Russia-Ukraine war live: Kremlin-backed officials ask Putin to annex regions; EU announces new sanctions on Russia
Russia says it will fulfil ‘aspirations’ to annex occupied regions
Russia’s foreign ministry has said action will be taken soon to meet the “aspirations” of four occupied Ukrainian regions to become part of Russia.
In a statement, the ministry claimed the votes in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine were held in compliance with international law.
In the nearest future, a crucial stage lies ahead in our joint actions to fulfil the aspirations of the residents (of the four regions) to be together with Russia.
Updated at 6.41pm BST
Norway’s prime minister has said its military will be more visible at oil and gas installations as politicians across Europe warned the suspected sabotaging of the two Nord Stream pipelines could herald a new stage of hybrid warfare targeting vulnerable energy infrastructure in order to undermine support of Ukraine .
Jonas Gahr Støre told a news conference Norway would step up its military presence at Norwegian installations after the country had become Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas.
He added that any attack on the Nato member’s offshore installations would be handled jointly with its allies.
Large amounts of natural gas have been pouring into the Baltic Sea since Monday through three separate leaks on the two Nord Stream pipelines built to deliver Russian gas to Europe. Seismologists recorded explosions in the Swedish and Danish waters where the pipeline passes the island of Bornholm on Monday morning and evening, suggesting the leaks were deliberate.
Updated at 6.28pm BST
Romania has called on its citizens to consider leaving Russia or to avoid non-essential travel to the country.
The call by the foreign ministry mirrors similar recommendations by other European countries in the region including Poland and Bulgaria.
Updated at 6.21pm BST
More than half of the gas in the damaged Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea has already leaked into the atmosphere, the head of the Danish Energy Agency has said.
A “clear majority” of the gas has come out of the pipelines, Kristoffer Böttzauw told a press conference, adding that the remaining volume was expected to be gone by Sunday.
Denmark’s defence minister, Morten Bødskov, said earlier today that it would take “one or two weeks” before inspections of the damaged structures could begin.
Updated at 6.15pm BST
The EU executive has promised to cap the price of Russian oil and impose further curbs on hi-tech trade, as part of the latest round of sanctions to “make the Kremlin pay” for the escalation of the war against Ukraine .
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said Russia had ramped up the invasion to “a new level”, listing the sham referendums in Russian-occupied territory , the partial mobilisation order and Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons. “We are determined to make the Kremlin pay for this further escalation,” she said.
She promised the EU would introduce a price cap on Russian oil to “help reduce Russian revenues and keep the global market stable”. The European Commission also wants to impose further restrictions on hi-tech goods the EU can sell to Russia such as certain chemicals and aviation components to further weaken the Kremlin’s ability to wage war.
Von der Leyen said anyone who helped Russia evade sanctions faced being added to the EU’s list of of restrictive measures. “This will have a major deterring effect,” she said.
Shortly before she spoke, Oleg Ustenko, an economic adviser to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, urged the EU to introduce a price cap on Russian oil “as soon as possible”. Ustenko said Russia was earning hundreds of millions a day from selling oil, which was being channelled to fund the war against Ukraine.
“Of course the main goal is to cut off Putin’s regime from all possible sources of financing. No doubt that the main source of financing for them right now is everything related to fossil fuels,” he added.
The US is working with allies to quickly impose severe economic costs on Moscow over “sham” referendums held in occupied regions of Ukraine, according to a US official.
James O’Brien, the US state department’s head of sanctions coordination, said in prepared remarks for the senate’s foreign relations committee:
There will be more packages. We are working on more sanctions.
He said he expected the Biden administration’s pace of announcing sanctions on Russia on average every six weeks would continue.
Washington would look to the financial sector and high technology, especially for energy exploitation and human rights violators, he said.
Everything is on the table.
Updated at 5.33pm BST
Russian citizens who are called up for army service will not be given a passport that would allow them to leave the country, according to a government website.
Agence France-Presse has cited a government information portal as saying:
If a citizen is summoned for army service or received a summons (for mobilisation), he will be refused a passport.
Those who are not issued a passport will be notified how long the hold will be in place, it added.
Only a minority of Russians hold a passport that allows them to leave the country. It comes as fears of travel restrictions rise and tens of thousands of Russian men of military age flee the country, with reports that some have already been barred from leaving.
Updated at 5.32pm BST
Truss tells Zelenskiy: UK will never recognise annexation of occupied regions
Britain’s prime minister, Liz Truss, told President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a phone call that the UK would never recognise Russian attempts to annex parts of Ukraine, Downing Street has said.
In a statement, a No 10 spokesperson said:
The prime minister spoke to President Zelenskiy this afternoon to underline the UK’s steadfast support in light of Russia’s sham referendums in Ukraine.
The prime minister made clear that the UK would never recognise Russian attempts to annexe sovereign territory. She reiterated that Ukraine could depend on the UK’s support until President Putin was defeated.
President Zelensky updated the prime minister on the current military situation and welcomed her strong backing, including at the UN general assembly last week.
Truss also thanked the Ukrainian president for his work in securing the release of five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine, the spokesperson continued.
The leaders also discussed how the UK and Ukraine could work together to secure Ukraine’s gas supplies in the long term. Both agreed to stay in close touch in the coming days and weeks.
Zelenskiy also tweeted about the call and said he expected London’s leadership in response to what he called the “sham referenda” in occupied parts of Ukraine.
Updated at 5.31pm BST
Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vučić , has said he will not recognise the results of the so-called referendums held in four regions of Ukraine partly occupied by Russian forces.
Speaking to reporters, Vučić said:
Serbia ... will not recognise that (referendums) as it adheres to international law, the United Nations Charter and UN resolutions.
Belgrade normally has strong ties with Moscow; Serbia is solely reliant on Russia for its natural gas supplies and has refused to join western sanctions against Russia.
We are protecting our own territorial integrity and it is in our best interest to protect the territorial integrity of other internationally recognised countries.
Updated at 5.31pm BST
Ukrainian authorities say they have identified five Russian soldiers who allegedly shot at civilian cars in the Kyiv region during the first days of the war.
CCTV footage gathered by Ukrainian investigators shows Russian units shooting at civilian cars along roads just outside Hostomel, a town north-west of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
In one of the clips, a car catches fire after being shot by troops stationed in the forest opposite. The driver of the car died, according to Ihor Klymenko, the head of Ukraine’s national police force.
Klymenko said the Russian soldiers shot as if they were on “safari”. One of the cars examined as part of the case had 178 bullet holes, he said.
The Russian soldiers are charged with killing five people, and injuring a further six, who were trying to flee Hostomel on 25 February, a day after Russia invaded. Eleven people were killed and 14 injured on the stretch of road in question, say Ukraine’s authorities.
Ukraine’s security services alleged that the charged Russian soldiers had shot at 12 cars over a period of six hours. According to security services, with three of the five men identified giving the orders to shoot at the vehicles.
Updated at 5.29pm BST
Summary of the day so far
It’s just past 6pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:
Moscow is poised to formally annex Russian-occupied regions after so-called referendums that have been denounced by the west. The Russian-installed leaders of the Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine have formally asked President Vladimir Putin to annex the occupied territories into Russia. Once annexed, Russia’s leadership has said it will consider attacks on the Russian-controlled areas as a direct attack on Russia.
Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik, the pro-Russian leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) have headed to Moscow, according to Russian state media. The pair have gone to “complete the procedure for joining Russia”, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, says Ukraine will “defend” its citizens in Russian-occupied regions after what he described as “an imitation of referendums”. “We will act to protect our people: both in the Kherson region, in the Zaporizhzhia region, in the Donbas, in the currently occupied areas of the Kharkiv region and in the Crimea,” he said in a video posted on Telegram.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry has said the “propaganda show called ‘referendums’ in the temporarily occupied territories” is “yet another Russian crime”. Ukraine and its allies “condemn such actions of Russia and consider them null and worthless”, it said in a statement, which also called on the west to increase pressure on Russia, including by imposing new sanctions, and significantly increase military aid to Ukraine.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has announced a fresh round of proposed sanctions on Russia designed “to make the Kremlin pay” for escalating the conflict in Ukraine. The proposed eighth package of “biting” sanctions includes further import bans on Russian products, expected to deprive Moscow of an additional €7bn in revenues, as well as extend export bans on key technology used for the military.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also denounced the holding of “illegal referenda and their falsified outcome” in occupied parts of Ukraine. He also promised “a robust and united response” from the EU over attacks on energy infrastructure, describing damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 as “not a coincidence and affect us all”.
Israel has strengthened its hitherto cautious stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying it will “not accept the results of the referendum in the eastern districts” of the occupied country. Tuesday night’s statement from the Israeli foreign ministry, which also said it “recognises the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”, has been received as an unprecedented show of support for Ukraine, and a rare Israeli rebuke to Moscow.
Gas prices have risen on fears that Russia could halt supplies to Europe through Ukraine, adding to turmoil caused by damage to the Nord Stream pipelines under the Baltic Sea. The statement came after the discovery of leaks on the two Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic near the Danish island of Bornholm in a suspected act of sabotage, although exactly by whom or why remains unconfirmed.
European leaders have said sabotage is the most likely cause of leaks in two Nord Stream gas pipelines between Russia and Europe, after seismologists reported explosions around the Baltic Sea lines. German authorities reportedly fear the Nord Stream 1 could become “unusable forever” if leaks in the two lines are not repaired quickly. Sweden’s national police force has opened an investigation into leaks from the Nord Stream pipeline after authorities in Stockholm suggested the “blasts” were “probably a deliberate act”. Norway’s foreign minister, Anniken Huitfeldt, said the explosions and gas leakage in the Baltic Sea were of “deep concern ” to the Norwegian government.
The Kremlin dismissed claims that Russia was behind the attack on the Nord Stream gas pipeline, describing them as “quite predictable and also predictably stupid”. In a call with reporters, the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the incident needed to be investigated and that the timings for the repair of the damaged pipelines were not clear.
Authorities in the Russian region of North Ossetia, which borders Georgia, are reportedly putting in place travel restrictions to prevent people fleeing to Georgia to avoid conscription. The report by the Moscow Times cites the head of the region, Sergey Menyaylo, as saying that more than 20,000 people had entered Georgia through the section of the border in just the past two days.
The US embassy in Moscow has issued a security alert and urged American citizens to leave Russia immediately. In a statement on its website, the it warned that dual Russian-US nationals may be called up as part of the Russian government’s mobilisation. US citizens should not travel to Russia and that those residing or travelling in the country should depart Russia immediately while limited commercial travel options remain, it said.
The governments of Bulgaria and Poland are urging any citizens that remain in the Russian Federation to leave urgently. That may be in anticipation of border crossings becoming much more difficult as routes out close and more people flee forced mobilisation in Russia.
Russian authorities say they are establishing checkpoints at some of the country’s borders to forcibly mobilise Russian men who are seeking to avoid mobilisation by fleeing the country. Social media footage shows military vehicles moving toward the border, reportedly to establish the mobilisation checkpoint.
Russia is mounting a more substantive defence than previously as Ukraine attempts to press forward “on at least two axes east”, according to the UK’s Ministry of Defence. Heavy fighting continued in the Kherson region where the Russian force on the right bank of the Dnipro remained vulnerable, it said in its latest intelligence update.
Updated at 5.25pm BST
EU proposes new sanctions package to ‘make Kremlin pay’
The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has announced a fresh round of proposed sanctions on Russia.
The new package was designed “to make the Kremlin pay” for escalating the conflict in Ukraine through mobilisation and “sham referenda that are an illegal attempt to grab land and change international borders by force”, she said.
The proposed eighth sanctions package includes further import bans on Russian products, expected to deprive Moscow of an additional €7bn in revenues.
The EU will also extend export bans on key technology used for the military such as aviation items, electronic components and specific chemical substances. This would “weaken its capacity to modernise” Russia’s military base, she said.
The sanctions package would lay the legal basis for an oil price cap and ban EU citizens from sitting on governing bodies of Russian state-owned companies, she said.
Speaking to reporters, Von der Leyen said:
We do not accept the sham referenda and any kind of annexation in Ukraine, and we are determined to make the Kremlin pay for this further escalation.
Updated at 5.27pm BST
Russia intends to call a UN security council meeting over damage to two Nord Stream undersea gas pipelines, according to the Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
Updated at 4.24pm BST
Russians who are managing to exit the country at the border with Georgia are being greeted by anti-war protesters with Ukrainian flags and protest banners.
Earlier, ITV news editor Emma Burrows, who has been at the border, tweeted a picture of one of the banners, which reads: “In surveys, most of you support the war. So why now are you leaving?”
Updated at 4.25pm BST
The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, told Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a call on Wednesday that Germany would never accept the results of “sham” referendums on joining Russia in occupied regions of Ukraine, a German government spokesperson said.
Scholz also said Germany’s financial, political and humanitarian support for Ukraine would not waver and it would continue to back Ukraine in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity, including weapons deliveries, Reuters reports the spokesperson said in a statement.
Updated at 4.25pm BST
North Ossetia introduces travel restrictions to stop people fleeing conscription entering Georgia – reports
The Moscow Times is reporting that authorities in the Russian region of North Ossetia, which borders Georgia, is putting in place travel restrictions to prevent people fleeing to Georgia to avoid conscription.
It cites a Telegram message from head of the region, Sergey Menyaylo . The message says :
Today I signed a decree on the introduction of a high alert regime on the territory of North Ossetia. The decree restricts the entry of passenger vehicles into the territory of the republic. The decision to introduce a high alert regime is a forced temporary measure: the situation cannot be left to chance.
A huge number of transit vehicles, many kilometres of queues at the Verkhnii Lars checkpoint. In the last two days alone, more than 20,000 people have entered Georgia through our section of the border. We will not be physically able to ensure order and security if this flow continues to grow.
At the entrances to the republic and at the checkpoint, mobile task forces are organised – they will check those entering the republic. If a citizen is subject to conscription, in accordance with the federal list, he will be handed a summons on the spot. This will apply to citizens who are registered with the military not only in North Ossetia, but also in other regions of the country.
Persons subject to mobilisation will be explained what consequences, in accordance with the law of the Russian Federation, await them in case of evasion from military service. This work will be carried out in strict accordance with the criteria prescribed in the decree of the president of the country.
Updated at 3.16pm BST
Israel has strengthened its hitherto cautious stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying it will “not accept the results of the referendum in the eastern districts” of the occupied country and that it “recognises the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
Israel, which relies on Moscow to facilitate its operations against Iranian-linked actors in Syria, has refrained from providing military assistance to Kyiv. It has instead focused on providing humanitarian aid and absorbing the thousands of Ukrainian and Russian citizens with Jewish ancestry who have emigrated to Israel since the war broke out in February.
Tuesday night’s statement from the Israeli foreign ministry has been received as an unprecedented show of support for Ukraine, and a rare Israeli rebuke to Moscow.
Israel is also thought to be displeased by Russia’s new deployment of Iranian armed drones.
Some Iranian-made drones were on Tuesday fired towards the central Ukrainian city of Uman, one of the most important pilgrimage centres in Hasidic Judaism.
Despite pleas from officials to stay away from the conflict zone, this week thousands of Israeli citizens travelled to Uman for the town’s Rosh Hashanah celebrations, which are often described as an all-male, Ultra Orthodox version of Nevada’s Burning Man festival.
Updated at 2.33pm BST
The Moscow-installed leader of the occupied part of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region has appealed to President Vladimir Putin to incorporate the region into Russia, state-owned media reported.
Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the pro-Russia administration in the region, joined calls by the Russian-installed leaders of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Kherson regions to annex the occupied territories.
Updated at 2.15pm BST
German authorities fear that the Nord Stream 1 could become “unusable forever” after major leaks into the Baltic Sea, according to reports.
Tagesspiegel has cited government sources as warning that large volumes of salt water will flow into the pipelines and cause corrosion if leaks in the two lines are not repaired quickly.
The paper writes that due to the complexity of the attack, experts and those in government circles believe that it could only be carried out by a state actor.
Germany’s defence minister, Christine Lambrecht has said the country’s navy is contributing to the investigation into the leaks, adding that the situation must be clarified and those responsible must be identified quickly.
In a statement, Lambrecht said:
The presumed sabotage of the Baltic Sea pipelines is yet another reminder that we are dependent on critical infrastructure, also underwater.
Updated at 3.36pm BST
Russia’s defence ministry said training for newly mobilised reservists has started across the country, including the Rostov region on the Ukrainian border and the Crimean peninsula seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Training has also begun in the Kaliningrad exclave, which borders Nato members Poland and Lithuania, it said.
Around 2,000 reservists had already received weapons in Crimea, it said.
In a statement, the ministry said:
Citizens called up from the reserve are restoring their skills in the operation and maintenance of weapons, and military and special equipment.
Courses had been also held to improve firing skills and prepare military personnel for “confident actions on the battlefield”, it added.
Gas prices have risen on fears that Russia could halt supplies to Europe through Ukraine , adding to turmoil caused by damage to the Nord Stream pipelines under the Baltic Sea.
The Kremlin-controlled gas company Gazprom said it could impose sanctions on Ukraine’s Naftogaz due to ongoing arbitration.
The statement came after the discovery of leaks on the two Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea near the Danish island of Bornholm in a suspected act of sabotage, although exactly by whom or why remains unconfirmed.
Gazprom said it had rejected all claims from Naftogaz in arbitration proceedings over Russian gas transit, and had notified the arbitration court. It also said Russia could introduce sanctions against the Ukrainian energy company, which would prohibit Gazprom from paying Kyiv the transit fees if it further pursues an arbitration case over gas transit.
Russian gas travels into Europe via Ukraine via several key routes, including the Brotherhood, Soyuz and Yamal-Europe pipelines. Transgas, which starts in the west of Ukraine and flows into Germany, could also be affected.
US embassy warns Americans to leave Russia 'immediately'
The US embassy in Moscow has issued a security alert and urged American citizens to leave Russia immediately.
In a statement on its website, the US embassy warned that dual Russian-US nationals may be called up as part of the Russian government’s mobilisation in support of its invasion of Ukraine.
Russia may refuse to acknowledge dual nationals’ U.S. citizenship, deny their access to U.S. consular assistance, prevent their departure from Russia, and conscript dual nationals for military service.
The embassy warned that its citizens “should not travel to Russia” and that those residing or travelling in the country “should depart Russia immediately while limited commercial travel options remain”.
Commercial flight options from Russia are “extremely limited at present” and often unavailable on short notice, it warned.
If you wish to depart Russia, you should make independent arrangements as soon as possible.
Updated at 1.03pm BST
Sweden’s national police force has opened an investigation into leaks from the Nord Stream pipeline after authorities in Stockholm suggested the “blasts” were “probably a deliberate act”.
A police report about the incident has been filed and the case is currently being reviewed by the Swedish public prosecutor’s office, CNN has reported.
The police told the news channel:
The legal qualification is currently gross sabotage, but this could be subject to change.
On Tuesday, Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters that the government was taking what she described as “blasts” at the pipeline “very seriously”.
We have Swedish intelligence, but we have also received information in our contacts with Denmark, and based on this, concluded that this is probably a deliberate act. It is probably a matter of sabotage.
Russian-backed officials ask Putin to annex Ukrainian regions
The Russian-installed leaders of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Kherson regions have formally asked President Vladimir Putin to annex the occupied territories into Russia.
The appeals came following hastily organised “referendums” in occupied Ukraine that Kyiv and the west have denounced as illegitimate.
The Kremlin-backed leader of the breakaway Luhansk region, Leonid Pasechnik, made the appeal to Putin claiming residents there had been under attack for eight years by Ukraine’s army.
In a statement, Pasechnik said:
Taking into account the decision of the republic’s population at the referendum, I am asking you to consider making the Luhansk People’s Republic a subject of the Russian Federation.
His announcement was followed soon after by a similar appeal from the Moscow-installed leader of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo.
In a letter published on his Telegram account, Saldo claimed residents in Kherson had made “a historic choice” in favour of Russia.
Updated at 12.16pm BST
Leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines from Russia to Europe appear to be “very serious” and “definitely looks highly suspicious”, a western official has said.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official said:
On the pipelines, clearly, this looks very serious. The multiple explosions at the same time – it’s very serious, and is going to have to be investigated.
The official did not blame Russia for the leaks but said Vladimir Putin should undo his recent series of escalations, in particular the Russian. leader’s “deeply irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric.
It definitely looks highly suspicious, but I think we need to establish the facts and then attribute.
Updated at 11.58am BST
Kremlin dismisses ‘predictably stupid’ claims Russia attacked Nord Stream
Claims that Russia was behind the attack on the Nord Stream gas pipeline were “predictably stupid”, the Kremlin has said.
European leaders have said sabotage is the most likely cause of leaks in the two Nord Stream gas pipelines between Russia and Europe, after seismologists reported explosions around the Baltic Sea lines.
In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was asked about the claims. He replied:
That’s quite predictable and also predictably stupid.
This is a big problem for us because, firstly, both lines of Nord Stream 2 are filled with gas – the entire system is ready to pump gas and the gas is very expensive … Now the gas is flying off into the air.
He said the incident needed to be investigated and that the timings for the repair of the damaged pipelines were not clear.
Information on the incident could be expected from Denmark and Sweden, he added.
Peskov also told reporters that the military campaign in Ukraine would continue “at a minimum” until the “liberation” of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”.
Hello everyone, it’s Léonie Chao-Fong here taking over the live blog from Martin Belam to bring you all the latest developments from the Russia-Ukraine war. Feel free to drop me a message if you have anything to flag, you can reach me on Twitter or via email.
Updated at 11.25am BST
Summary of the day so far …
Ukraine’s foreign ministry has said the “propaganda show called ‘referendums’ in the temporarily occupied territories” are “yet another Russian crime” and that it considers them “null and worthless”.
It said: “Forcing people in these territories to fill out some papers at the barrel of a gun is yet another Russian crime in the course of its aggression against Ukraine. The Luhansk , Donetsk , Zaporizhzhia , and Kherson regions, like the Ukrainian Crimea, remain the sovereign territories of Ukraine. Ukraine has every right to restore its territorial integrity by military and diplomatic means, and will continue to liberate the temporarily occupied territories. Ukraine will never agree to any Russian ultimatums.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine will defend its citizens in Moscow-held regions that authorities have claimed voted in favour of merging with Russia . Zelenskiy said in a video on Telegram: “We will act to protect our people, both in the Kherson region, in the Zaporizhzhia region, in the Donbas, in the currently occupied areas of the Kharkiv region, and in the Crimea.”
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said the west would never recognise Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory , which he called part of a “diabolical scheme” by Moscow. Nato denounced the referendums as a “sham” and “violation of international law”.
As expected, the official figures given by Russian proxy authorities in occupied Ukraine for the outcome of the votes show support for annexation. Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik , the pro-Russian leaders of the chiefly unrecognised self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), have headed to Moscow where they are expected to start the procedure to have the areas of Ukrainian territory that they occupy annexed by the Russian Federation.
It is anticipated that the next planned session of Russia’s Federation Council will take place on 4 October , and could see the legislative moves from Moscow to absorb the four areas of Ukraine that its forces at least partially occupy. Vyacheslav Volodin , the chair of Russia’s state Duma, has hailed the “results”, saying they will “save millions of people from genocide”.
Josep Borrell , the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, has condemned both the “illegal ‘referenda’ and their falsified outcome”, and the suspected sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, promising “a robust and united response” from the EU over attacks on energy infrastructure.
European leaders have said sabotage is the most likely cause of leaks in two Nord Stream gas pipelines between Russia and Europe, after seismologists reported explosions around the Baltic Sea lines.
Norway ’s foreign minister Anniken Huitfeldt has said “the explosions and gas leakage in the Baltic Sea are a matter of deep concern to the Norwegian government” and confirmed that she has spoken to her counterparts from Sweden and Denmark.
Denmark ’s defence minister Morten Bodskov has said there is reason to be concerned about the security situation in the Baltic Sea region, noting “Russia has a significant military presence in the Baltic Sea region and we expect them to continue their sabre-rattling”.
The UK Ministry of Defence says in its daily intelligence briefing that “Russia is mounting a more substantive defence than previously” as Ukraine attempts to press forward “on at least two axes east”.
The governments of Bulgaria and Poland are urging any citizens that remain in the Russian federation to leave urgently. That may be in anticipation of border crossings becoming much more difficult as routes out of the country close, and more people flee forced mobilisation in Russia.
The US said overnight it will introduce a resolution at the UN security council calling on member states not to recognise any change to Ukraine and obliging Russia to withdraw its troops, US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. Russia holds a permanent seat on the security council that comes with a veto.
That is it from me, Martin Belam, for now. I will be back later on. Léonie Chao-Fong will be here shortly to continue our coverage.
Updated at 11.27am BST
Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik, the pro-Russian leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) have headed to Moscow, according to reports from Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
RIA states that they have gone there to “complete the procedure for joining Russia”.
It quotes Pushilin saying that after the necessary procedures in the Russian Duma and in the Federation Council, “that’s all, officially we are part of Russia . And then – creation, development, and, of course, all this intersects with our victory. We really need it – a common victory.”
The official channel of the LPR’s pro-Russian government on Telegram confirmed: “Leonid Pasechnik said that he had left for Moscow to complete the legal part of the LPR joining Russia.”
Russia, Syria and North Korea are the only three UN member states to recognise the DPR and LPR as legitimate authorities. The two self-proclaimed republics were formed in 2014, and in the last few days have been staging so-called “referendums” on the annexation of the territory they occupy. Ukraine’s authorities have said that the results are “null and worthless” and that the widely derided vote is illegal.
Updated at 11.28am BST
Norway ’s foreign minister Anniken Huitfeldt has said “the explosions and gas leakage in the Baltic Sea are a matter of deep concern to the Norwegian government” and confirmed that she has spoken to her counterparts from Sweden and Denmark. She added: “Cooperation is key and Norway is ready to support.”
Updated at 10.06am BST
Oleh Synyehubov , governor of Kharkiv, has issued a status update on Telegram, listing various locations that have been shelled by Russian forces in the last 24 hours. He states that five people were hospitalised with injuries in the Kupyansk district and a 16-year-old girl was injured in the Bohodukhiv region. The claims have not been independently verified.
Updated at 9.53am BST
The Russian embassy in Spain has posted to Twitter a cartoon that shows four baby bears – presumably representing the occupied Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – “coming home” to the big bear of Mother Russia after the referendums that have been widely derided in the west as a sham.
Updated at 9.37am BST
The US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War has said results released by Russian officials from the referendums in occupied Ukraine are “implausible,” with each referendum purportedly receiving between 87% and 99% approval from Ukrainian residents.
Updated at 10.47am BST
Denmark’s defence minister has said there is reason to be concerned about the security situation in the Baltic Sea region.
Highlighting the suspected sabotage on the two Nord Stream pipelines as the latest example, Reuters reports Morten Bodskov said: “Russia has a significant military presence in the Baltic Sea region and we expect them to continue their sabre-rattling” in a statement following a meeting with Nato general secretary Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels.
Updated at 9.12am BST
Austria is the latest European country to issue a statement to condemn what it calls “the illegal sham referenda to justify the annexation of Ukrainian territories” by Russia. In a statement, Austria’s foreign ministry said it was “yet another serious attack” on Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The statement went on to say: “With the violent attempt of the Russification of Ukraine, unacceptable nuclear threats and the partial mobilisation announced last week, the Russian Federation continues to escalate its illegal war of aggression.”
Updated at 9.10am BST
Ukraine: sham votes are 'yet another Russian crime' and 'null and worthless'
Ukraine’s foreign ministry has said the “propaganda show called ‘referendums’ in the temporarily occupied territories” are “yet another Russian crime” and that it considers them “null and worthless”.
In a statement published on Wednesday morning, it said:
Forcing people in these territories to fill out some papers at the barrel of a gun is yet another Russian crime in the course of its aggression against Ukraine. Such actions severely violate the Constitution and laws of Ukraine, as well as norms of international law and Russia’s international obligations.
This performance has nothing to do with expression of will and does not have any implications for Ukraine’s administrative-territorial system and internationally recognised borders. Ukraine and the international community condemn such actions of Russia and consider them null and worthless.
All citizens of Ukraine who took part in the organisation of these acts together with the Russian occupiers will bear responsibility in accordance with the provisions of the criminal code of Ukraine.
The statement then goes on to say:
The Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions, like the Ukrainian Crimea, remain the sovereign territories of Ukraine. Ukraine has every right to restore its territorial integrity by military and diplomatic means, and will continue to liberate the temporarily occupied territories. Ukraine will never agree to any Russian ultimatums.
The statement finishes by calling on “the EU, Nato and the G7 to immediately and significantly increase pressure on Russia, including by imposing new tough sanctions, and significantly increase their military aid to Ukraine”.
Updated at 8.34am BST
EU's Borrell denounces 'falsified outcome' of 'illegal referenda' in occupied Ukraine
Josep Borrell , the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, has commented this morning on both the “referendums” proxy Russian authorities have staged in occupied Ukraine, and the suspected sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines. On the former, he tweeted:
EU denounces holding of illegal “referenda” and their falsified outcome. This is another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, amidst systematic abuses of human rights. We commend the courage of Ukrainians, who continue to oppose and resist Russian invasion.
He also promised “a robust and united response” from the EU over attacks on energy infrastructure, tweeting:
Damage to Nord Stream 1 & 2 are not a coincidence and affect us all. All available information indicates leaks are the result of a deliberate act. Deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response.
Updated at 8.35am BST
My colleague Andrew Roth has tweeted that there is “no real point in reporting the ‘results’ of ‘referendums’ being held at gunpoint in occupied territories”, but he has written an explainer for us on what has taken place … and what might happen next:
Russia concluded holding a fake “referendum” on the occupied territories of Ukraine in four regions: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia in which they demanded voters request accession into the Russian Federation. Armed Russian soldiers oversaw the votes in the occupied Ukrainian territories, where many people who support the Ukrainian government have fled Russian control. Ukrainians have descried it as a vote held at gunpoint. As expected, Moscow got the “results” it wanted. With a rubber-stamped (and universally unrecognised) request for accession in hand.
Many expected Putin to address the Federation Council on Friday 30 September, with a decision to formally annex the territories. By law, those treaties must first be presented to the Federation Council, the upper body of Russia’s parliament, and then to Putin for a signature.
That could be organised in short order. But now the Federation Council has indicated that it won’t hold a special session on Friday. If that’s true, then the next planned session would take place on 4 October.
That may indicate that Russia is taking a pause to dangle negotiations with Kyiv and the west in order to slow down Ukraine’s advance. Or that it is testing local support for an annexation. But with little trust in the Russian president abroad, a deal seems unlikely and annexation appears the most likely outcome.
Read more of Andrew Roth’s explainer here: Will Russia annex the occupied Ukrainian territories this week?
Updated at 8.36am BST
The UK’s Ministry of Defence says in its daily intelligence briefing that “Russia is mounting a more substantive defence than previously” as Ukraine attempts to press forward “on at least two axes east”. It writes:
Ukraine has pressed its offensive operations in the north-east of the country over the last few days. Units are making slow advances on at least two axes east from the line of the Oskil and Siverskyi Donets rivers, where forces had consolidated following their previous advance earlier in the month. Russia is mounting a more substantive defence than previously, likely because the Ukrainian advance now threatens parts of Luhansk Oblast. Heavy fighting also continues in the Kherson region where the Russian force on the right bank of the Dnipro remains vulnerable.
Updated at 8.36am BST
Vyacheslav Volodin , the chair of Russia’s state Duma, has hailed the “results” in the widely derided “referendums” staged by Russian proxy authorities in occupied regions of Ukraine.
Tass reports that on his Telegram channel he said of the outcome of the so-called referendums, seen as a foregone fixed conclusion by most observers, that “the adopted decision saves millions of people from genocide”.
Posting a graphic of what the authorities have claimed are the results, he said this “gives us the opportunity together to make plans for the future”.
Updated at 7.35am BST
Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Linde has said on the public television broadcaster SVT this morning that the suspected sabotage against the Nord Stream gas pipelines does not constitute an attack on Sweden, Reuters reports.
If you missed it yesterday, my colleague Dan Sabbagh offered this analysis, suggesting that even if European nations decided that Russia had been behind the action, it was unlikely to generate a military response, since the suspected explosions were outside of Danish territorial waters, and technically on assets owned by Russia’s Gazprom.
This is Martin Belam taking over the live blog in London. You can reach me at email@example.com
In the recently liberated villages of Kherson, citizens are left with the wreckage: destroyed houses, unexploded bombs, and fresh graves. Here are some photos from yesterday, taken as life continues inside conflict zones in Ukraine, via AFP/Getty photojournalists.
Updated at 6.50am BST
Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that newly mobilised reservists in the Kaliningrad region have started combat training at the base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, Reuters reports.
“All mobilised military personnel comply with the standards for shooting from small arms. In addition, citizens called up from the reserve restore their skills in the operation and maintenance of weapons, military and special equipment,” the ministry said on its Telegram channel.
Updated at 7.02am BST
Rocketing inflation and dwindling gas supplies fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will hammer growth in the ex-Soviet bloc next year, Europe’s development bank forecast Wednesday.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has cut its 2023 growth guidance, AFP reports. It had previously forecast growth of 4.7 percent for its region, but is now set for growth of three percent next year.
“Negative factors related to high energy prices, the Ukraine war, inflation and the anticipated slowdown in western Europe, make the prospects for next year bleaker,” chief economist Beata Javorcik told AFP in an interview.
Russian officials are “setting conditions to forcibly mobilise or conscript Ukrainian civilians in soon-to-be annexed areas of occupied Ukraine,” thinktank the Institute for the Study of War has said in its latest daily analysis, released today.
According to the ISW, Ukrainian Luhansk Oblast head Serhiy Haidai reported on September 27 that Russian officials began consulting lists of medical school graduates in Luhansk to forcibly mobilise doctors to assist Russian forces.
Russian forces are also reportedly committing newly-mobilised, untrained men to the Kherson and Kharkiv Oblast frontlines, ISW says.
Updated at 9.18am BST
Poland and Bulgaria urge citizens to leave Russia
The governments of Bulgaria and Poland are urging any citizens that remain in the Russian federation to leave urgently. That may be in anticipation of border crossings becoming much more difficult as routes out close, and more people flee forced mobilisation in Russia.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria said in a statement on Tuesday : “Calls for refraining from traveling to the Russian Federation and recommends that Bulgarian citizens in the Russian Federation consider the possibility of leaving the country as soon as possible, using currently available means of transport”.
The Polish Foreign Ministry has made a similar statement, Polish outlet TVP reports, saying flights with Russia had been suspended and encouraging any remaining citizens to get out:
In case of a drastic deterioration of the security situation, the closure of borders or other unforeseen circumstances, evacuation may prove significantly impeded or even impossible…
We recommend that the citizens of the Republic of Poland who remain on the territory of the Russian Federation leave its territory using the available commercial and private means.”
Updated at 9.23am BST
Russian authorities say they are establishing checkpoints at some of Russia’s borders to forcibly mobilise Russian men who are seeking to avoid forced mobilisation by fleeing the country. Russian minister of internal affairs for North Ossetia-Alania Andrei Sergeev said on Telegram : “The influx of light vehicles moving towards Georgia is seriously increasing” and that a “mobilisation point of the military registration and enlistment office will be deployed at the checkpoint in the near future”.
Thinktank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) also cited social media footage showing Russian military vehicles moving toward the border, reportedly to establish the mobilisation checkpoint.
Other detail on reported Russian attempts to force fleeing men into the the army, from ISW:
The Russian Ministry of Defence denied rumours on September 27 that Russian officials asked the governments of Georgia, Kazakhstan, and other states to forcibly extradite Russian men fleeing mobilisation back to Russia. Kazakhstan’s internal affairs minister, Marat Akhmetzhanov , told reporters that Kazakhstan would only extradite men who had committed a crime that is also illegal in Kazakhstan and were placed on an international wanted list but did not explicitly refute the rumour.
Updated at 9.26am BST
US to denounce 'sham refererendums' at UN security council
The United States will introduce a resolution at the U.N. Security Council calling on member states not to recognise any change to Ukraine and obligating Russia to withdraw its troops, U.S. ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.
Updated at 7.41am BST
Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau has said the country will introduce further sanctions against Russia in response to the “sham” referendums held in occupied Ukrainian regions. Trudeau said the country was “actively engaging with our international partners and allies to ensure a united rejection” and that the country intended to “impose new sanctions on the persons and entities complicit in this latest attempt to undermine principles of state sovereignty”.
Updated at 9.29am BST
Welcome back to our live coverage of Russia’s war on Ukraine. I’m Tess McClure and I’ll be with you on the liveblog as Europe wakes up. It’s 7.30am in Kyiv. These are the latest developments:
Poland’s foreign minister, Zbigniew Rau, has said Nato’s response to any use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine should be non-nuclear but “devastating” . His comments come after Dmitry Medvedev, the hawkish deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, again threatened the west with the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, saying: “Imagine that Russia is forced to use the most formidable weapon against the Ukrainian regime, which has committed a large-scale act of aggression, which is dangerous for the very existence of our state. I believe that Nato will not directly intervene in the conflict, even in this situation.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Ukraine will “defend” its citizens in Moscow-held regions that authorities have claimed voted in favour of merging with Russia . Zelenskiy said in a video on Telegram: “We will act to protect our people, both in the Kherson region, in the Zaporizhzhia region, in the Donbas, in the currently occupied areas of the Kharkiv region, and in the Crimea.”
Kremlin-backed officials in the four Ukrainian regions holding “referendums” claimed victory on Tuesday amid international condemnation of sham ballots.
Western countries have denounced the results. The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said the west would never recognise Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory , which he called part of a “diabolical scheme” by Moscow. Nato denounced the referendums as a “sham” and “violation of international law”.
European leaders have said sabotage is the most likely cause of leaks in two Nord Stream gas pipelines between Russia and Europe, after seismologists reported explosions around the Baltic Sea lines. Denmark ’s military issued an image of gas bubbling at the surface of the Baltic after the “unprecedented” damage to the pipelines.
The European Commission president, Ursula Von der Leyen, threatened the “strongest possible response” to any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure in the wake of the Nord Stream damage. Swedish police said they had launched a preliminary investigation into possible sabotage. Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has called the leaks “an act of sabotage” that “related to the next step of escalation of the situation in Ukraine”.
President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to address both houses of the Russian parliament on Friday and may use the address to formally announce the accession into Russia of the Ukraine territories that held referendums, the British Ministry of Defence said in its latest intelligence update. Putin said on Tuesday that Russia wanted to “save people” in the territories.
The United Nations human rights office has said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to a wide range of human rights violations – including extrajudicial killings and torture – that could amount to war crimes, and had caused a dire rights situation. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report that it was particularly concerned about torture and ill treatment of detainees by Russian forces and affiliated armed groups, but that there had been rights violations by both sides.
Georgia and Kazakhstan said that tens of thousands of Russians had flooded into their countries from neighbouring Russia as military-aged men avoid military call-up following Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation.
Moscow said it would not request the extradition of Russians travelling abroad to avoid being called-up to fight in Ukraine .
Updated at 9.39am BST