MOSCOW (AFP) - Pro-Russian authorities said on Wednesday (June 29) they were launching bus and train services between Moscow-annexed Crimea and the southern Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
"Starting from July 1, regular bus and train services between Crimea and the regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia will be launched for the first time in eight years," Sergei Aksyonov, the pro-Moscow head of Crimea, said on messaging app Telegram.
Members of Russia's National Guard will ensure the safety of travel, he added.
The pro-Moscow administration of the Kherson region also announced the opening on Wednesday of a branch of Russian Pension Fund responsible for paying state pensions.
The self-proclaimed authorities also announced the establishment of a Russian office to register births, deaths and marriages.
Officials began issuing Russian passports in the region earlier this month.
The southern Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia have been largely under Russia's control since the first weeks of Moscow's military intervention, and are now being forcefully integrated into Russia's economy.
Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
A growing chorus of Russian and pro-Moscow officials have indicated Moscow intends to remain in the Kherson region and large parts of Zaporizhzhia it controls.
Pro-Moscow officials in southern Ukraine have said they are hoping to stage a referendum.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-backed Kherson administration, confirmed such plans were in the works.
"The region of Kherson will make a decision and become part of the Russian Federation," he said on Telegram.