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Russia-Ukraine war live: Putin to annex Ukrainian regions; Nato vows response to any attacks on allies’ infrastructure

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-09-29

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4.00pm BST

Summary of the day so far

It’s 6pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • Vladimir Putin will sign treaties on Friday annexing territories in occupied Ukraine, the Kremlin has said. The Russian president is expected to sign into law the annexations of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia , where Russia held fake referendums over the last week in order to claim a mandate for the territorial claims, in a major escalation of Russia’s seven-month-old war.

  • There are indications that Russia might limit the movement of Ukrainians living in the occupied territories after it announces their annexation. Ukrainians have been told that from Saturday they will need to apply for a pass from the occupying authorities. This comes as the exiled Luhansk regional governor, Serhiy Haidai, said Russia had prevented about 1,000 Ukrainians from crossing the border into Latvia.

  • Finland is closing its border to Russian tourists after Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilisation order prompted large numbers of people to flee the country. From midnight Finnish time (9pm GMT), Russian tourists holding an EU Schengen visa will be turned away unless they have a family tie or a compelling reason to travel.

  • Sabotage is the most likely cause of leaks in two Baltic Sea gas pipelines between Russia and Europe, European leaders have said, after seismologists reported explosions around the Nord Stream pipelines. Suspicion immediately turned to potential culprits – with fingers pointed at Russia, whose pipelines were hit, suggesting a further weaponisation of energy supplies to Europe in the midst of the conflict in Ukraine. Nato vowed a “united and determined response” to what it described as “deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage”.

  • Swedish authorities have reported a fourth leak on one of the two Nord Stream pipelines that EU leaders believe became the subject of sabotage at the start of the week. The two leaks in Swedish waters were close to each other, with one rupture, on Nord Stream 2, causing a circle of bubbles at the surface of about 900 metres in diameter, and the other, coming from a leak in Nord Stream 1, a circle of about 200 metres.

  • Gas is likely to stop leaking from the damaged Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Monday, according to the pipeline’s operator. A spokesperson for Nord Stream AG said it was not possible to provide any forecasts for the pipeline’s future operation until the damage had been assessed.

  • The Kremlin has said incidents on the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea look like an “act of terrorism”. The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said a foreign state was probably responsible for the incident, which resulted in leaks at the pipelines linking Russia to Europe. Russia’s foreign ministry claimed the “incident on the Nord Stream occurred in a zone controlled by American intelligence” .

  • The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced an eighth package of sanctions including a draft sanctions law seen by the Guardian designed to “make the Kremlin pay” for the escalation of the war against Ukraine. Hungary “cannot and will not support” energy sanctions in the package, said Gergely Gulyas, the chief of staff to the prime minister, Viktor Orbán. An EU official said an agreement on the next sanctions package is expected before next week’s EU summit, or at least major parts of the package.

  • The head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, has said six Ukrainians have been exchanged in a prisoner swap. The six included two civilians who were arrested and taken to Russia because of content on their phones, and four Ukrainian soldiers who fought in Mariupol. They have been returned to Ukraine.

  • Russia is escalating its use of Iranian-supplied “kamikaze” drones in southern Ukraine, including against the southern port of Odesa and the nearby city of Mykolaiv. It is estimated that hundreds of weapons may now have been deployed by the Kremlin in Crimea and other occupied areas of the south.

  • A report drawn up by an international working group on sanctions concluded Russia should now be declared a “state sponsor of terrorism”. The head of the office of the Ukrainian presidency, Andriy Yermak, called for sweeping American and European sanctions targeting Moscow.

Hello everyone, it’s Léonie Chao-Fong still with you to bring you all the latest developments from Ukraine. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter or via email .

Updated at 4.10pm BST

3.23pm BST

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency is reporting that a drone was dropped on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by Ukrainian forces, but there was no significant damage. It quoted Yevhen Balitsky , the head of the Russian-imposed authority in occupied Zaporizhzhia, saying:

The hit is not in the reactor itself, nothing threatens the reactor. We are talking about auxiliary infrastructure. The firefighters have left, they are now finishing the extinguishing. I was informed that the issue does not pose a great danger in terms of nuclear threat.

Updated at 3.23pm BST

3.03pm BST

Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s spokesperson Sergii Nykyforov has said on Facebook that Ukraine’s president has called an emergency meeting. He posted :

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy convenes an urgent meeting of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine tomorrow. Agenda and other details will be announced later.

2.26pm BST

Finland is closing its border to Russian tourists after Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilisation order prompted large numbers of people to flee the country.

From midnight Finnish time (9pm GMT), Russian tourists holding an EU Schengen visa will be turned away unless they have a family tie or compelling reason to stay.

Matti Pitkäniitty, the head of the international affairs unit at the Finnish border guard, said each passenger seeking to enter Finland from Russia would be asked: “Why are you entering Finland? Do you have some kind of valid reason: family members? study? some business that must be handled at the moment?” … And if not, then the entry is refused.”

Entry will also be permitted for humanitarian reasons, such as patients with an established relationship with Finnish doctors.

In an interview with the Guardian, he said the restrictions were necessary because entry for Russians with Schengen visas was harming Finland’s international reputation and undermining its support for Ukraine.

In this situation where we have Russia attacking Ukraine and Ukrainians don’t have a possibility to go abroad and have a nice meal and enjoy life. So the big dilemma is why can Russians [do this]?

For at least two decades, middle-class Russians from St Petersburg have been frequent travellers to Finland, using fast roads to go shopping and enjoy other leisure activities. Since the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent EU ban on flights to and from Russia, Russians have also used Finland as a transit country to reach other European destinations.

Russians will be allowed to claim asylum in Finland, a process that may require them to stay in state accommodation and restrict their freedom of movement, Pitkäniitty said.

In a question and answer document about the scheme, the Finnish government acknowledged that “it will become more difficult for people” seeking asylum and said it was studying the introduction of a humanitarian visa.

Under EU law, the Finnish government can prevent entry to non-EU citizens if it perceives “a threat to international relations”.

“The government has concluded that tourism from Russia to Finland is a threat to Finland’s international relations,” a government document states.

Separately, Finnish authorities announced this week they were moving ahead with plans to build a fence along the southern parts of its 1,340km (830 mile) border with Russia. Pitkäniitty said the fence – likely to be constructed from metal, topped with barbed wire and lined with surveillance equipment – would be built along 130km to 260km of the shared border.

The plans, agreed in July , predate the Russian mobilisation and were a response to growing “instrumentalisation of migration”, he said.

Finnish officials believe their fenceless border is a vulnerability, after observing how Belarus’s authoritarian government lured migrants from the Middle East to EU borders in Poland and Lithuania , in apparent retaliation against EU sanctions against Minsk.

“The fact that we don’t have any fencing at the border may become a pull factor,” Pitkäniitty said.

Updated at 2.47pm BST

2.13pm BST

Gas is likely to stop leaking from the damaged Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Monday, according to the pipeline’s operator.

It was not possible to provide any forecasts for the pipeline’s future operation until the damage had been assessed, a spokesperson for Nord Stream AG told Reuters.

The company said it would only be able to carry out such an assessment once it had been able to reach the area.

A spokesperson said:

Until there are some results from an assessment of the damage, no forecasts can be made. The damage assessment can be carried out on the spot as soon as we manage to approach the area. At the moment it is a restricted zone.

Updated at 2.47pm BST

2.05pm BST

On state TV channel Russia 24, a countdown clock to President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of four territories from Ukraine features prominently on the screen.

From BBC Monitoring’s Russia specialist, Francis Scarr:

1.53pm BST

Germans have been urged to save gas regardless of chilly weather after figures showed above-average energy usage, despite repeated pleas for restraint.

Klaus Mueller, head of Germany’s top energy regulator, said in a statement:

Without significant reductions, including in private households, it will be difficult to avoid a gas shortage this winter.

A reduction of at least 20% in energy usage is needed to avoid shortages, the agency said.

Mueller added:

Gas must be saved, even if it gets even colder towards winter. This will depend on each and every one of us.

1.44pm BST

The head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, has said six Ukrainians have been exchanged in a prisoner swap.

The six included two civilians, who were arrested and taken to Russia because of the content on their phones, and four Ukrainian soldiers, who fought in Mariupol. They have been returned to Ukraine.

“Negotiations are difficult work, and the best reward for it is the freedom of Ukrainians,” wrote Yermak on Telegram.

Updated at 2.23pm BST

1.33pm BST

The Kremlin has said that incidents on the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea look like an “act of terrorism”.

The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said a foreign state was probably responsible for the incident which resulted in leaks at the pipelines linking Russia to Europe.

In his daily press briefing, Peskov said:

It’s very difficult to imagine that such a terrorist act could happen without the involvement of a state.

His remarks came after the Swedish coastguard reported it had discovered a fourth gas leak on the damaged Nord Stream pipelines.

Peskov added:

This is an extremely dangerous situation that requires urgent investigation.

He said such an investigation “required the cooperation of several countries” but denounced an “acute shortage of communications and unwillingness of many countries to contact” Russia.

Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, called for an international investigation into the incident to be “objective”.

Updated at 2.39pm BST

1.20pm BST

Swedish authorities have reported a fourth leak on one of the two Nord Stream pipelines that EU leaders believe became the subject of sabotage at the start of the week.

The two leaks in Swedish waters were close to each other, “in the same sector”, a coastguard officer told Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

Dagens Nyheter reported that one rupture, on Nord Stream 2, was causing a circle of bubbles at the surface of about 900 metres in diameter and the other, coming from a leak in Nord Stream 1, a circle of about 200 metres.

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A photograph taken by a Swedish coast guard aircraft of gas emanating from a leak on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Photograph: Swedish Coast Guard/EPA
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A fourth leak has been detected in undersea gas pipelines linking Russia to Europe, the Swedish coast guard said. Photograph: Swedish Coast Guard/AFP/Getty Images

Related: Sweden reports fourth Nord Stream pipeline leak

Updated at 2.39pm BST

1.07pm BST

There are indications that Russia might limit the movement of Ukrainians living in the occupied territories after it announces their annexation.

Ukrainians writing on a Telegram group for people leaving the occupied territories have been told that from Saturday, 1 October, they will need to apply for a pass from the occupying authorities.

Those crossing have reported queues hundreds of cars long, waiting to enter Ukraine through the only official checkpoint for civilians located in the Zaporizhzhia region.

This comes as the exiled Luhansk regional governor, Serhiy Haidai, said on Thursday that Russia has prevented about 1,000 Ukrainians from crossing the border into Latvia.

Haidai wrote on Telegram that the people had travelled from Russian-occupied Ukraine through Russia.

Earlier this week, the NGO Helping to Leave, which helps evacuate Ukrainians from the occupied areas, also reported that Ukrainians attempting to cross into the European Union from Russia had been stopped by the Russian security services.

Updated at 1.20pm BST

12.52pm BST

Nato warns of ‘determined response’ following ‘deliberate sabotage’ on Nord Stream gas pipelines

Nato has said leaks from the Nord Stream gas pipelines appeared to be “deliberate acts of sabotage” and vowed a “united and determined response” to any attacks on their critical infrastructure.

In a statement, the alliance said:

All currently available information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage.

These leaks are causing risks to shipping and substantial environmental damage. We support the investigations underway to determine the origin of the damage.

The alliance was “committed to prepare for, deter and defend against the coercive use of energy and other hybrid tactics”, the statement continued.

Any deliberate attack against Allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response

12.41pm BST

Finland’s border guard force has confirmed that it will shut its border to Russian tourists from midnight local time, announced by the government earlier today.

The inflow of Russians is now seen as endangering Finland’s international relations, foreign minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters.

12.31pm BST

12.19pm BST

Hungary will not support the EU’s proposed new round of sanctions against Russia if they include energy sanctions, a government official has said.

The EU executive proposed on Wednesday an eighth round of sanctions against Russia, including capping the price of Russian oil and imposing further curbs on hi-tech trade.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the new sanctions were designed to “make the Kremlin pay” for the escalation of the war against Ukraine.

She promised the EU would introduce a price cap on Russian oil to “help reduce Russian revenues and keep the global market stable”.

Gergely Gulyas, chief of staff to Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán, told a briefing:

Hungary has done a lot already to maintain European unity but if there are energy sanctions in the package, then we cannot and will not support it.

We are waiting for a final, full list of sanctions and then we can negotiate about it. Hungary cannot support energy sanctions.

12.10pm BST

From make up and cigars, to washing machines and toilet paper, the list of goods affected by European Union sanctions against Russia is about to get a lot longer.

Items targeted for export or import bans are listed in a draft sanctions law seen by the Guardian, following the announcement of headline measures by the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, on Wednesday.

The EU executive has proposed capping the price of Russian oil and imposing further curbs on hi-tech trade, as part of its eighth round of sanctions to “make the Kremlin pay” for the escalation of the war against Ukraine . Other proposals include a ban on EU nationals serving on the boards of Russian-state companies, a provision that would catch the former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Since then further details have emerged of EU goods that will be banned from export to Russia. The commission wants to stop the sale of European appliances, including dishwashers and washing machines, because officials believe the Russian army is raiding such products for their chips, because they have run out of semiconductors.

The EU also wants to tighten import curbs on goods generating income for Russia, ranging from wood, pulp and paper, cigarettes and cosmetics. Bags and suitcases, telephones and cars, paper and newsprint, women’s clothes, makeup and shaving products feature on a long list of items subject to trade restrictions that also includes many industrial goods, tools and chemical substances.

But a proposal to stop the EU from importing Russian diamonds has come unstuck, a move widely seen as appeasing Belgium, one of the world’s biggest traders of the stones.

Belgian diplomats insisted they had no intention to block the inclusion of diamonds, but other member states believe Belgium’s objections meant the stones were removed from the list. The Commission “explains that … it affects one member state, so let’s forget about it,” said a diplomat who was unimpressed by the decision.

EU ambassadors will discuss the plans on Friday, with the aim of reaching a quick agreement. The measures must be agreed by unanimity to come into force.

Updated at 1.09pm BST

12.04pm BST

Russia is reportedly escalating its use of Iranian-supplied “kamikaze” drones in southern Ukraine , including against the southern port of Odesa and the nearby city of Mykolaiv, amid estimates that hundreds of weapons may now have been deployed by the Kremlin in Crimea and other occupied areas of the south.

The drones – also known as loitering munitions – have also been used against Ukrainian artillery positions in the country’s east, including in the Kharkiv region. Britain’s Ministry of Defence first noted the Russian use of the Iranian supplied weapons in mid-September.

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Part of an unmanned aerial vehicle that Ukrainian authorities consider to be an Iranian-made Shahed-136, reportedly shot down in Odesa. Photograph: Ukrainian Armed Forces/Reuters

Able to remain airborne for several hours and circle over potential targets, the drones are designed to be flown into enemy troops, armour or buildings, exploding on impact – explaining their description as kamikaze drones.

On Tuesday Ukrainian armed forces said they had successfully shot down three more Iranian suicide drones that attacked Mykolaiv region.

A day before Ukraine’s air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat suggested Iran may have supplied “several hundred” of the weapons to Russia.

Read the full story here:

Related: Russia escalating use of Iranian ‘kamikaze’ drones, reports say

11.52am BST

Vladimir Putin’s decision to formally incorporate Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine marks the largest forcible annexation in Europe since the second world war, the Economist’s Shashank Joshi writes.

The total area set to become de facto part of Russia amounts to more than 90,000 square km, or about 15% of Ukraine’s total area – equal to the size of Hungary or Portugal.

Updated at 12.01pm BST

11.45am BST

Finland to ban Russian tourists after mobilisation order

Finland will close its border to Russian tourists from midnight local time (2100 GMT) , the Finnish government has announced.

The announcement by Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto comes after Vladimir Putin’s decision to order a mobilisation prompted a flood of Russians to flee the country.

The move is expected to lead to a significant drop in cross-border traffic, Haavisto told a news conference.

Entry for family visits, as well as for work and studies, will still be permitted, he added.

Updated at 11.51am BST

11.34am BST

Putin to hold signing ceremony to annex four Ukrainian regions to Russia

Here’s more from the Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, who has announced that President Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony tomorrow to add four territories of Ukraine into Russia.

A signing ceremony will take place at 3pm Moscow-time (1200 GMT) on Friday “on agreements on the accession of new territories into the Russian Federation”, Peskov said.

Agreements will be signed “with all four territories that held referendums and made corresponding requests to the Russian side,” Peskov said.

The total area set to become de facto part of Russia amounts to about 15% of Ukraine and includes an estimated 4 million people. The so-called referendums in the occupied regions of Ukraine have been denounced by the west as illegal and illegitimate.

Following the signing ceremonies in the Kremlin, Putin will give a major speech and will meet with Moscow-appointed administrators of the Ukrainian regions, the Kremlin said.

Updated at 3.53pm BST

11.26am BST

The Kremlin’s announcement that Russia will formally annex four more areas of Ukraine comes after so-called referendums in those occupied regions that have already been denounced by Kyiv and the west.

Once annexed, Russia’s leadership has said it will consider attacks on the Russian-controlled areas a direct attack on Russia.

Announcing the so-called referendums in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions of Ukraine last week, Vladimir Putin threatened to respond with nuclear weapons if Russia’s national security was threatened.

The so-called referendums, held over four days in the Russian-occupied regions, concluded on Tuesday and, as predicted, the results reported by Russian state media showed overwhelming support for joining Russia.

Residents who escaped to Ukrainian-held areas in recent days have told of people being forced to mark ballots in the street at gunpoint. Footage on social media shows Russian-installed officials taking ballot boxes from house to house with armed men in tow.

On Wednesday, the Russian-installed administrations of the four Ukrainian provinces formally asked Putin to incorporate them into Russia.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has described them as “an imitation of referendums” and vowed to “defend” Ukrainian citizens in Russian-occupied regions.

Updated at 11.45am BST

11.12am BST

Russia to formally annex occupied regions in Ukraine on Friday

Vladimir Putin will sign a decree annexing four occupied regions in Ukraine tomorrow, the Kremlin has announced.

Russian state-owned news agency Tass cites Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, as saying that the ceremony of the signing of agreements into the Russian Federation will be held on Friday at 3pm Moscow time.

The Russian president will hold a signing ceremony in the Kremlin, after which he is expected to give a major speech and meet with Moscow-appointed administrators of the Ukrainian regions, Peskov said.

Hello everyone, it’s Léonie Chao-Fong with you today to bring you all the latest 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 11.18am BST

11.04am BST

Summary of the day so far …

  • Sweden’s coast guard earlier this week discovered a fourth gas leak on the damaged Nord Stream pipelines , a coast guard spokesperson told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

  • Politicians across Europe have warned that 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. Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, said his country would step up its military presence at Norwegian installations after the country became Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas.

  • Denmark’s foreign minister, Jeppe Kofod , has said that “intentional” explosions caused the leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines, and that it was an “unprecedented” attack.

  • The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has proposed a fresh round of sanctions on Russia designed “to make the Kremlin pay” for escalating the conflict in Ukraine. The proposed eighth package of “biting” sanctions includes a cap on the price of Russian oil and further curbs on hi-tech trade.

  • An EU official has given a briefing to Reuters saying that an agreement on the next sanctions package against Russia is expected before next week’s EU summit , or at least major parts of the package.

  • On Moscow ’s Red Square, giant video screens have been set up, with billboards proclaiming “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson – Russia!”

  • Russian state Duma deputies have been invited to an event at the Kremlin with Vladimir Putin for 3pm on Friday 30 September. It will possibly be the moment that the Russian president addresses in public the next stage of the inevitable annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson from occupied Ukraine.

  • The UK ministry of defence has claimed in its latest intelligence briefing that more men have now likely fled conscription from Russia’s partial mobilisation than Russia initially used in its invasion force of Ukraine.

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said overnight Ukraine will “act to protect our people” in Russian-occupied regions after what he described as “an imitation of referendums”. Ukraine’s foreign ministry said Kyiv and its allies “condemn such actions of Russia and consider them null and worthless”.

  • Britain’s prime minister, Liz Truss, told Zelenskiy in a phone call yesterday that the UK would never recognise Russian attempts to annex parts of Ukraine , Downing Street said. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also denounced the “illegal referenda and their falsified outcome” in Ukraine.

That is it from me, Martin Belam, for now. I will be back later. Léonie Chao-Fong will be here shortly to continue our coverage.

Updated at 11.42am BST

10.39am BST

The RIA Novosti news agency in Russia is reporting that “State Duma deputies received an invitation to the Kremlin for an event on 30 September with the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin”.

RIA states that the state duma deputy Denis Parfyonov said the event would start at 3pm Moscow time (1pm BST).

There has been considerable speculation about when Putin might respond in public to the so-called results of the “referendums” staged by Russian proxy authorities in occupied Ukraine.

Updated at 11.03am BST

10.26am BST

Oleksandr Stryuk , mayor of Sievierodonetsk, has posted an update to Telegram with some images claiming to be from Russian attacks overnight on the city of Orikhiv. He said:

Private houses suffered numerous destructions. As a result of the shelling, there were fires with a total area of tens of square metres. Firefighters quickly contained the fire. According to available information, there are no victims. Today, the occupier again shelled the city of Huliaipole. Three houses were destroyed. The enemy continues the policy of terror and intimidation. Objects of civil infrastructure are targets every time.

The claims have not have been independently verified.

Updated at 11.01am BST

9.55am BST

Over in Greece the Ukrainian president has been speaking about the importance of democracy in tyrannical times, Helena Smith reports from Athens.

Addressing the 10th Athens Democracy Forum, Volodymyr Zelenskiy underlined it was unity that reinforced democracy and unity that would ultimately ensure its success.

People feel that right now something is happening that could become decisive in the centuries-old confrontation between democracy and tyranny,” he said as the Forum opened in the Greek capital on Wednesday evening.

And it is precisely in this address, precisely to the Athens Democracy Forum, that I want to say that I am sure: we will be able to guarantee the future of democracy, we will be able to protect it.

We will, because we know what gives democracy strength, what serves as its heart, ensuring the supply of freedom, like blood, to every part of a democratic society – to every person. This is unity. Unity is the most important thing.

Zelenskiy, who was awarded the 2022 City of Athens Democracy prize in the name of the people of Ukraine by the mayor, Kostas Bakoyannis, insisted that the unity the west had shown in the face of Russian brute force was reflected in the setbacks the Russian military had suffered on the battlefield. Continuing his address he said:

We see this now in the war that Russia has waged against our people and against our common democratic system. The greater unity we have, the more tangible Russian defeats are.

Democracy does not live in the government offices or even in the parliament hall. Democracy lives between people. And that is why it is so important that there are no isolated groups in societies – be it the ruling group, or any other privileged groups, or any unintegrated minorities.

After the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine, we managed to achieve the greatest unity of Europe and the democratic community of the whole world in decades. But the greatest does not mean the maximum.

We have a lot to do to further strengthen our unity. And every such step to strengthen is a step to protect democracy. Not just somewhere, not just in some country, but in general – for all of us and for our children.

For all free nations. Forever free.

Greece has stalwartly stood by its Nato and EU allies in opposing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine despite what were once strong ties with fellow Orthodox Russia. Athens’s stance has infuriated Russia with the two sides exchanging sharp words and anti-Putin graffiti appearing in the Greek capital.

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Anti-Putin graffiti seen in Athens Photograph: Helena Smith/The Guardian

Zelenskiy ended his speech thanking the country for its “significant support.”

“It is with great honour that I accept the award of the city of Athens for the Ukrainian people, for our people, for their contribution to the protection of democratic values.,” he said.

Updated at 11.23am BST

9.03am BST

Earlier we reported a brief statement from the Russian foreign ministry that the Nord Stream incident occurred in areas under the control of US intelligence. [ See 8.15am ]

Reuters is now carrying the quote from the foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova . She said:

It happened in the trade and economic zones of Denmark and Sweden. They are Nato-centric countries. They are countries that are completely controlled by the US intelligence services.

Zakharova offered no evidence for the Danish and Swedish governments being “completely controlled by the US intelligence services”. The Nord Stream incident happened in international waters, and not within the territorial waters of Sweden or Denmark. Sweden is not yet a member of Nato.

Updated at 9.27am BST

8.52am BST

Here are some of the latest images sent to us from Ukraine over the newswires.

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Ukrainian mine clearance teams gather to get to work after Russian forces’ withdrawal from Izium. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
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A Ukrainian soldier walks past a destroyed Russian tank on the frontline in Donetsk. Photograph: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images
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A local resident pushing her cart past a destroyed building in Izium. Photograph: Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 9.26am BST

8.24am BST

An EU official has given a briefing to Reuters saying that an agreement on the next sanctions package against Russia is expected before next week’s EU summit, or at least major parts of the package.

The official went on to tell the agency that they expected the summit to focus on the recent “referendums” carried out by proxy-Russian authorities in occupied areas of Ukraine, possible annexations by Russia, Russia’s nuclear threats and the disruption to the Nord Stream pipelines.

EU leaders are also expected to discuss different ideas for energy price caps at the summit, which the EU official expects to be a tense one “as we are in difficult times”.

Hungary’s Viktor Orbán has already indicated he is unlikely to back another tranche of sanctions, and recently announced a “national consultation” to see if EU sanctions against Russia had the backing of the Hungarian people.

8.15am BST

Given the tricky nature of pulling off a sabotage attack against the Nord Stream pipelines undetected, most analysts agree that only state actors could have carried it out. Russia has been keen to cast the blame in the direction of the US.

This morning the Russian foreign ministry has, according to the RIA Novosti news agency, issued a brief statement saying that the “incident on the Nord Stream occurred in a zone controlled by American intelligence”.

Overnight the Russian embassy in the US issued a statement on Telegram again drawing attention to “the promises made by President Biden to ‘bring an end’ to the Nord Stream 2 project”, and saying:

We note the attempts by some US legislators to put blame on Russia for the incidents. Perhaps, they have a better view from the top of Capitol Hill. But if that is the case, they must also have seen the US warships’ activities at the very site of the Russian infrastructure disruption just the day before. Or noticed drones and helicopters fly over there. Or observed US navy exercises with underwater explosives that have been conducted in the same area some time ago.

What is obvious to us is that those who ponder about the incident seem to forget to ask the main question: who benefits from the pipelines’ rupture? For our part, we insist on the need for a comprehensive and objective examination of the circumstances of the unprecedented attacks on Russian pipelines.

Russian sources have repeatedly referenced the words of Joe Biden and his administration earlier this year as the US and Germany threatened that Nord Stream 2 would not be opened if Russia invaded Ukraine.

In January the state department spokesperson Ned Price said : “I want to be very clear: if Russia invades Ukraine one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward. I’m not going to get into the specifics. We will work with Germany to ensure it does not move forward.”

Several days later, on 8 February, at a joint press event with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, Biden said the pipeline project would be ended if Russia put troops on the ground in Ukraine, saying: “If Russia invades, that means tanks or troops crossing the border of Ukraine again, then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”

Updated at 9.21am BST

8.01am BST

Danish foreign minister says 'intentional' explosions caused Nord Stream leaks

Denmark’s foreign minister, Jeppe Kofod, has said that “intentional” explosions caused the leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines, and that it was an “unprecedented” attack.

He told viewers of Sky News in the UK:

It’s clear we all need to be very aware of our critical infrastructure, when it comes to energy and other infrastructure, so we all take, I think, the right precautionary steps. Because it is unprecedented, as I’ve said, we haven’t seen that type of attack on infrastructure.

Saying that Danish authorities were working closely with their neighbours, Nato and the EU, he added: “We all have to look out for our critical infrastructure.”

He went on to tell viewers that it emphasised the need to end dependency on Russian energy, saying:

It has been clear for us for a long time in Denmark, and also now for the rest of Europe, that we need to get out of any dependence on Russian energy, whether it’s gas, coal or oil, and we’re working very hard to obtain that objective in Europe.

Denmark is doing its part, where we will focus a lot in investing massively in renewable energy, not least the offshore wind and other type of renewables, and also energy efficiency. So that is a course we will not change.”

Updated at 9.19am BST

7.33am BST

Ed Davey , a former energy minister in the UK and currently leader of the Liberal Democrats, the fourth largest party in the House of Commons, has said he believes it is likely that the Nord Stream pipeline will never reopen. He told viewers of Sky News in an interview that the leaks in the pipelines were “potential Russian terrorism”. He said:

I think we should be very concerned. Listening to Polish and Danish ministers they do suspect this was an act of Russian terrorism, and that it’s another threat from the Kremlin to Europe’s energy supplies.

But we need to stand bold against Russia supporting Ukraine.

And one thing that is some good news is that the pipeline from Norway to Poland that we so long argued for, the so-called Baltic gas pipeline, is going to now open earlier than originally planned.

He went on to say:

I personally think it’s likely that Nord Stream may never reopen, and therefore the energy policy of Europe, of our country, working with our European colleagues, needs to assume that we need to get off Russian energy as fast as possible.

That will be good for our security.

It would ultimately calm the markets, and reduce prices for people, reduce people’s bills, and it would help us tackle climate change.

  • This post was amended at 2.55pm on 29 September. It initially said that the Liberal Democrats were “the third largest political party in the UK’s parliament”, and then was amended to say that they were “the fourth largest political party in the UK’s parliament”. The Liberal Democrats are the fourth largest party in the House of Commons. They are the third largest political party by representation in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Updated at 2.58pm BST

7.27am BST

Russian news agency Interfax is reporting another arson attack, citing the military commissar of the Novosibirsk region Evgeny Kudryavtsev. It reports he posted to his Telegram channel:

On 29 September at 6.25am an attempt was made to set fire to the military commissariat for the Kirovsky and Leninsky districts of the city of Novosibirsk. Molotov cocktails were thrown into two windows, which caused a fire with an area of ​​0.5 square metres from the outside, which was promptly eliminated.

7.13am BST

Vyacheslav Volodin, chair of the Russian state Duma since 2016, has posted a reminder on Telegram that people should not be fleeing Russia to avoid mobilisation, saying:

Citizens who are registered with the military, from the moment mobilisation is announced, are prohibited from leaving their place of residence without the permission of the military commissariats.

There is such a norm of the law, and all those liable for military service should be guided by it.

6.18am BST

The UK Ministry of Defence has published its latest analysis on Ukraine.

Here are its key points:

In the seven days since President Putin announced the ‘partial mobilisation’ there has been a considerable exodus of Russians seeking to evade call-up. Whilst exact numbers are unclear, it likely exceeds the size of the total invasion force Russia fielded in February 2022.

The better off and well educated are over-represented amongst those attempting to leave Russia.

When combined with those reservists who are being mobilised, the domestic economic impact of reduced availability of labour and the acceleration of ‘brain drain’ is likely to become increasingly significant.

Updated at 9.14am BST

6.03am BST

Fourth leak found on Nord Stream pipelines, Swedish coast guard says

Sweden’s coast guard earlier this week discovered a fourth gas leak on the damaged Nord Stream pipelines, a coast guard spokesperson told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

“Two of these four are in Sweden’s exclusive economic zone,” the spokesperson, Jenny Larsson, told the newspaper.

The two other holes are in the Danish exclusive economic zone, according to a translation of the report published by Reuters.

The European Union suspects sabotage was behind the gas leaks on the subsea Russian pipelines to Europe and has promised a “robust” response to any intentional disruption of its energy infrastructure.

Updated at 9.13am BST

5.47am BST

The United States announced on Wednesday that it is doubling the number of deadly Himars rocket systems sent to Ukraine as part of a new military aid package worth $1.1 billion, reports AFP.

Here are some further details:

The 18 additional multiple rocket systems, which have pinpoint accuracy and have been used by Ukraine to wreak havoc on high-value Russian targets such as command posts and ammunition dumps, will be sent over the medium- and long-term, the Pentagon said.

Instead of weapons taken from existing stockpiles, this package will consist of newly procured arms, and the Himars alone could “take a few years”, according to a senior Pentagon official.

So far, 16 Himars have been deployed by the Ukrainians, and the rocket systems have been credited with playing a key role in recent counteroffensives against the invading Russians.

The latest package of orders for US military suppliers also includes 150 armored vehicles, 150 tactical vehicles for towing weapons, trucks and trailers, and systems to help Ukraine defend against Russia’s Iranian-made drones increasingly deployed on the battlefield, according to a Defense Department statement.

The new package took the total US military aid to Ukraine since the Russians invaded in late February to $16.2 billion.

Updated at 9.11am BST

5.46am BST

On Moscow’s Red Square, giant video screens have been set up, with billboards proclaiming “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson – Russia!”

Moscow stands poised to formally annex a swath of Ukraine following so-called referendums that have been denounced by the west.

Residents who escaped to Ukrainian-held areas in recent days have told of people being forced to mark ballots in the street by roving officials at gunpoint.

The head of the upper house of the Russian parliament said it could consider the incorporation of the four regions on 4 October, three days before the Russian president, Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday, reports Reuters.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0xifdE_0iEczS4S00
Banners and construction ahead of an expected event dedicated to the results of so-called referendums in four Ukrainian regions on joining Russia in central Moscow. The banners read: “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson. Together forever!” Photograph: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Updated at 9.10am BST

5.46am BST

Russian milbloggers (military personnel who write blogs) discussed Ukrainian gains around Lyman with increased concern on Wednesday, suggesting that Russian forces in this area may face imminent defeat, according to the US-based Institute for the Study of War .

In its latest briefing , it says:

Several Russian milbloggers and prominent military correspondents claimed that Ukrainian troops advanced west, north, and northeast of Lyman and are working to complete the envelopment of Russian troops in Lyman and along the northern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River in this area.
Russian mibloggers stated that Ukrainian troops are threatening Russian positions and lines of communication that support the Lyman grouping. The collapse of the Lyman pocket will likely be highly consequential to the Russian grouping in northern Donetsk and western Luhansk oblasts and may allow Ukrainian troops to threaten Russian positions along the western Luhansk Oblast border and in the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area.

It adds the Russian ministry of defence “has not addressed current Russian losses around Lyman or prepared for the collapse of this sector of the frontline, which will likely further reduce already-low Russian morale.”

Russian military authorities previously failed to set sufficient information conditions for Russian losses following the first stages of the Ukrainian counteroffensives in Kharkiv Oblast, devastating morale and leading to panic among Russian forces across the Eastern axis. The subsequent ire of the Russian nationalist information space likely played a role in driving the Kremlin to order partial mobilization in the days following Ukraine’s initial sweeping counteroffensive in a haphazard attempt to reinforce Russian lines.

Future Ukrainian gains around critical areas in Donetsk and Luhansk oblast may drive additional wedges between Russian nationalists and military leadership, and between Russian forces and their superiors.

Updated at 9.07am BST

5.45am BST

Summary

It is now 7.45am in Ukraine. Here is a summary of the latest developments:

  • The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has proposed a fresh round of sanctions on Russia designed “to make the Kremlin pay” for escalating the conflict in Ukraine. The proposed eighth package of “biting” sanctions includes a cap on the price of Russian oil and further curbs on hi-tech trade.

  • Politicians across Europe have warned that 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. Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, said his country would step up its military presence at Norwegian installations after the country became Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas.

  • A report drawn up by an international working group on sanctions concluded Russia should now be declared a “state sponsor of terrorism” and had reached the legal definition of a terrorist state under US and Canadian law. The head of the Office of the Ukrainian Presidency, Andriy Yermak, called for sweeping American and European sanctions in light of the report, after Ukraine accused Russia of sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines.

  • 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. Russia’s foreign ministry said action would be taken soon to meet the “aspirations” of four occupied Ukrainian regions to become part of Russia. Once annexed, Russia’s leadership has said it will consider attacks on the Russian-controlled areas as a direct attack on Russia.

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Ukraine will “act to protect our people” in Russian-occupied regions after what he described as “an imitation of referendums”. Ukraine’s foreign ministry said Kyiv and its allies “condemn such actions of Russia and consider them null and worthless”.

  • Britain’s prime minister, Liz Truss, told Zelenskiy in a phone call that the UK would never recognise Russian attempts to annex parts of Ukraine , Downing Street said. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also denounced the “illegal referenda and their falsified outcome” in Ukraine.

  • 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. The statement came after the discovery of leaks on the two Nord Stream gas pipelines near the Danish island of Bornholm in a suspected act of sabotage.

  • The Kremlin dismissed claims that Russia was behind the attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines , describing them as “quite predictable and also predictably stupid”.

  • 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, 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 Romania, 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 seeking to avoid the draft 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.

  • 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. 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.

Updated at 9.05am BST

Comments / 416

Cj Martinez
09-29

Russia is invading Ukraine Russia is a bully Russian president Vladimir Putin is a war criminal russian president Vladimir Putin needs to stop invading Ukraine

Reply(61)
40
bob@baker
09-29

Lmao…that’s like a car thief that makes a fake title using construction paper and crayons then expects everyone to go” that looks legit”.

Reply(1)
22
Country living!
09-29

Just keep thinking 80 billion tax payer dollars already given to Ukraine !! When we can use it here in the United States!!!

Reply(45)
44

Comments / 0