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Russia planning to set up “occupation authorities” in Ukraine's cities, says AFU General Staff

According to a report by the General Staff of the AFU released early on Thursday, Russia is considering the option of introducing “occupation authorities” to administer the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories.

As per the General Staff's morning summary report, the Russian government agencies are already selecting security staff, public prosecutors, and judges for potential relocation to Ukraine.

Importantly, up until now, pre-war local administrations have remained in place in almost all territories occupied by Russian forces. As a result, media reports about the humanitarian situation in these cities have largely been based on information received from the heads of local administration, who were elected before the war.

Along with the mayor of Kharkiv, a city near the frontline, mayors Oleksandr Lysenko (Sumy) and Vladyslav Atroshenko (Chernihiv) often make statements to Ukrainian and foreign media, despite their cities being encircled. So does Yurii Fomichev, the head of the occupied city of Slavutych.

An appointee of pro-president Servant of the People party, Fomichev was abducted as early as on March 26, once Russian troops entered the city, according to media reports, but was soon released.

Since Russian troops barely entered any cities that weren't among the goals of their “operation” in February and later, sticking to the Blitzkrieg-style tactic of bypassing large urban communities along ring roads, many such cities retained their pre-invasion civil authorities, including those in charge of infrastructure, healthcare, and other public sector institutions.

Thus, Vadym Boychenko, mayor of Mariupol, a city under siege and almost destroyed by shelling strikes, did not leave his city until March 23. Meanwhile, Ivan Fedorov, mayor of occupied Melitopol, remained in office up until his abduction by Russian security services on March 11.

As the official refused to cooperate with the military, Galina Danilchenko, a former Opposition Block deputy to the city council, tried to usurp his post once he was detained. However, she had no legitimate grounds to proceed with it, so other deputies engaged the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office to investigate her actions.

Despite individual cases of collaboration with the new “powers that be” among Ukrainian civil servants and deputies, for instance, in Balakleya (Kharkiv region), where mayor Ivan Stolbovoy made concessions to enable access to humanitarian aid for his city's residents, or in Kupyansk, whose mayor Gennadii Matsegora has been charged with high treason, the administrations of many other Ukrainian cities chose to distance themselves from the occupants.

The latter category includes the acting mayor of Izyum Valeriy Marchenko, mayor of Nizhyn Oleksandr Kodola, mayor of Enerhodar Dmytro Orlov, and mayor of Kherson Ihor Kolykhaiev (who made a point of raising a fresh Ukrainian flag above the city hall). Their defiance is all the more striking considering the numerous abductions of uncooperative public officials by Russian forces.

By March 25, the Ukrainian authorities had already reported 14 civil servants made prisoners, including the mayor of Beryslav (Kherson region), the chairman of the Melitopol District Council, the mayor of Dniprorudne (Zaporizhzhia region), and the secretary of the Nova Kakhovka City Council.

A similar situation was characteristic of the first few months of the Donbas conflict: de facto, city infrastructure and utility management in most urban communities remained in the hands of “old-time” administrations that had been reporting to Kyiv, with a few new hires to replace the officials that had chosen to leave or had been evacuated.

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