Former Russian mayor appointed head of Russian-occupied Kharkiv -TASS citing local administration

LONDON (Reuters) - A former mayor of a Russian city has been appointed to head a new Russian-installed government in northeastern Ukraine, the latest in a string of such appointments which Kyiv says are part of attempts to annexe its territory.

Andrei Alekseyenko resigned as mayor of Krasnodar, Russia's sixteenth-largest city, on Thursday. He will now head a new Russian-appointed council of ministers in the Kharkiv province, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported on Friday, citing a decree by the local Russian-installed administration.

The province, which has been partially occupied by Russian troops, surrounds Ukraine's second biggest city Kharkiv. It lies north of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions which Moscow is seeking to capture on behalf of separatist proxy forces who have declared independence from Kyiv.

Russian officials have previously said that occupied areas of Ukraine will never return to Kyiv's control, and that referendums on their accession to Russia may be held in the autumn. Ukraine has called them "pseudo-referendums" and vowed to prevent them.

Russian forces currently control less than half of the Kharkiv region. Russian forces abandoned an attack on Kharkiv city in May, after fierce Ukrainian resistance, but continue to bombard the city from positions beyond its outskirts.

(Reporting by Reuters; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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