Vladimir Putin signed decrees paving the way for the formal annexation of the occupied Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to Russia. On Friday, the Russian president is expected to enact the law annexations from four Ukrainian regions – Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk – where Russia held fake referendums last week to push for a territorial claims mandate. Thursday night’s decrees, released by the Kremlin, said Putin had recognized Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as independent territories. This is a necessary intermediate step before Putin can move forward with plans to declare on Friday that they are part of Russia.
UN secretary-general warns Russia that annexing Ukrainian regions would mark ‘dangerous escalation’ this would jeopardize the prospects for peace in the region. António Guterres said that any decision to proceed with the annexation of the regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia “would have no legal value and would deserve to be condemned”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned of a ‘very tough’ response by Ukraine if Russia proceeded with the annexations.
There are indications that Russia may limit the movement of Ukrainians living in the occupied territories after announcing their annexation. Ukrainians have been informed that from Saturday they will have to apply for a pass from the occupation authorities. It comes as exiled Lugansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said Russia had prevented about 1,000 Ukrainians from crossing the border in Latvia.
Russian forces could face ‘imminent defeat’ in key northeast town of Lyman as Ukrainian soldiers continue their counteroffensive in the east of the country, according to a US think tank. The Institute for the Study of War, citing Russian reports, said defeat would be allow Ukrainian troops to “threaten Russian positions along the western Luhansk region”. Alexander Petrikin, the pro-Russian head of the city administration, admitted that the situation had become “difficult” for the Russian forces trying to keep territory.
Ukrainian forces secured all of Kupyansk and drove Russian troops from their remaining positions on the east bank of the river that divides the Ukrainian city from the northeast. Most of Kupiansk, a strategic rail hub, was picked up earlier this month as part of a counter-offensive by Ukrainian troops. AFP reported that Russian troops who resisted on the eastern bank of the Oskil River were kicked out.
Finland closes border to Russian tourists after Putin’s partial mobilization order caused a large number of people to flee the country. From midnight Thursday Finnish time (21h GMT), Russian tourists with EU Schengen visas will be turned away unless they have a family connection or a compelling reason to travel.
More than half of Russians felt fearful or anxious after Putin’s mobilization announcement, according to a new survey. The Levada Independent Center poll showed that 47% of respondents said they felt anxiety, fear or fear after hearing that hundreds of thousands of troops would be drafted to fight in Ukraine.
NATO promised a “determined response” to what he described as “deliberate, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage” after the discovery of leaks in the two Nord Stream pipelines. Swedish authorities reported a fourth leak on one of the pipelines. The two leaks in Swedish waters were close to each other.
Gas expected to stop leaking from damaged Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Monday, according to the pipeline operator. A Nord Stream AG spokesperson said it was not possible to provide forecasts for the future operation of the pipeline until damages have been assessed.
The Kremlin said the incidents at Nord Stream pipelines looked like an “act of terrorism”. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that a foreign state was probably responsible. The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed “the incident on the Nord Stream occurred in an area controlled by US intelligence”.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced an eighth sanctions package – including a sanctions bill seen by the Guardian – intended 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, chief of staff to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. An EU official said an agreement on the next sanctions package was expected before the European summit next week, or at least the main parts of the packaging.
Russia is stepping up its use of “Kamikaze” drones supplied by Iran in southern Ukraineincluding against the southern port of Odessa and the neighboring city of Mykolaiv.
Oleg Deripaskaone of Russia’s most powerful oligarchs, has been indicted by the US Department of Justice for violating criminal penalties. Deripaska previously had deep ties to figures in the British establishment.