(NEW YORK) — More than six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion into neighboring Ukraine, the two countries are engaged in a struggle for control of areas throughout eastern and southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose forces began an offensive in August, has vowed to take back all Russian-occupied territory. But Putin in September announced a mobilization of reservists, which is expected to call up as many as 300,000 additional troops.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Oct 08, 12:10 PM EDT
Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant loses remaining external power source due to shelling: IAEA
Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plane lost its last external power source due to renewed shelling, the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said in a statement Saturday.
The plant is now relying on emergency diesel generators for the electricity it needs for reactor cooling and other essential nuclear safety and security functions, according to Grossi.
The plant’s connection to the power line was cut at around 1 a.m. local time. Sixteen of the plant’s diesel generators started operating automatically, providing its six reactors with power. After the situation stabilized, 10 of the generators were switched off, according to Grossi.
“The resumption of shelling, hitting the plant’s sole source of external power, is tremendously irresponsible. The Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant must be protected,” Director General Grossi said. “I will soon travel to the Russian Federation, and then return to Ukraine, to agree on a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the plant. This is an absolute and urgent imperative.”
Oct 08, 7:28 AM EDT
Three killed in bridge blast, official says
Three people were killed on Saturday in the explosion that collapsed portions of the bridge linking Russia to Crimea, a Russian official said.
The Russian Investigative Committee also said it had identified the driver of the truck that was allegedly blown up on the bridge.
Russia’s response should be tough, said Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs.
“If the Ukrainian trace is confirmed in the state of emergency on the Crimean bridge, the consequences will be inevitable,” Slutsky wrote on his Telegram channel on Saturday.
He said he has no doubt that “Kyiv is behind the organization of this attack.” Ukrainian officials have not taken credit for the blast. Ukraine’s official government Twitter account tweeted the phrase “sick burn” after the explosion, but did not directly reference the blast.
“This is not just an emergency,” Slutsky wrote. “It could be an act of state terrorism.”
The railway infrastructure restoration has been started after the fire on the bridge was contained and extinguished, Crimean Railway said.
Oct 08, 6:38 AM EDT
Truck blast caused bridge damage, Russia says
Russian officials said the explosion that damaged the key bridge linking Crimea and Russia came from a truck.
“Today at 6:07 a truck was blown up on the automobile part of the Crimean Bridge from the side of the Taman Peninsula,” Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee posted online. “It resulted in the ignition of seven fuel tanks of the train, along the direction of the Crimean Peninsula. There was a partial collapse of two automobile spans of the bridge. The arch over the navigable part of the bridge was not damaged.”
Russian investigators were at the scene, attempting to “establish the circumstances of the explosion,” the committee said.
Russian supply lines into Crimea were likely to be disrupted by the blast. Crimean authorities said they would instead get supplies from Russia’s newly annexed territories.
Oct 08, 4:45 AM EDT
Bridge ‘down’ between Russia and Crimea
The bridge between Russia and Crimea was partially destroyed on Saturday, Ukrainian officials said.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said the Kerch Bridge had “gone down.”
“The guided missile cruiser Moskva and the Kerch Bridge — two notorious symbols of Russian power in Ukrainian Crimea — have gone now,” the ministry said on Twitter, referencing Russia’s Moskva vessel, which was destroyed in April. “What’s next in line, russkies?”
Videos and photos posted by official Ukrainian accounts on social media on Saturday appeared to show the aftermath of an explosion, with plumes of smoke rising above the water.
At least one section of the bridge appeared to have partially fallen into the Kerch Strait, the waterway between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.
A railway bridge running alongside the vehicle bridge also appeared to be damaged.
Oct 07, 4:07 PM EDT
Russian officials say its premature, there is no need to cancel New Year, Christmas festivities to put funds toward war
A source in the Kremlin said Saint Petersburg, Russia, authorities choosing to cancel Christmas and New Year citywide events to funnel the funds toward the war in Ukraine is premature, according to Russian News Agency Interfax.
“We consider it clearly premature and undeveloped,” the source said according to Interfax.
The Russian Defense Ministry also said its armed forces have all the necessary equipment for the war in Ukraine, saying there is no need to cancel events in Russian regions to save funds for military personnel, said Colonel-General Viktor Goremykin, Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation.
Earlier on Friday, St. Petersburg officials announced they had decided to cancel the planned festivities and the funds would be used to equip the mobilized. A similar decision was made by the authorities of the Leningrad region.
Oct 07, 2:16 PM EDT
Shelling outside Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant damaged power line to reactor, IAEA says
Shelling outside the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, damaged the power line to one of the reactors, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said Friday.
The damage was caused to reactor six on Thursday, forcing the unit to temporarily rely on emergency diesel generators, according to Grossi.
Two of the experts who had been at the plant for over five weeks, were replaced Friday. There are now four IAEA experts at the Zaporizhzhya plant.
“Again and again, the plant’s courageous, skilled and experienced operators find solutions to overcome the severe problems that keep occurring because of the conflict. However, this is not a sustainable way to run a nuclear power plant. There is an urgent need to create a more stable environment for the plant and its staff,” Grossi said in a statement.
Oct 07, 1:44 PM EDT
White House says no new intel sparked Biden comments on Putin’s nuclear threat
After President Joe Biden made comments suggesting Russia may use nuclear weapons, the White House says there is no new information to suggest an imminent threat.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden’s comments have been “very consistent” and he was reinforcing how seriously the U.S. takes Russia’s threats about using nuclear weapons.
“Russia’s nuclear rhetoric has been reckless and irresponsible. But if the Cuban missile crisis has taught us anything, it is the value of reducing nuclear risk and not brandishing that,” she said speaking to reporters Friday.
Jean-Pierre also called Putin’s comments irresponsible as a leader of a nuclear power.
“We won’t be intimidated by Putin’s rhetoric, we have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture, nor do we have indications they are prepared to use them but Putin can de-escalate this at any time, and there is no reason to escalate,” Jean-Pierre said.
Oct 07, 1:31 PM EDT
St. Petersburg cancels New Year, Christmas festivities to put funds toward war with Ukraine
Traditional Christmas and New Year celebrations in Saint Petersburg, Russia will be canceled and all previously allocated money for the festivities will be channeled to finance volunteers and mobilized troops involved in the war with Ukraine, according to TASS, a Russian news agency, which cited a statement from the municipal authorities.
All the available funds will be channeled into a special account to pay for gear for volunteers and mobilized citizens, according to TASS.
“During a session with Governor Alexander Beglov with members of the municipal administration it was decided to cancel previously scheduled events dedicated to New Year festivities,” the statement said, according to TASS.
Oct 07, 11:33 AM EDT
Top Ukrainian adviser criticizes Noble Peace Prize decision
A top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has criticized the Nobel Peace Prize for its decision to award Russian and Belarusian human rights defenders alongside Ukraine’s, reflecting a widespread sentiment in Ukraine that it has been unwillingly lumped in with two countries engaged in attacking it.
“Nobel Committee has an interesting understanding of word ‘peace’ if representatives of two countries that attacked a third one receive @NobelPrize together. Neither Russian nor Belarusian organizations were able to organize resistance to the war. This year’s Nobel is ‘awesome’,”Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Zelenskyy, wrote on Twitter.
Oct 07, 9:55 AM EDT
Biden says Putin ‘is not joking’ about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons
President Joe Biden made some of his most clear and striking assessments on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats of using a nuclear weapon.
For the “first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have the direct threat of the use of a nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path that they are going. That’s a different deal,” he said at a fundraiser in New York City on Thursday.
“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily [use] a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.”
Biden said Putin’s military is “underperforming” in Ukraine and he may feel threatened.
Biden said he knows Putin “fairly well” and has spent “a fair amount of time with him” and warned that Putin is serious.
“He is not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons, or biological, or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming,” Biden said.
“There’s a lot at stake,” Biden said. “We are trying to figure out what is Putin’s off ramp? Where does he get off? Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself in a position that he does not – not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia?”
Oct 06, 2:27 PM EDT
Zaporizhzhia power plant perimeter has mines: IAEA
There are mines along the perimeter of Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said at a press conference in Kyiv Thursday after holding talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The facility is currently under the control of Russian forces.
“There have been indications that in the perimeter of the plant there are some mines, yes,” Grossi said, before denying that there are any mines inside the plant itself.
Grossi is headed to Russia next to push for a security zone to be set up around the Zaporizhzhia plant.
Grossi told reporters that the IAEA considers Zaporizhzhia a Ukrainian facility.
“I think the IAEA, as an international organization, has a mission, has a legal parameter to do it. And what I will be is very consistent as I have been from the very beginning. We are not changing our line. We are continuing saying what needs to be done, which is basically avoid a nuclear accident. At the plant, which is still a very, very clear possibility. Yes,” Grossi said.
Oct 06, 1:45 PM EDT
Ukrainian official confirms advance into Luhansk region
The village of Hrekivka in Ukraine’s Luhansk region has been liberated, its governor, Serhiy Haidai, said Friday, adding that fierce fighting continues for other settlements.
“I’ve seen some soldiers already posted a photo of them standing on the background of the sign ‘Hrekivka,’ so its not a secret anymore — it is already liberated. And we keep moving in that direction,” Haidai said.
“After liberating Lyman [in Donetsk at the end of last month], as expected, the main battles are on the direction of Kreminna. The occupiers are pulling their main forces there. This is where the beginning of de-occupation of Luhansk oblast lies,” Haidai said.
He added, “Luhansk region liberation will be tougher than Kharkiv region. All those Russian military who ran from Kharkiv region and Lyman ran to our direction, so the occupation forces increased in number.”
Oct 06, 4:38 AM EDT
Apartments in Zaporizhzhia struck in early morning
Russian forces struck a residential neighborhood in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia early on Thursday, officials said.
Oct 05, 2:20 PM EDT
Ukrainian officials say they found more evidence of tortures, killings in eastern Kharkiv
Ukrainian officials released images they claim show evidence of tortures and killings in eastern Kharkiv, in areas recently reclaimed from Russia.
Authorities are investigating an alleged Russian torture chamber in the village of Pisky-Radkivski, according to Serhiy Bolvinov, the head of the investigative department of the national police in the region.
Bolvinov posted an image of a box of what appeared to be precious metal teeth and dentures presumably extracted from those held at the site.
Two bodies were found in a factory in Kupiansk with their hands bound behind their backs, while two others were found in Novoplatonivka, their hands linked by handcuffs.
-ABC News’ Jason Volack
Oct 05, 6:47 AM EDT
Putin formally annexes 15% of Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed laws finalizing the illegal annexation of four regions of neighboring Ukraine — more than 15% of the country’s territory — even as his military struggles to maintain control over the newly absorbed areas.
The documents completing the annexation of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions — in defiance of international laws — were published on a Russian government website on Wednesday morning.
Earlier this week, the Russian parliament ratified treaties making the occupied areas part of Russia. The move followed what the Kremlin called referendums in the four Ukrainian regions, which the West rejected as a sham.
The annexed areas are not all under control of Russian forces, which are battling a massive counteoffensive effort by Ukrainian troops.
Oct 04, 1:29 PM EDT
Biden, Harris speak to Zelenskyy, offer new $625 million security assistance package
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday, underscoring that the U.S. will never recognize areas annexed by President Vladimir Putin as Russian territory and offering additional security assistance.
Biden announced a $625 million security assistance package that includes additional weapons and equipment, according to a statement from the White House.
Biden also promised to impose “severe costs” on any individual, entity or country that “provides support to Russia’s purported annexation.”
-ABC News’ Justin Gomez
Oct 04, 11:58 AM EDT
More than 355,000 people have fled Russia amid mobilization
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a national mobilization last month, more than 355,000 people have left the country, according to Russian independent media.
Roughly 200,000 people escaped to Kazakhstan, 80,000 left for Georgia and 65,000 departed for Finland. Some 6,000 people also fled to Mongolia and there are reports of people fleeing to Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that more than 200,000 people have been mobilized since Sept. 21.
-ABC News’ Tanya Stukalova
Oct 04, 9:29 AM EDT
Ukraine makes major breakthrough in south, advancing well behind Russian lines
Ukraine has made a major breakthrough in the country’s south that now threatens to collapse part of the Russian front line there, similar to Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the northeast last month.
Ukrainian forces have advanced over 18 miles in two days, driving deep behind Russia’s front line in the Kherson region and advancing south along the Dnipro river.
Russian journalists reported that Russian forces on Monday were forced to pull back from the village of Dudchany. Multiple Russian military bloggers, who are often embedded with Russian troops, say that Ukrainian troops now heavily outnumber Russian troops there.
The advance, if it continues, has huge implications for the war. Russia’s position is increasingly in danger of collapsing, which would make it all but impossible to defend the city of Kherson, the capital of the region annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin four days ago.
Oct 04, 5:55 AM EDT
Zelenskyy signs decree ruling out negotiations with Putin
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a presidential decree on Tuesday formally declaring the “impossibility” of holding negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The decree backs a decision put forward by Zelenskyy’s national security council and includes the point: “To declare the impossibility of conducting negotiations with the president of the Russian Federation, V. Putin.”
The decree echoed a statement made by Zelenskyy when Putin annexed Ukrainian territory last Friday, saying it showed it is impossible to negotiate with the current president.
Oct 03, 12:22 PM EDT
Ukraine advances in south, Russia says
Ukrainian forces on Sunday evening broke through part of Russia’s defense of the disputed Kherson region, advancing from the region’s northeast into a territory Russia had claimed to annex as its own on Friday.
Ukrainian troops succeeded in pushing south along the Dnipro river, according to Ukrainian and Russian officials.
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Monday partly confirmed the advance, saying Ukrainian forces “managed to drive a wedge deep into our defense.”
It said Russian troops had fallen back to “pre-prepared lines of defense” and were using heavy artillery to halt a further Ukrainian advance. It claimed, without evidence, that Ukraine had suffered heavy losses, but acknowledged that Ukraine had an advantage in tank numbers there.
Russian military bloggers said on Sunday that Ukrainian troops advanced southwards in the direction of the village of Dudchany, several miles behind the rest of Russia’s frontline in the region.
The advance raised questions about whether Russia would be able to hold the city of Kherson, the only regional capital it managed to seize in the invasion. For weeks, military experts have said Russia’s position in the Kherson region has been deteriorating because Ukraine has destroyed the only bridges allowing Russia to re-supply its troops.
Kirill Stremousov, a Russian-installed official in the region, on social media acknowledged Ukrainian troops had advanced along the Dnipro towards Dudchany but claimed they had been halted by Russian fire and that “everything is under control.”
A continued Ukrainian advance along the Dnipro would threaten to undermine the rest of the Russian front north of the river, raising the risk Russian forces there could be cut off.
The White House National Security Council’s spokesman John Kirby noted Ukraine was making gains in the south on Monday, but caveated that they were “incremental” for the time-being.
The battle for Kherson has major military and symbolic significance for both sides. A retreat from the city would seriously undermine Russia’s annexation of one of the four Ukrainian regions declared by Vladimir Putin just days ago — Kherson is supposed to be the capital of the newly annexed region of the same name.
Oct 03, 11:18 AM EDT
Kidnapped head of Zaporizhzhia plant has been released
The head of the Ukrainian nuclear power plant Zaporizhzhia has been released, after Ukrainian officials accused Russia of kidnapping him, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Ihor Murashov, the head of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, was released and returned safely to his family, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the Director General of the IAEA, tweeted.
Zaporizhzhia is a Ukrainian facility now occupied by Russian troops.
Oct 03, 7:26 AM EDT
Putin’s nuclear threats ‘irresponsible rhetoric,’ official says
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats that his country could strike Ukraine with nuclear weapons were “irresponsible rhetoric” from a nuclear power, a Pentagon official said.
“They are continuing to be irresponsible rhetoric coming from a nuclear power,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on “Good Morning America” on Monday. “There’s no reason for him to use that kind of bluster, those kinds of threats.”
But the U.S. was still taking the threats seriously, he said. The U.S. was “ready and prepared” to defend every inch of NATO territory, he said.
“We have to take these threats seriously. We must. It’d be easier if we could just blow it off, but we can’t,” Kirby said. “These are serious threats made by a serious nuclear power.”
Oct 03, 5:55 AM EDT
Russia ‘likely struggling’ to train reservists, UK says
Russian officials are “likely struggling” to find officers and provide training for many of the reservists who’ve been called up as part of President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said.
“Local officials are likely unclear on the exact scope and legal rationale of the campaign,” the ministry said in a Monday update. “They have almost certainly drafted some personnel who are outside the definitions claimed by Putin and the Ministry of Defence.”
Some of the reservists are assembling in tented transit camps, the ministry said.
Oct 02, 10:42 AM EDT
Former CIA chief Petraeus says Putin’s losses puts him in ‘irreversible’ situation
Former CIA chief David Petraeus said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has put himself in an “irreversible” situation amid the Kremlin’s annexation of Russian-controlled Ukrainian regions.
“President Volodymyr co-anchor Jonathan Karl.
Petraeus said Putin “is losing” the war, despite “significant but desperate” recent moves. On Friday, Putin said he was annexing four regions of Ukraine — a move denounced by Ukraine, the U.S. and other Western countries as a violation of international law — and, in late September, the Russian leader said he was calling up some 300,000 reservists, triggering protests and a mass exodus from Russia.
In a rare acknowledgment Thursday, Putin admitted “mistakes” in how the country carried out the mobilization.
Oct 01, 9:07 AM EDT
Russia shoots at civilian convoy, kills 22, Ukrainian official says
Russian forces are accused of shelling a convoy of seven civilian cars killing 22 people, including 10 children, according to preliminary data, Olexandr Filchakov, chief prosecutor of the Kharkiv region, told ABC News.
According to preliminary data, the cars were shot by the Russian military on Sept. 25, when civilians were trying to evacuate from Kupyansk, a settlement in the Kupyansk area, Filchakov said.
The column of shot cars was discovered on Friday. Two cars burned completely with children and parents inside, Filchakov said.
Filchakov said the bodies burned completely.
Russian forces fired at the column with a 12.5 mm caliber gun. Those who remained alive were then shot at with rifles, according to Filchakov.
-ABC News’ Somayeh Malekian
Sep 30, 11:29 AM EDT
Biden slams Russia for ‘fraudulent attempt’ to annex parts of Ukraine
President Joe Biden condemned Russia’s “fraudulent attempt today to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory” in a statement Friday.
“Make no mistake: these actions have no legitimacy. The United States will always honor Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. We will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically, including through the $1.1 billion in additional security assistance the United States announced this week,” Biden wrote.
Biden also said the U.S. and its partners would be imposing new sanctions on individuals and entities inside and out of Russia “that provide political or economic support to illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory.”
He added, “We will rally the international community to both denounce these moves and to hold Russia accountable. We will continue to provide Ukraine with the equipment it needs to defend itself, undeterred by Russia’s brazen effort to redraw the borders of its neighbor. And I look forward to signing legislation from Congress that will provide an additional $12 billion to support Ukraine.”
Sep 30, 10:37 AM EDT
Zelenskyy signs application for accelerated accession to NATO
In the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin saying he has annexed occupied territories in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine is applying for “accelerated accession” to NATO, saying it is already de-facto allied with the alliance’s members.
“Today, here in Kyiv, in the heart of our country, we are taking a decisive step for the security of the entire community of free nations,” he said in a statement.
Sep 30, 9:28 AM EDT
Putin formally annexes occupied Ukrainian regions
Vladimir Putin has formally annexed four occupied territories in Ukraine, the biggest land grab in Europe since World War II and one of the most egregious violations of international law since then.
It is a key moment in the war with major implications for what happens next.
Russia has annexed 15% of Ukraine’s territory, including several major cities — but right now none of the areas Putin is seizing are under full Russian control and all are facing Ukrainian efforts to retake them.
The annexation will absorb the self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas region, as well as parts of the southern Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions that Russia occupies.
At a ceremony in the Kremlin today Putin signed “treaties of accession” with the Russian-installed leaders of the regions.
Meanwhile, on Red Square outside, preparations have been made for a large concert-rally to celebrate the annexation.
This is another no-going back moment for Putin. By making these territories part of Russia itself he has made negotiations even more difficult. He has locked himself into a long war and linked the survival of his regime to it.
He cannot give up the regions in negotiations — in 2020, when he changed the constitution to let him stay in power beyond his term limits he also introduced a new clause that forbids Russian president’s from giving up any Russian land.
But perhaps even more importantly, he is likely to lose parts of these regions — Ukraine is on the counteroffensive still in northeast Donbas and Kherson.
The Kremlin on Friday said it will treat attacks on the newly annexed regions as direct attacks on Russia itself. The implied threat is that Putin could use nuclear weapons in some form against Ukraine if it does not stop.
Most experts believe that for now Putin is very unlikely to use a nuclear weapon — they see his threats as bluffs. But, they say the risk he might is growing and is now the most serious it has been.
For now, many experts believe Putin would prefer to use mobilized troops to try to stabilize Russia’s front lines in Ukraine and then try to outlast the West through the energy crisis this winter. But should Ukraine continue to advance and Russia’s position in the newly annexed regions starts to collapse, the risk he will use a nuclear weapon could grow.
-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell
Sep 30, 4:20 AM EDT
Major attack on civilian convoy near Zaporizhzhia leaves many feared dead and injured
Ukrainian officials say a Russian strike on a humanitarian convoy has killed at least 23 people and wounded 28.
The convoy of about 40 vehicles was heading into Russian-occupied territory to pick up their relatives and then take them to safety when it was struck.
Videos that have emerged from the scene show destroyed vehicles along the road and what appears to me a number of casualties as well.
Sep 29, 6:31 PM EDT
Putin signs decrees for annexation of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia
Russian President Vladimir Putin took the intermediary step on Thursday of signing decrees paving the way for the occupied Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be formally annexed into Russia.
The Kremlin publicly released the decrees.
Putin is scheduled to hold a signing ceremony in the Kremlin on Friday to formally annex the two regions, along with the Russian-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
-ABC News’ Jason Volack
Sep 29, 7:05 AM EDT
Putin to formally annex occupied Ukraine territories on Friday
Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony in the Kremlin on Friday to formally annex the areas of Ukraine that Russia has occupied, his spokesman has said.
The ceremony will be to sign “treaties of accession” with the four regions created by Russia’s occupation forces — the two self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and the Zaporozhzhia and Kherson regions.
Putin will also deliver a major speech to lawmakers gathered there, his spokesman said.
It is a major moment in the war — another no-going-back moment for Putin. In reality, none of the areas being annexed are under full control of Russia right now as all are seeing fighting and facing Ukrainian efforts to re-take them.
If Putin attempts to annex the occupied regions, it will be one of the most egregious violations of international law in Europe since World War II.
Sep 28, 12:21 PM EDT
State department advises US citizens to leave Russia
American citizens are being advised by the U.S. State Department to get out of Russia immediately.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has issued an alert, saying “severe limitations” could prevent it from assisting U.S. citizens still in the country.
“If you wish to depart Russia, you should make independent arrangements as soon as possible,” the alert said.
Noting that Russia has begun a military mobilization against Ukraine, U.S. Embassy officials warned Americans with dual Russian citizenship that they could get drafted by Russia.
“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 alert said.
The alert also advised U.S. citizens to avoid political or social protests in Russia, saying Americans have been arrested in Russia for participating in demonstrations.
“We remind U.S. citizens that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are not guaranteed in Russia,” the alert said.
Sep 27, 3:56 PM EDT
66,000 Russians cross European borders since Putin announced draft
Roughly 66,000 Russian citizens have fled across borders into European countries amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week of a military mobilization against Ukraine, the European Border and Coast Guard said Tuesday.
The number of Russian citizens pouring into Europe was up 30% compared to last week, according to the agency which also goes by the name Frontex.
Most of the Russian citizens are entering the European Union through Finnish and Estonian border crossing points, Frontex said on Twitter.
Putin announced on Sept. 21 that he is ordering the mobilization of 300,000 recruits to fight in Ukraine, prompting widespread protests and clashes with police across Russia.
In recent days, photos have emerged of huge traffic jams at border crossings. On Monday, the wait at the border between Russia and Georgia was estimated to be 40 to 50 hours, according to the independent Russian news outlet The Insider.
Sep 27, 1:56 PM EDT
‘Sham referenda’ in Russia-occupied Ukraine going Kremlin’s way
Partial results from what Ukraine and its Western allies have called “sham” referendums in four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine show that more than 96% of voters favor becoming part of Russia, according to the state-owned Russian news agency RIA.
Voting has taken place over five days in the four areas — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
The early results showed that 97.93% of voters in the Luhansk People’s Republic favored joining the Russian Federation, according to the data. In Donetsk People’s Republic, early results showed 98.69% favored joining the Russian Federation.
In Zaporizhzhia, 97.81% of voters cast ballots to join Russia and 96.75% of voters in Kherson also favored joining Russia, according to the data.
President Joe Biden and other Group of 7 leaders condemned Russia’s “sham referenda” in occupied Ukrainian territories, calling it a Russian attempt to “create a phony pretext for changing the status of Ukrainian sovereign territory.”
Sep 27, 12:42 PM EDT
Leaks in major gas pipeline between Russia and Europe investigated following blasts
Leaks in a major gas pipeline running from Russia to Europe under the Baltic Sea have been detected after the Swedish seismic network said it registered blasts near the pipeline.
The leaks in the Nord Stream pipeline were first reported on Monday by Denmark’s maritime authority and photos released by Denmark’s Defense Command showed what appeared to be gas bubbling up to the surface.
The operator of the pipeline said the leaks were detected southeast of the Danish island Bornholm.
The underwater pipeline runs about 764 miles from Russia to Germany.
While the cause of the leaks remains under investigation, unconfirmed report reports from Germany allege authorities suspect sabotage.
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of causing leaks in a “terrorist attack,” according to the BBC.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak alleged the damage to the pipeline was an “an act of aggression” by Russia toward the European Union.
Sep 27, 12:18 PM EDT
Aid to Ukraine detailed in bill to keep US government running
A continuing resolution to keep the federal government running through Dec. 16 was released by Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday morning and breaks down how $12.3 billion in the package earmarked for Ukraine will be spent.
For the first time, Congressional lawmakers, at the insistence of GOP members, will require U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to provide a report “on the execution of funds for defense articles and services provided Ukraine,” according to a summary of the resolution.
Both houses of Congress must vote on the resolution by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.
The resolution includes $3 billion for “security assistance” for Ukraine and authorizes an additional $3.7 billion in weapons for President Joe Biden to drawdown from U.S. stocks to support Ukraine’s military. It will also authorize $35 million to respond to potential nuclear and radiological incidents in Ukraine in an apparent reply to Russian President Valdimir Putin’s thinly-veiled nuclear threats in a televised speech last week.
In addition, the resolution calls for $2.4 billion to replenish U.S. stocks of weapons already sent to Ukraine and to provide Ukraine.
The new assistance for Ukraine would be on top of the $53 billion Congress has already approved through two previous bills.
-ABC News’ Lauren Minore and Trish Turner
Sep 26, 1:29 PM EDT
40- to 50-hour wait as people attempt to flee Russia into Georgia to avoid military draft: Report
A massive line of traffic continued to grow Monday at the border between Russia and Georgia as huge numbers of Russians seek to flee the country amid fears they will be drafted to fight in the war in Ukraine.
Drone video, posted on Twitter by the independent Russian news outlet The Insider, showed hundreds of cars and trucks backed up for miles at the Verkhny Lars border between the two countries.
The Insider reported that people are waiting 40-50 hours in the line to cross.
Tens of thousands of Russians are trying to flee the country following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week of a military mobilization of 300,000 more troops against Ukraine. Besides the Russia-Georgia border, large crowds of people attempting to leave the country have been packing border crossings into Finland, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and others.
Sep 26, 12:08 PM EDT
New clashes break out in Russia between police and protesters over Kremlin’s mobilization
More clashes broke out Monday in Russia’s Dagestan capital city, as police tried to disperse hundreds of protesters demonstrating against the Kremlin’s military mobilization of men to fight in Ukraine.
Videos circulating on social media showed scuffles between protesters and police in Makhachkala.
On Sunday, there were violent clashes in Dagestan, with police firing warning shots and people angrily shouting chants against the mobilization.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that he is mobilizing 300,000 more troops against Ukraine.
The announcement sparked major protests in Moscow and at least 30 other cities across Russia over the weekend. At least 17 military recruitment offices have been targeted with arson attacks. A man was detained by authorities on Monday after he allegedly opened fire on a recruitment center in Siberia, severely injuring a recruitment officer.
Sep 26, 11:01 AM EDT
US sending Ukraine $457.5 million in civilian security assistance
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday that the U.S. will give Ukraine another $457.5 million in civilian security assistance to bolster the efforts of Ukrainian law enforcement and criminal justice agencies “to improve their operational capacity and save lives.”
Blinken said some of the funds will also go toward supporting efforts to “document, investigate, and prosecute atrocities perpetrated by Russia’s forces.” He said that since December, the United States has pledged more than $645 million toward supporting Ukrainian law enforcement.
Blinken’s announcement follows a U.N.-led investigation that found Russian troops had committed war crimes in occupied areas of Ukraine, including the rape, torture and imprisonment of children.
Sep 26, 10:14 AM EDT
Ukrainian first lady ‘worried’ about Russian mobilization
In a new interview, Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenka told ABC News that recent developments in the war are upsetting, saying this is not an “easy period” for the people of Ukraine.
“When the whole world wants this war to be over, they continue to recruit soldiers for their army,” said Zelenska, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week that he is mobilizing 300,000 more troops against Ukraine. “Of course, we are concerned about this. We are worried and this is a bad sign for the whole world.”
Zelenska, who spoke with ABC News’ Amy Robach through a translator, said Ukrainians will continue to persevere in the face of conflict.
“The main difference between our army and the Russian army is that we really know what we are fighting for,” she said.
Zelenska attended the United Nations General Assembly in-person in New York City, where she spoke to ABC News about the U.N.’s recent finding that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine by Russian troops. An appointed panel of independent legal experts reported that Russian soldiers have “raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined” children in Ukraine, among other crimes.
“On the one hand, it’s horrible news, but it’s the news that we knew about already,” she said. “On the other hand, it’s great news that the whole world can finally see that this is a heinous crime, that this war is against humanity and humankind.”
Sep 26, 5:40 AM EDT
Man opens fire at Russian military enlistment office
A man has opened fire at a military enlistment office in eastern Russia, severely injuring a recruitment officer there.
An apparent video of the shooting was circulating online, showing a man shooting the officer at a podium in the officer in the city of Irkutsk.
Irkutsk’s regional governor confirmed the shooting, naming the officer injured as Alexander V. Yeliseyev and saying he is in intensive care in a critical condition.
The alleged shooter has been detained, according to the governor.
Sep 25, 12:49 PM EDT
Russia Defense Ministry announces high-level leadership shake-up
The Russian Defense Ministry announced a high-level shake-up in its military leadership amid reports Russian forces are struggling in the war against Ukraine.
The defense ministry said Saturday that Col. Gen. Mikhail Y. Mizintsev has been promoted to deputy defense minister overseeing logistics, replacing four-star Gen. Dmitri V. Bulgakov, 67, who had held the post since 2008.
Bulgakov was relieved of his position and is expected to be transferred “to another job,” the Defense Ministry statement said.
The New York Times reported that Mizintsev — whom Western officials dubbed the “butcher of Mariupol” after alleged atrocities against civilians surfaced in the Ukrainian city in March, previously served as chief of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, which oversees military operations and planning.
In this previous role, Mizintsev became one of the public faces of the war in Ukraine, informing the public about what the Kremlin still calls a “special military operation.”
Mizintsev was put on international sanctions lists and accused of atrocities for his role in the brutal siege of the Mariupol.
Sep 25, 11:58 AM EDT
Russian recruits report for military mobilization
Newly recruited Russian soldiers are reporting for duty in response to the Kremlin’s emergency mobilization to bolster forces in Ukraine, according to photographs emerging from Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week a mobilization to draft more than 300,000 Russians with military expertise, sparking anti-war protests across the country and prompting many to try to flee Russia to avoid the draft.
Putin signed a law with amendments to the Russian Criminal Code upping the punishments for the crimes of desertion during periods of mobilization and martial law.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview Sunday with ABC News This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos that Russia’s military draft is more evidence Russia is “struggling” in its invasion of Ukraine. He also said “sham referendums” going on in Russia-backed territories of eastern and southern Ukraine are also acts of desperation by the Kremlin.
“These are definitely not signs of strength or confidence. Quite the opposite: They’re signs that Russia and Putin are struggling badly,” Sullivan said while noting Putin’s autocratic hold on the country made it hard to make definitive assessments from the outside.
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