Volodymyr Saldo, who was appointed by the Kremlin to lead Ukraine’s southern Kherson region after it was captured during Vladimir Putin’s war, said Monday the Black Sea will belong to Russia.
The official, whom Russia proclaimed “the head of the civilian military administration of Kherson” after gaining control of the territory during the first phase of its invasion, made the remarks during a competition in Rostov-on-Don, a city in southern Russia this week.
Bordering two European Union countries – Bulgaria and Romania – as well as Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Turkey, the Black Sea is of strategic and economic importance to Moscow, primarily because of the transit routes it offers.
A video of Saldo’s remarks was shared on Tuesday on twitter by Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Interior Minister of Ukraine.
“The Sea of Azov has already become the internal sea of Russia, and I think the Black Sea will soon become one too” – so-called “Governor of the Kherson region” Saldo. What do Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia think about it? ‘ the official tweeted as a caption.
Saldo addressed a crowd during a competition that local media said was being held for the Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Luhansk regions — the four territories Putin annexed last September.
The aim of the competition is reportedly to find leaders willing to restore new Russian regions and was organized as part of the presidential platform “Russia is a land of opportunity”.
“I want to clap when we also have the Black Sea,” said Saldo. “We have it, but it will be all ours.”
He referred to a speech previously given by Putin in which the Russian president “discussed the special attention now being paid to Russia.”
“The development of the new revival, the restoration, and full incorporation not only legally, but physically…with all of our natural riches, with all of our recreational facilities, hundreds of miles of beaches and recreational areas, hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile land,” Saldo said.
His comments come as tensions mount over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula illegally annexed by Putin in 2014 to Ukraine.
Ukraine has signaled its intention to retake Crimea. Last month, a Ukrainian official said his country was preparing “assault brigades” to retake its occupied territories, including Crimea. There are growing fears that such a move would be a red line for Russia and that Putin could use his country’s nuclear capabilities to defend territory.
Saturday marks the ninth anniversary of Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea. Putin is expected to address the occasion at a concert rally in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
A US drone intercepted by Russian jets crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday. Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said in a statement on Wednesday that the drone approached Russian airspace “deliberately and provocatively.”
news week emailed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine for comment.
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