the requests of Finland and Sweden, formerly neutrals, to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) swiftly approved, as he welcomed their leaders to the White House.

US officials expressed confidence in their ability to address Turkey’s objections to the Nordic accession.

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