Zaporozhye Oblast
Запорожская область
Coat of arms of Zaporozhye Oblast
Zaporizhzhia Oblast:

  Russian-occupied territory
  Territory liberated from Russian occupation
  Territory never occupied by Russia

Occupied countryUkraine
Occupying powerRussia
Russian-installed occupation administrationZaporozhye military–civilian administration (2022)
Disputed oblast of RussiaZaporozhye Oblast (2022–present)
Southern Ukraine campaign24 February 2022
Annexation by Russia30 September 2022
Administrative centreMelitopol[1]
Largest settlementMelitopol[1]
Government
 • Head of AdministrationYevgeny Balitsky (United Russia)[2]
 • Deputy Head of AdministrationMikhail Gritsai[3]
 • Head of military–civilian administration governmentAnton Koltsov
Websitezo.gov.ru

The Russian occupation of Zaporizhzhia Oblast (Russian: Запорожская область, romanizedZaporozhskaya oblast') is an ongoing military occupation of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Oblast by Russian forces that began on 24 February 2022 during the Russian invasion of Ukraine as part of the southern Ukraine campaign. It was administrated under a Russian-controlled military-civilian administration until 30 September 2022, when it was illegally annexed to become an unrecognized federal subject of Russia.

On 26 February, the city of Berdiansk fell under Russian control, followed by Russian victory at Melitopol on 1 March. Russian forces besieged the city of Enerhodar, home of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, then captured it on 4 March. They did not take the oblast's capital city of Zaporizhzhia, however, which remained under Ukrainian government control.

In May, the Russian government began offering Russian passports to the region's inhabitants.[4] In July, it issued a decree that extended Russian 2022 war censorship laws to the oblast, and included deportation to Russia as a penalty.[5] In September, occupation forces held largely disputed referendums in the occupied areas of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson Oblast to join the Russian Federation.[6][7] On 27 September, Russian officials claimed that Zaporizhzhia Oblast's referendum passed with 93.11% of voters in favour of joining the Russian Federation.[8][9] Russia signed an accession treaty with the Russian administration of the region on 30 September 2022.[10] Russia annexed Zaporizhzhia Oblast on 30 September 2022, including parts of the oblast that it did not control at the time.[10] The United Nations General Assembly demanded that Russia "immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw, and passed a resolution calling on countries not to recognise what it described as an "attempted illegal annexation".[11]

Melitopol serves as the Russian seat of administration because the Russians do not control Zaporizhzhia. In March 2023, Melitopol became the official capital of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast after the acting head, Yevgeny Balitsky, signed a decree on moving the de jure capital to Melitopol until Zaporizhzhia is captured.[12]

History

Initial military occupation (March 2022)

Shortly after Russian forces captured Melitopol on 1 March 2022, residents of the city held a street protest against military occupation. The protestors marched and used their bodies to block a convoy of Russian military vehicles.[13][14]

On 4 March 2022, the former leader of the Anti-Maidan of Zaporizhzhia, Vladimir Rogov, who calls himself "a member of the Main Council of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast Military-Civilian administration of the Zaporozhye", posted part of the program of "comprehensive financial and economic measures for the economic development of the regions of Ukraine controlled by the Russian Federation" on his Telegram channel. This program was written in its entirety in the newspapers published by the occupying authorities, as well as on March 9 in the public "Military-Civilian Administration of Melitopol". According to the BBC, the program was written in a complex bureaucratic style like that of other similar documents by Russian authorities.[15]

On 10 March, the director of the Melitopol Museum of Local History, Leila Ibragimova, was arrested at her home by Russian forces, and was detained in an unknown location.[16] The next day, Melitopol's mayor, Ivan Fedorov, was abducted by Russian troops for refusing to cooperate with them and continuing to fly a Ukrainian flag in his office.[17] Russian authorities did not comment on Fedorov's disappearance, but the prosecutor's office of the Luhansk People's Republic (a Russian-backed self-proclaimed breakaway state within Ukraine) accused him of "terrorist activities".[18] The mayor of Dniprorudne, Yevhen Matvieyev, was detained by Russian soldiers on 13 March.[19] Matvieyev had participated in a 27 February protest preventing Russian tanks from entering the town.[20]

Military–civilian administration (March–June 2022)

Ivan Fedorov, Ukrainian-recognised Mayor of Melitopol
Yevhen Balytskyi, Russian-installed Mayor of Melitopol

The Russians proclaimed Halyna Danylchenko acting mayor of Melitopol on 12 March,[21][22] but Ukrainian sources said that Yevhen Balytskyi had become the unofficial de facto head of the city.[23][24][25] Meanwhile, hundreds of people joined a protest outside Melitopol city hall to demand the release of Fedorov.[18] Olga Gaysumova, head of the non-governmental organization "Conscientious Society of Melitopol" and the organizer of local protests against Russian forces, was arrested.[26] On 13 March, the Melitopol City Council declared that "occupying troops of the Russian Federation are trying to illegally create an occupation administration of the city of Melitopol."[27] It appealed to Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova, to launch an investigation into Danylchenko and her party Opposition Bloc for treason.[27] Ukrayinska Pravda reported that the Russian military abducted Melitopol's District Council Chairman Serhiy Priyma and tried to abduct City Council Secretary Roman Romanov.[28] Russian military vehicles were seen announcing via loudspeakers that rallies and demonstrations had been prohibited and that a curfew imposed from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am.[29] On 14 March Ukrayinska Pravda reported that Russian forces had prevented new protests by blocking off the central square of Melitopol.[30] It also said "Two activists were abducted and taken away in an unknown direction."[30]

On 16 March, Fedorov was freed from captivity. Some Ukrainian officials said he was freed in a "special operation".[31][32][33] Zelenskyy's press aide Daria Zarivna however later said he was exchanged for nine Russian conscripts captured by Ukrainian forces.[34]

On 18 May 2022, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Marat Khusnullin said during a visit to the region that "the region's prospect is to work in our friendly Russian family," and announced the imminent implementation of plans to launch the maximum turnover of the ruble. According to him, pensions and salaries would be paid to residents of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast in Russian currency within a calendar month.[35] On 23 March 2022, Mayor Fedorov reported that Melitopol was experiencing supply problems with food, medication and fuel, while the Russian military seized businesses, intimidated the local population, and held several journalists.[36]

On 25 May, Vladimir Rogov announced that after the complete capture of the region, it would be annexed by Russia. He also said that a dual-currency zone was introduced in the occupied territory and the coat of arms of Aleksandrovsk from the times of the Russian Empire were installed, with which they began to issue new license plates with the signature "TVR" (a reference to the Taurida Governorate; old numbers are used, but with a "TVR" sticker over the Ukrainian flag).[37][38] Later a report revealed that Balitsky still sometimes used the Ukrainian coat of arms of Zaporizhzhia Oblast on documentation.[39] The same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree to simplify provision of Russian passports to residents of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, under the same procedure as the population of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.[40]

Annexation into Russia (July 2022–present)

Russian President Vladimir Putin with pro-Russian leaders of the occupied territories on 30 September 2022

On 28 July, Meduza reported that temporary departments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation had been set up in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.[41]

On 8 August, Balitsky announced that a referendum on "reunification" with Russia in the region, and signed the order of the Central Election Commission.[42] The commission, according to the statement, began to form as early as July 23.[43] On 8 September 2022, it was announced that referendums would be held in all the occupied territories of Ukraine from 23 to 27 September, the purpose of which was the annexation of these territories.[44] According to the military–civilian administration, 93.11% of voters in the referendum voted for the region to become part of Russia.[45] Balitsky said that "Zaporizhzhia Oblast de facto separated from Ukraine".[46] On September 28, the Zaporizhzhia military–civilian administration announced the secession of the region from Ukraine.[47] Russia did not control the entire oblast at the time of the referendum, and it was widely dismissed as a sham referendum by international observers. It was also condemned as illegal in international law by the United Nations.[48] On 29 September, Vladimir Putin recognized the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions as independent countries, hours before signing a decree on the annexation of all four regions.[49][50]

At some point, the administration founded the Pavel Sudoplatov Battalion, a Russian volunteer militia fighting in Ukraine.[51]

In spring and summer 2023, Russian forces heavily fortified areas near major cities in Zaporizhzhia Oblast in anticipation of the 2023 Ukrainian counteroffensive.[52] On 8–10 September 2023, the 2023 Russian elections took place in the occupied Ukrainian territories,[53] which Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov described as "hellish pseudo-elections". During this period, on 9 September, Fedorov reported that the headquarters of United Russia – the Russian ruling party – in the small city of Polohy was blown up.[54] Fedorov alluded to casualties among the occupation authorities, stating on Telegram that "Some went to the hospital, and some went straight to the morgue".[54]

Occupation head Yevgeny Balitsky spoke about the living conditions in an interview. He stated that Russian occupation authorities “expelled a large number of families...who did not support the ‘special military operation’”. He claimed that the deportation of families was good for them because otherwise "things I'd rather not talk about" would have to happen to them, likely alluding to Russian occupation forces summarily executing Ukrainian civilians.[55]

Government

Administrative divisions

The administrative divisions of Russia's claimed territory

The Zaporizhzhia Military–Civilian Administration divided the oblast into five districts: Berdiansk Raion, Melitopol Raion, Polohy Raion, Vasylivka Raion and Zaporizhzhia Raion.[56][unreliable source]

Composition

The composition of the administration is published on its website, however, not all members of the administration are listed there, but only the Head, the commandant of Berdiansk, and the deputy for housing and communal services.[57]

The table lists notable members of the administration.

Portfolio Minister Took office Left office Party
Head of military–civilian administration (MCA)26 May 2022Incumbent United Russia
Chairman of MCA Government18 July 2022Incumbent Independent
Deputy for housing and communal services
Mikhail Gritsai
18 July 2022Incumbent Socialist Ukraine
Member of the Central Council18 July 2022Incumbent We are Together with Russia
Commandant of Berdyansk
Dmitry Igorevich Ryzhkov
18 July 2022Incumbent Independent

After the 30 September 2022 annexation of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Balytskyi was made its governor under Russian law, as of October 4.[58]

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant crisis

Main article: Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant crisis

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi and other mission team members at the nuclear power plant on 1 September 2022

On 4 March, the city of Enerhodar and the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) came under Russian military occupation.[59] Since then, the ZNPP has been the center of an ongoing nuclear safety crisis.[60] Russia has used the plant as a base to hold military equipment and troops, heightening risk of damage to the plant and a fuel meltdown.[61]

On 6 March, the IAEA released a statement saying that Russian forces were interfering in the operations of the power plant, and "any action of plant management—including measures related to the technical operation of the six reactor units—requires prior approval by the Russian commander," further stating that "Russian forces at the site have switched off some mobile networks and the internet so that reliable information from the site cannot be obtained through the normal channels of communication".[62] On 9 March, Herman Galushchenko, Energy Minister of Ukraine, claimed that Russian forces were holding the workers at the power plant hostage and had forced several to make propaganda videos.[63]

Resistance to occupation

On 22 April 2022, Fedorov said that over 100 Russian soldiers were killed by partisans during the occupation of Melitopol.[64]

On 24 August 2022, the Russian-appointed head of Mykhailivka in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Ivan Sushko, was assassinated in a car bombing.[65]

Territorial control

Name Pop. Raion Held by As of More information
Berdiansk 107,928 Berdiansk  Russia[66][67] 24 May 2022 See Berdiansk port attack
Captured by  Russia 27 February 2022.[66]
Chernihivka 5,645 Berdiansk  Russia[68] 17 Mar 2022 Captured by  Russia 14 March 2022.
Dniprorudne 18,036 Vasylivka  Russia[69][70] 22 Apr 2022 Captured by  Russia 4 March 2022.[citation needed]
Dorozhnianka 327 Polohy  Russia[71] 28 Dec 2023 Recaptured by  Russia between 31 December 2022 – 2 January 2023.[72][73][74]
Enerhodar 52,887 Vasylivka  Russia[75] 4 Mar 2022 See Battle of Enerhodar
Captured by  Russia 4 March 2022.
Fedorivka 2,214 Polohy  Russia 27 Jul 2023
Huliaipole 13,070 Polohy  Ukraine[76][77] 23 May 2022 See Battle of Huliaipole
Inzhenerne 1,003 Polohy  Russia[78] 21 May 2022
Kamianka 6,507 Polohy  Russia[68][79] 15 Mar 2022 Captured by  Russia 14 March 2022.
Kamianka-Dniprovska 12,332 Vasylivka  Russia 2 Mar 2022 Captured by  Russia 2 March 2022.[citation needed]
Kamianske 2,639 Vasylivka Shared control[80] 19 May 2022
Kopani 616 Polohy  Russia 11 Oct 2022
Levadne 1 Polohy  Ukraine 24 Sep 2023 Captured by  Russia before the 2023 Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Recaptured by  Ukraine between 12–14 June 2023.[81]
Lobkove 99 Vasylivka  Ukraine 24 Sep 2023 Loosely controlled by  Russia before the 2023 Ukrainian counteroffensive?
Recaptured by  Ukraine around 9–11+ June 2023.[82]
Melitopol 150,768 Melitopol  Russia[83] 16 May 2022 See Battle of Melitopol
Captured by  Russia 1 March 2022.
Mykhailivka 11,694 Vasylivka  Russia[84] 13 May 2022
Myrne 872 Polohy  Russia[85][86] 24 Apr 2022
Nesterianka 1,566 Polohy  Russia[87] 3 Sep 2022
Novodarivka 48 Polohy  Ukraine 24 Sep 2023 Captured by  Russia before the 2023 Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Recaptured by  Ukraine around 11–14+ June 2023.[81]
Novomykolaivka 5,059 Zaporizhzhia  Ukraine 24 Feb 2022
Novoprokopivka 747 Polohy  Russia 24 Aug 2023
Novopokrovka 314 Polohy  Russia 17 Aug 2023
Orikhiv 14,136 Polohy  Ukraine[88] 30 Mar 2022
Piatykhatky 301 Vasylivka  Ukraine[89] 24 Sep 2023 Captured by  Russia before the 2023 Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Recaptured by  Ukraine around 21–25+ June 2023.[89]
Polohy 18,396 Polohy  Russia[90][88] 30 Mar 2022 Captured by  Russia 7 March 2022.
Prymorsk 11,397 Berdiansk  Russia 1 Mar 2022 Captured by  Russia 28 February 2022.[citation needed]
Robotyne 480 Polohy Contested[91] 15 May 2024 Captured by  Russia in March 2022.
Recaptured by  Ukraine between 28 August – 1 September 2023.[92][93][94]
Contested by  Russia since around 19 February 2024.[91]
Claimed by  Russia on 15 May 2024.[95]
Rozivka 3,022 Polohy  Russia[96] 30 Apr 2022
Stepnohirsk 4,294 Vasylivka  Ukraine[97] 15 Oct 2022 Held by  Ukraine on 15 October 2022.[97]
Tokmak 30,132 Polohy  Russia[90][70] 22 Apr 2022 Captured by  Russia 7 March 2022.
Vasylivka 12,771 Vasylivka  Russia[98] 23 May 2022 Captured by  Russia by 7 March 2022.[90]
Verbove 1,246 Polohy  Russia 1 Aug 2023 Captured by  Russia in 2022.
Zaporizhzhia 722,713 Zaporizhzhia  Ukraine 24 Feb 2022 See Civilian convoy attack, Residential building airstrike, October missile strikes

See also

Notes

References

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