Denis Pushilin arrives to deliver a press conference in Donetsk, on April 11.
Denis Pushilin arrives to deliver a press conference in Donetsk, on April 11. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

A Russian-backed separatist leader said that the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic would support a Russian-occupied district in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region after it purportedly made what he called “an appeal” to secede from Ukraine and join the breakaway republic.

Separatist leader Denis Pushilin made his comments to Russian state media outlet Russia-24 on Tuesday, saying that the separatist republic would not immediately accept the district into its “administrative border,” but instead would resolve that question at a later date. 

Video published by a Russian journalist on Tuesday claimed that the Rozovsky district, which is located just 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Mariupol, held a vote on Tuesday in favor of seceding from Ukraine to join Pushilin’s Russia-backed separatist region. 

CNN is not airing the video because it could not verify its authenticity, that it was taken in the Rozovsky district, that the individuals were actually Ukrainian citizens, or that they were not pressured into voting in favor of the measure. 

Some context: This is the first time during the war that a Russian-occupied area of Ukraine has purportedly tried to secede from the country, and it could end up being the first attempt by the Russians and Russian-backed separatists to annex additional Ukrainian territory.

However, it’s not the first time during the war that an area of Ukraine has had its political status changed significantly while under Russian occupation.

Shortly after Melitopol fell to Russian control in early March, the city’s mayor was detained by armed men and a new pro-Russian mayor was installed. The unelected mayor has since instituted a number of pro-Russian moves, including mandating the broadcasting of Russian news outlets.

City workers and Russian troops also staged a propaganda stunt in which they took down the Ukrainian flag, signed it, and claimed they were sending it to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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