Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 209

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

‘Sham ‘referendums’ will not change anything’: Ukrainian foreign minister

The Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, tweeted about the announcements to hold a referendum on joining Russia at the end of the month.

Kuleba said, “Sham ‘referendums’ will not change anything. Neither will any hybrid ‘mobilization’,”

“Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian land. Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say,” he added.


Brazilian President calls for cease-fire, but criticizes Russian sanctions

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called for an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine while criticising sanctions against Russia over the invasion as he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Bolsonaro noted Brazil does not see unilateral sanctions as the best way to handle the conflict, adding that a solution would only be reached through dialogue and negotiations.


Putin accuses EU of blocking 300,000 tonnes of fertiliser

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the EU of blocking 300,000 tonnes of Russian fertiliser from reaching the world’s poorest countries.

“The height of cynicism is that even our offer … to transfer for free 300,000 tonnes of Russian fertiliser blocked in European ports because of sanctions to countries that need it is still without an answer,” he said in televised remarks.

“It’s clear – they do not want to let our companies make money,” he added, “but we would like to donate [the fertiliser in question] to countries that need it.”


Moldova chooses alternative to Russian gas

Ex-Soviet Moldova has selected seven companies to secure gas from next month should supply from Russia’s Gazprom be disrupted, a senior government official said.

Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu, who has led Moldova’s team of negotiators in talks with Gazprom through a year of price increases, told a Moldovan television programme late on Monday that the Russian giant was “unpredictable”.

“For now we have chosen seven companies. Gazprom is not among them,” Spinu continued.

One of Europe’s poorest countries, Moldova is heavily reliant on Russian gas and has been hit hard by the increase in spot gas prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.


Ukraine to push for unprecedented econmic package from IMF and World Bank

Ukraine will push for unprecedented IMF, and World Bank packages worth tens of billions of dollars in the coming weeks to aid its finances, Ukraine’s top debt management chief told Reuters news agency.

This month’s budget estimated it faces a $38 billion shortfall next year, money that will need to either come from the Western backers or multilateral, who are already set to provide about $20 billion this year.

Yuriy Butsa, the government commissioner for public debt management, explained that the uncertainty over the war’s duration and impact on the economy made it difficult to agree on parameters with the IMF.

“I’m not sure whether standard tools of the IMF are really designed for this type of situation,” he added.

“They probably need to introduce a bit of creative thinking,” he stated, noting the last time Europe saw a war of this magnitude, the IMF was not set up.


Donetsk People’s Republic to hold referendum on joining Russia between September 23-27

Russian-installed separatists in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) have also announced a referendum on joining Russia on September 23-27, the Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday, citing local officials.

The separatist Luhansk People’s Republic and the Russian-installed officials in Kherson also declared a referendum on joining Russia earlier today.


People ‘should decide their fate’: Russian FM

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted it was up to the people living in separatist-controlled areas of Ukraine if they wanted to hold referendums on joining Russia.

“From the very beginning … we’ve been saying that the peoples of the respective territories should decide their fate,” Lavrov stated on state TV when asked about several coordinated moves by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine to stage votes on joining Russia.


Luhansk separatists to hold referendum on joining Russia

Russian-installed separatists in the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) passed a law on Tuesday on holding a referendum to join Russia, according to a law published on the LPR head’s website.

The referendum is expected to take place between September 23 and 27, TASS news agency reported.

The Russian-installed officials in Kherson also called a referendum to join Russia on Tuesday.


Putin condemns US efforts to preserve global domination

Russian president Vladimir Putin has condemned what he described as US efforts to preserve its global domination, saying they are doomed to fail.

Speaking while receiving credentials from foreign ambassadors to Moscow, Putin stated, “The objective development toward a multi-polar world faces resistance of those who try to preserve their hegemony in global affairs and control everything – Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa.”

He added that “the hegemony has succeeded in doing so for quite a long time, but it can’t go on forever… regardless of the developments in Ukraine”.

He has repeatedly cast his decision to send troops into Ukraine as a response to alleged western encroachment on Russia’s vital security interests, the Associated Press reported.

The Russian leader noted western sanctions against Moscow over its action in Ukraine were part of efforts by the US and its allies to strengthen their positions, but claimed they have backfired against their organisers and also damaged poor countries.


Russian-backed separatists in Kherson say they will hold vote on joining Russia

Russian-installed officials in the Kherson region of Ukraine said they have decided to hold a referendum on joining Russia and have urged the Kremlin to give its permission as soon as possible, the separatist head of the region said on Tuesday.

In a post on the Telegram messaging app, Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed head of Kherson, stated he hoped Kherson would become “a part of Russia, a fully-fledged subject of a united country”.

Russian forces control around 95% of Ukraine’s Kherson territory in the south of country. Saldo did not name a date for the proposed vote.

Officials in parts of Ukraine controlled by Russian forces, including the two breakaway Russian-backed regions of the Donbas – the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) – have stepped up preparations for long-discussed votes to join Russia this week in a coordinated move.

Saldo noted Kherson joining Russia would “secure our region” and be a “triumph of historical justice”.

“I am sure that the Russian leadership will accept the results of the referendum,” he added.

The Kremlin has repeatedly announced the issue is a matter for the local Russian-installed officials and citizens of the regions to decide. Saldo’s remarks echoed those made by Kremlin ally and former President Dmitry Medvedev earlier on Tuesday in which he called for the Kremlin to let the separatists join Russia.

Shortly after Saldo’s announcement about plans for a vote in Kherson, the head of Russia’s parliament said he would support the regions joining Russia.

“Today, we need to support the republics with which we have signed mutual assistance agreements,” Russia’s state Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin stated, referring to agreements signed between Moscow and the DPR and LPR which paved the way for the Kremlin to dispatch tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February.


EU adopts additional €5 billion macro-financial assistance: Ukrainian prime minister

Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal, has announced on Twitter that the EU has adopted €5 billion in macro-financial assistance for Ukraine.


German FM stresses effect of war on nations hit by fallout

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock pledged to support countries hardest hit by the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as she headed to the UN General Assembly.

“The brutality of Russia’s war of aggression and its threat to the peace order in Europe have not blinded us to the fact that its dramatic effects are also clearly being felt in many other regions of the world,” Baerbock said.

“We are not only responsible for Europe, but together for the whole world,” she added.

About 150 leaders worldwide will gather in New York on Tuesday for the United Nations’s annual summit, returning in person after two years of coronavirus pandemic restrictions and video addresses.


Peaceful solution to Ukraine crisis currently not possible: Russia

Under the current circumstances the armed conflict in Ukraine cannot be resolved through negotiations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Asked if there was a path towards a diplomatic settlement, Peskov stated that “at the moment, such a prospect cannot be observed.”

Moscow blamed Kiev for the suspension of peace talks. In late March, the two parties discussed a draft peace agreement, which would make Ukraine a neutral state in exchange for security guarantees given by major world powers. However the Ukrainian government ended talks in April, after accusing Russian troops of having committed war crimes, an allegation that Moscow said was based on falsified evidence.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has since declared that his country will only be satisfied by defeating Russia on the battlefield and pushing its forces from the entire territory claimed by Kiev.

That includes Crimea, the former Ukrainian region that broke away in 2014 after an armed coup in Kiev and rejoined Russia. Moscow considers Crimea to be under its sovereignty and its status not subject to discussions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin commented on Kiev’s position last week stating, “Zelensky said publicly … that he is not ready to talk to Russia. Well, if he is not, fine by us.”

Earlier this month, Ukraine launched a major military counter-offensive in the north east, forcing Russian troops to pull back from some areas. Another of Kiev’s attempts to make gains in the south was far less successful and reportedly resulted in serious casualties and loss of military equipment.


Former Russian President backs referendum efforts in self-declared Donbas republics

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has publicly endorsed referenda in the self-declared Donbas republics on joining Russia.

“Referenda in the Donbas have huge significance not only for the systemic protection of the residents of the LPR (Luhansk People’s Republic) and DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) and other liberated territories, but also for the restoration of historical justice,” Medvedev, who is vice-chairman of Russia’s National Security Council, said on his Telegram channel.

He added that once the republics were integrated into the Russian Federation “not one future leader of Russia, not one official will be able to reverse these decisions.”

Medvedev’s comments came after the leader of the self-declared DPR called on his fellow separatist leader of the Luhansk region to integrate efforts aimed at preparing a referendum on joining Russia.

“(Let us) join our forces, the administrations of the heads of the republics, the parliaments, so that they can develop some kind of algorithm of action that will allow us to move forward with the referendum,” Denis Pushilin told the head of the self-declared LPR Leonid Pasechnik during a phone call.

“What matters is that our actions be synchronized,” Pushilin told Pasechnik, as shown in a video posted on social media on Monday.

Pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared two independent states from Ukraine in 2014, which no country accepted until February 21, 2022, when Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees recognizing them and guaranteeing their security with Russian troops.


Germany’s gas reserves filled at over 90% capacity

Gas reserves in Germany are replenished at 90.07% capacity, the European Storage provider GIE AGSI+ said on its website.

Europe’s biggest economy is particularly reliant on Russia’s gas exports to power its homes and heavy industry.

In an effort to wean itself off Russian energy supplies, the country is currently receiving gas from pipelines from the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway.

Robert Habeck, Germany’s minister for economic affairs and climate action, stated that the country could “get through winter well” without Russian gas, but voiced concern about supply levels in the time period after winter.

Habeck’s warning that gas reserves would be “really empty” after the cold season because the economy would “have used the gas” was quoted on German public radio Deutschlandfunk.

Earlier this year, Germany’s regulatory office for gas and electricity said it was unlikely the country would reach a storage level of 95% by November “without additional measures.”

The comments in July came after Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom announced further reductions to gas flow through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, a vital artery linking Russia’s vast gas reserves to Europe via Germany.


Erdogan: All land invaded by Russia should be returned to Ukraine

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated that all the land invaded by Russia should be returned to Ukraine, including the Crimea which was annexed by Vladimir Putin’s forces in 2014.

Overnight PBS NewsHour published a full transcript of their interview with Turkey’s president in which he said, “If a peace is going to be established in Ukraine, of course, the returning of the land that was invaded will become really important. This is what is expected. This is what is wanted. Vladimir Putin has taken certain steps. We have taken certain steps. The lands which were invaded will be returned to Ukraine.”

Pressed specifically on the issue of Crimea, Erdogan replied “Since 2014, we have been talking to my dear friend Putin about this, and this is what we have requested from him. We asked him to return Crimea to its rightful owners … unfortunately no step has been taken forward.”

He declined to say who he thought had the upper hand in the war currently, noting “As a leader, I’m not willing to consider this. All we want to do and what we want to see is to end this battle with peace, whether it be Putin, whether it be Volodymyr Zelensky, I have always requested and recommended this. This is a conflict that ended up in casualties. The people are dying, and nobody will be winning at the end of the day.”

He also said that he had discussed the conduct of the war directly with Putin, telling Judy Woodruff, “In Uzbekistan, I got together with President Putin, and we had very extensive discussions with him. And he is actually showing me that he’s willing to end this as soon as possible. That was my impression, because the way things are going right now are quite problematic; 200 hostages will be exchanged upon an agreement between the parties. I think a significant step will be taken forward.”

During the interview he stated “no invasion can be justified”, and remained diplomatic when asked if Putin had made a miscalculation by staging the invasion.

Erdogan added, “No leader in the aftermath would say that it was a mistake. Nobody will say, yes, I made a mistake. The same thing can be applied to Ukraine as well. Zelensky, do you think when he was moving forward, does he feel he made a mistake? The leaders, when they take a path, they will find it very difficult to go back. It’s very difficult for the leaders to go back.”


Russia no longer has full control of Luhansk region after Ukraine captures village

Ukraine has recaptured a village close to the eastern city of Lysychansk, in a small but symbolic victory that means Russia no longer has full control of the Luhansk region, one of Vladimir Putin’s key war aims.

Luhansk’s governor, Serhiy Haidai, said Ukraine’s armed forces were in “complete control” of Bilohorivka.

“It’s a suburb of Lysychansk. Soon we will drive these scumbags out of there with a broom,” he continued, adding, “Step by step, centimetre by centimetre, we will liberate our entire land from the invaders.”


Zelensky says Russians ‘palpably panicking’

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Russia is “palpably panicking” as his country continues to mount a counteroffensive that has reclaimed towns and cities from Russian troops.

In his nightly video address, Zelensky noted Ukraine was “stabilising” the situation in the northeastern Kharkiv region, which is now largely back in Ukrainian hands.

“[In] Kharkiv region – we are stabilising the situation, holding our positions. Firmly. So strongly that the occupiers are palpably panicking. Well, we warned that the Russian military in Ukraine has only two options: escape from our land or captivity,” he added.


US may give Ukraine tanks in the future: Senior US military official

Tanks are “absolutely on the table” for the US to provide to Ukraine in the future, according to a senior US military official, but are not an option for the immediate fight because of issues with training, maintenance and sustainment.

“We’re looking at the entirety of the Ukrainian armed forces and considering for the future what capabilities they will need and how the US and our allies will be able to support Ukraine in building out those capabilities,” said the official on a background call with reporters.

The US is currently not considering providing Ukraine weapons with longer ranges than the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) that are used with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), although the official would not say if such weapons would be on the table in the future.


Governor says 146 bodies exhumed so far in Izyum

Ukrainian forensic experts have so far exhumed 146 bodies, mostly civilians, at a mass burial site near the town of Izyum in eastern Ukraine – and some bear signs of a violent death, the regional governor has said.

Oleh Synyehubov, governor of Kharkiv region, stated the exhumed bodies included two children.

“Some of the dead have signs of a violent death. There are bodies with tied hands and traces of torture. The deceased were also found to have explosive, shrapnel and stab wounds,” Synyehubov wrote on the Telegram messaging app.


Russia’s Wagner trying to recruit over 1,500 felons for war: US official

The Wagner Group, a Russian private military company, is trying to recruit more than 1,500 convicted felons to take part in Russia’s war in Ukraine, but many are refusing to join, a senior US defence official has claimed.

“Our information indicates that Wagner has been suffering high losses in Ukraine, especially and unsurprisingly among young and inexperienced fighters,” the US official told reporters, speaking on the condition of anonymity.


Backup power line at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant disconnected: IAEA

A backup power line used to supply the Zaporizhzhia plant with electricity for essential operations from the Ukrainian grid was disconnected on Sunday, but the plant remained connected to one of the main power lines restored last week, the UN nuclear watchdog has said.

“Last week, we saw some improvements regarding its power supplies, but today we were informed about a new setback in this regard,” Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, stated in a statement.


US adds cargo planes operated by Iranian airlines to export violation list

The United States Commerce Department has announced it will add three Boeing 747 planes operated by Iranian airlines providing cargo services to Russia to a list of aircraft believed to violate US export controls as part of the Joe Biden administration’s sanctions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Using commercially available data, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security identified planes operated by Mahan Air, Qeshm Fars Air, and Iran Air flying and transporting goods, including electronic items, to Russia in apparent violation of the Commerce Department’s stringent export controls on Russia.

These are the first three Iranian planes identified.

A total of 183 aircraft have been listed for apparent violations of US export controls, the department added.

The three Iranian airlines identified are already subject to various restrictions by the US government.


Russia’s FM urges ‘additional contacts’ to resolve global problems

The Russian foreign minister has called for “additional contacts between countries” to resolve global problems.

Speaking at a briefing for heads of diplomatic missions accredited in Moscow before the 77th UN General Assembly session, Sergey Lavrov stressed that the UN was established to seek collective solutions to global problems.

“We are witnessing the accumulation of crisis processes, both associated with economic policy, with the policy in the field of energy supply to mankind, and processes that are directly caused by the undermining of the foundations on which the entire system of globalisation was based,” he said.

“High-level events are starting this week [in New York], during which tough assessments of various actions of various states will be made – there is no getting away from this,” he added.


France accuses Russia of war crimes

France’s Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna has accused Russia of waging unjustified aggression against Ukraine “in a very brutal way” with the shelling of civilian targets, violent acts, “rapes, torture and forced liquidation”, claiming that “all of these are war crimes”.

She made the comments at a wide-ranging news conference on the sidelines of this week’s gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.


Ukraine has shot down about 55 Russian fighter jets: US Air Force commander

Ukraine’s air defenses have shot down about 55 Russian fighter jets since the beginning of the war, the US Air Force commander in Europe said, adding that Russia has never been able to establish air superiority over Ukraine.

Russia was well aware of Ukraine’s air defenses, Gen. James Hecker told the Air, Space & Cyber Conference in Washington, DC, but Russia’s initial strikes in late-February failed to destroy those defenses, such as surface-to-air missiles.

As a result, after six months of the war, Russian aircraft rarely fly deep into Ukraine and instead are firing long-range missiles.

“When they tried to take their fighters and their aircraft inside those [Ukrainian] missile engagement zones, they were shot down,” Hecker continued, stating, “Roughly about 55 Russian fighters have been shot down by the integrated air and missile defense for the Ukraine.”

On Monday, the British Ministry of Defence announced Russia had lost 55 combat jets since the start of the war, including four that were “highly likely” lost in the past 10 days.


Donbas separatist leader urges referendum on joining Russia

Denis Pushilin, head of the Russia-backed separatist Donetsk region of Ukraine, has called on his fellow separatist leader of Luhansk province to combine efforts aimed at preparing a referendum on joining Russia.

In a video posted on social media, he told Luhansk People’s Republic leader Leonid Pasechnik in a phone call that “our actions should be synchronised”.


German companies close to long-term LNG deals with Qatar: Sources

German utilities RWE and Uniper are close to striking long-term deals to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar’s North Field Expansion project to help replace Russian gas, three sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

Talks between Germany and Qatar have been fraught with differences over key conditions such as the length of contracts and pricing but the industry sources, who declined to be named, said the parties were expected to reach a compromise soon.

Europe’s biggest economy aims to replace all Russian energy imports by as soon as mid-2024, a Herculean effort for a country that mainly relies on natural gas to power its industry.


Moscow summons Canada envoy over Russian embassy attacks in Ottawa

Russia’s foreign ministry has summoned the Canadian ambassador and issued a protest over attacks on the Russian embassy in Ottawa, the ministry has announced.

It said an unknown person threw a Molotov cocktail onto the grounds of the Russian embassy in Ottawa. It also added “aggressive” demonstrators had blocked an entrance to the consular section of the embassy.

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