We asked the residents of Mykolaiv, a city not far from the territories occupied by Russia and the frontline of the war, what they think about the recent referendums and the annexation of new territories of Ukraine.
The recent so-called referendums and annexation of Ukrainian territories were celebrated in Russia and condemned by the world. Euronews asked people who live in close proximity to the territories about their views on these events.
Volodymyr, who is Russian, but has lived in Ukraine since his childhood, rests in the yard of his apartment block, taking a break from cleaning the debris after rockets hit the building adjacent to his home and the ground near its entrance.
“What referendums can we talk about if the frontline is here and tomorrow they are not there… They are holding referendums….they join Kherson to them? How is that possible?," he said.
"What are the referendums for? They've already started to mobilise in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson region our residents, our Ukrainians, who live 100km from us. They already have to enrol to fight for Putin against us. How is that? What is he doing? We can neither understand nor forgive it.
"I am Russian, but I hate Russians, I hate Russia.”
The Mykolaiv region borders the temporarily occupied Kherson region. Since Russia took over those territories, Mykolaiv lost access to its water supply. The water that now runs from the tap is salty, and not fit for drinking.
Russian forces were pushed back from the city, but Mykolaiv is exposed to regular shelling, which targets civilians and civilian infrastructure. The low-precision strikes hit residential buildings, universities, hospitals and other public buildings.
Taxi driver Vladislav dismisses the importance of the so-called referendums, he thinks that the press is paying too much attention to it.
“What can we talk about here?!" he exclaims raising his hands in the air.
“They invented all this. I think we don’t have to talk about it at all. Which referendum?! This is insane. It’s our land, they are conquerors, they are occupiers. That’s it,” he concludes.
Dmytro, an economist from Crimea has lived in Mykolaiv for many years. He hasn’t been home to the peninsular since its annexation in 2014. He thinks that this move by the Kremlin might eventually help Ukraine to restore the integrity of its territories.
“I was very irritated that after the annexation of Crimea all the western leaders put it off the agenda. They said that Crimea is a different question, it shouldn’t be touched. This irritated me a lot because I was born in Crimea, I grew up there, my mother is buried there. And after the annexation, it became completely out of reach. And with these recent referendums Putin entirely destroyed this “exceptional status” of Crimea, he put it back onthe agenda. And if we will liberate our cities and our land, Crimea will not be an exception, it will also have to return to be a part of Ukraine again.”
The air alarms and explosions are frequent in Mykolaiv, cardboard replacing blown-out windows on the streets of Mykolaiv at every step. They often look deserted, as many of the restaurants, shops and other small businesses are closed.
After asking many people around the city we couldn’t find any favourable opinion on the annexations or the Russian presence in the country - the anger against the country and its political and military actions is very strong.