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Russia-Ukraine war: Russians flee to avoid draft as west says Putin faces ‘major challenges’ to recruit 300,000 – as it happened

Ukrainian soldiers in the recently retaken Kupiansk, Kharkiv.
Ukrainian soldiers in the recently retaken Kupiansk, Kharkiv. Photograph: Kostiantyn Liberov/AP

Summary

It’s nearly 11pm in Kyiv. Here’s where things stand:

  • The United States is prepared to impose additional economic costs on Russia in conjunction with American allies if Russia moves forward with Ukraine annexation, the White House announced Friday. Russia has been planning what the US has described as sham referendums in portions of eastern Ukraine in what is seen as a step toward annexing these territories.

  • Finnish ministers on Friday evening announced that the government will prohibit Russian tourists from crossing its borders over the next few days. “The aspiration and purpose is to significantly reduce the number of people coming to Finland from Russia,” president Sauli Niinistö told state broadcaster Yle.

  • Russia will continue its communication with the United Nations about a deal to export grain from Ukrainian ports, but says concrete results are needed, Tass news agency cited a senior official as saying on Friday. It also cited deputy foreign minister Sergei Vershinin as saying Russia had a positive assessment of the UN’s efforts to resume the export of Russian fertilizers.

  • Ukraine said on Friday it had shot down four Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones used by Russia’s armed forces, prompting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to complain that Tehran was harming Ukrainian citizens. Ukraine and the United States have accused Iran of supplying drones to Russia, something Tehran has denied. Zelenskiy has asked his foreign ministry to respond to the use of Iranian equipment, spokesman Serhii Nykyforov said.

The United States is prepared to impose additional economic costs on Russia in conjunction with American allies if Russia moves forward with Ukraine annexation, the White House announced Friday.

Russia has been planning what the US has described as sham referendums in portions of eastern Ukraine in what is seen as a step toward annexing these territories.

“We know that these referenda will be manipulated,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Reuters reports.

Finland to close borders to Russian tourists

Finland will close its borders to Russian tourists after Russian president Vladimir Putin issued a mobilization order earlier this week.

Finnish ministers on Friday evening announced that the government will prohibit Russian tourists from crossing its borders over the next few days.

“The aspiration and purpose is to significantly reduce the number of people coming to Finland from Russia,” president Sauli Niinistö told state broadcaster Yle, the Financial Times reports.

The decision comes after traffic at Russian border crossings with Finland surged after the mobilisation order sparked fears that men of fighting age in Russia would be ordered to the frontlines of the Ukrainian war.

In recent weeks, Finland has come under enormous pressure from its EU neighbors after it refused to follow suit in the paths of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in banning Russian tourists from entering their borders.

Russia will continue its communication with the United Nations about a deal to export grain from Ukrainian ports, but says concrete results are needed, Tass news agency cited a senior official as saying on Friday.

It also cited deputy foreign minister Sergei Vershinin as saying Russia had a positive assessment of the UN’s efforts to resume the export of Russian fertilizers.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that its foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and UN secretary general Antonio Guterres “discussed in detail the implementation of the Istanbul agreements on exports of Ukrainian foodstuffs from Black Sea ports and on unimpeded exports of Russian agricultural products and fertilizers.”

The statement added that Russia and the UN reaffirmed “mutual commitment to preserve the central coordinating role of the international organization.”

Ukraine said on Friday it had shot down four Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones used by Russia’s armed forces, prompting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to complain that Tehran was harming Ukrainian citizens, Reuters reports.

Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine said that they had shot down the Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles over the sea near the Odesa port.

Ukraine and the United States have accused Iran of supplying drones to Russia, something Tehran has denied. Zelenskiy has asked his foreign ministry to respond to the use of Iranian equipment, spokesman Serhii Nykyforov said.

“Such actions by Iran are considered as steps against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and also against the lives and well being of Ukrainian citizens,” he said in a statement.

Military experts say the drones would be useful to Russia for both reconnaissance and as loitering munitions that can bide their time in locating and engaging suitable targets.

On Friday, a video posted online by an officer of the Ukrainian Armed Forces showed another long-range drone, the Mohajer-6, shot down by Ukrainian forces and afloat in the sea.

Summary of the day so far

It’s 9pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • Long lines of vehicles continue to form at Russia’s border crossings on the second day full day of Vladimir Putin’s military mobilisation. The Russian president’s decision to announce the first mobilisation since the second world war has led to a rush among men of military age to leave the country, with some men waiting over 24 hours or resorting to using bicycles and scooters to skip the miles-long queue of traffic jams. Traffic into Finland across its south-eastern border with Russia continues to be busy, the Finnish border force said.

  • The Finnish government has announced it will “significantly restrict the entry of Russian citizens” after the country saw a boom in Russian travellers over its eastern border following Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation orders. Finland will now restrict new visas, the government said in a statement, citing “serious damage to Finland’s international position”.

  • It comes as thousands of men across Russia have been handed draft papers after the mobilisation announcement. Among those called up since Putin’s announcement on Wednesday were Russians detained while protesting against the mobilisation, the independent OVD-Info protest monitoring group said.

  • Ukraine’s armed forces said it has liberated another settlement in the Donetsk region and improved their positions around the eastern town of Bakhmut. The village of Yatskivka in Donetsk region is now in Ukrainian hands, according to Oleksii Hromov, deputy head of the operations directorate of the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces.

  • The governor of the Kharkiv region Oleh Synyehubov has said 436 bodies have been exhumed from a mass burial site in the eastern city of Izium. Thirty of the bodies bore visible signs of torture in the burial site in Kharkiv, a region held largely by Russian forces before a Ukrainian counteroffensive this month, Synyehubov told reporters, adding that three more grave sites have been located in areas retaken by Ukraine.

  • The UN has said its investigators have concluded that Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine, including bombings of civilian areas, numerous executions, torture and horrific sexual violence. The team of three independent experts had launched initial investigations looking at the areas of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions where they were “struck by the large number of executions in the areas that we visited”, and the frequent “visible signs of executions on bodies, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head, and slit throats”.

  • So-called “referendums” are under way in areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops, with residents told to vote on proposals for the four Ukrainian regions to declare independence and then join Russia. The polls in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces are due to run until Tuesday and appear to be a thin attempt to provide cover for illegal annexation of the regions by Moscow.

  • Ukrainians living in areas occupied by Russian troops are being forced to vote in “referendums” organised by pro-Moscow authorities, according to Ukrainian officials. Some residents are ignoring the “referendums”, Andriy Yusov, a Ukrainian defence intelligence official, told CNN. Ukraine’s state security service (SBU) has claimed the Russian-backed separatist-held so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) planned to allow teenagers under the age of 18 to cast their votes.

  • The “referendums” have been widely condemned in the west as illegitimate. Britain’s ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, described the “sham referenda” as “a media exercise” by Russia for whom the outcomes have been “almost certainly already decided”. Nato described the “referendums” as Moscow’s “blatant attempts at territorial conquest” and said they have no legitimacy. G7 leaders said they would never recognise the “sham” referendums in a joint statement.

  • China’s foreign minister Wang Yi has told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba that the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected”. The meeting between Wang and Kuleba took place on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York, and was the first since Russia invaded Ukraine. Kuleba said Wang had “reaffirmed China’s respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The Group of Seven (G7) countries said they will never recognise Russia’s “sham” referendums in a joint statement.

“Referendums” held in four Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine were an attempt by Moscow to create a “phony” pretext for changing the status of Ukrainian sovereign territory, the statement said.

G7 leaders said:

We will never recognise these referenda which appear to be step toward Russian annexation and we will never recognise purported annexation if it occurs.

Russian men are beginning to be drafted into the army to help Russia’s war with Ukraine after Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilisation on Tuesday.

The Russian president claimed the mobilisation would involve drafting 300,000 men who had previous combat experience, although reports suggest drafts have been sent to students and people with no prior military training.

Ukrainians living in areas occupied by Russian troops are being forced to vote in “referendums” organised by pro-Moscow authorities, according to Ukrainian officials.

Andriy Yusov, a Ukrainian defence intelligence official, told CNN:

There is no referendum as such. It is imitation. Local residents are ignoring it. Some people are simply forced to vote. There were buses of people brought it from Crimea to cast ballots.

Ukraine’s state security service (SBU) has said it obtained copies of documents showing that the Russian-backed separatist-held so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) planned to allow teenagers under the age of 18 to cast their votes in the “referendum”.

The SBU report said:

The invaders hope to expand the ‘electoral base’ supporting the accession of the eastern part of Ukraine to the Russian Federation and involve local residents aged 13 to 17 in pseudo-voting.

Sped-up footage appears to show long lines of vehicles at a checkpoint on the Russia-Georgia border, a popular route used by Russians to leave the country.

Vladimir Putin’s decision to announce the first mobilisation since the second world war has led to a rush among men of military age to leave Russia.

Usually sleepy border crossings into Kazakhstan and Mongolia have also been overwhelmed by the sudden influx of Russians looking for a way out.

Ukraine’s armed forces said it has liberated another settlement in the Donetsk region and improved their positions around the eastern town of Bakhmut.

The village of Yatskivka in Donetsk region is now in Ukrainian hands, according to Oleksii Hromov, deputy head of the operations directorate of the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces.

The situation further south around Bakhmut was “difficult but under control,” Hromov said in a briefing in Kyiv, adding that Russia “continued to conduct offensive actions in order to expel our units” from their positions around Bakhmut and elsewhere along the front lines in Donetsk.

Finland to ‘significantly’ restrict entry of Russians amid heavy border traffic

The Finnish government has announced it will “significantly restrict the entry of Russian citizens” after the country saw a boom in Russian travellers over its eastern border following Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation orders.

Finland will now restrict new visas, the government said in a statement, citing “serious damage to Finland’s international position”.

Cars queue to cross the border from Russia to Finland at the Vaalimaa border check point in Virolahti, Finland.
Cars queue to cross the border from Russia to Finland at the Vaalimaa border check point in Virolahti, Finland. Photograph: Sasu Makinen/AP

The move comes a day after Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin said Russian “tourism and travel has to be stopped” after the number of Russians entering the country doubled on Thursday, a border agency spokesperson told AFP.

“The fear is that we end up being the only border country through which it’s possible to travel from Russia to Europe with a Schengen visa granted by another country,” Finland’s foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, told local media on Wednesday.

Updated

A former Nato secretary general has slammed the French president, Emmanuel Macron, for his diplomatic efforts in response to the war in Ukraine.

The comments by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister, came after criticism about how Macron kept an open line with Vladimir Putin even after the invasion of Ukraine.

In June, the French president said Putin had made a “historic and fundamental” error in invading Ukraine but that “we must not humiliate Russia”.

Macron’s efforts were a failure and “deeply harmful” for Ukraine, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an interview with French magazine Le Point.

Rasmussen said:

Macron astonished us at the beginning of the crisis with his, to say the least, unique and critical statement that Putin should not be humiliated and offered an exit ramp. Such statements were disastrous and deeply harmful.

With minimal preparation, armed soldiers standing guard and the booms of war often audible in the distance, so-called referendums got under way on Friday in areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops.

Residents in Russian-controlled parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions were told to vote on proposals for the four areas to declare independence and then join Russia.

The polls have been widely condemned in Kyiv and the west as illegitimate, and appear to be a thin attempt to provide cover for the illegal annexation of the regions by Moscow. They were hastily organised after being announced earlier this week, and are due to run until Tuesday.

A man casts his ballot at a polling station in Luhansk, Ukraine. The referendums have been widely condemned in Kyiv and the west as illegitimate.
A man casts his ballot at a polling station in Luhansk, Ukraine. The referendums have been widely condemned in Kyiv and the west as illegitimate. Photograph: EPA

President Vladimir Putin has indicated that Russia plans to claim the territories after the voting formalities are over, and he threatened on Wednesday that Moscow would be prepared to defend its gains using all available means, including nuclear weapons.

The Guardian spoke to several people in the occupied city of Kherson via secure messaging apps on Thursday and Friday, who all reported a lack of activity on the ground.

“I don’t know anyone who is planning to go this weekend and vote. I am against annexation, but why even bother voting? Everything is already decided for us – I am sure they will count the votes the way it pleases them. It is all pointless,” said Svitlana, who described herself as a largely apolitical stay-at-home mother.

Read the full story here:

Summary of the day so far

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

Hello, it’s Léonie Chao-Fong still here with all the latest news from Ukraine. I’m on Twitter or you can email me.

Updated

Muslim clerics are urging Uzbeks not to join Russia’s war in Ukraine, warning that to do so would be against the Islamic faith.

Members of some “terrorist organisations” were attempting to recruit Muslims to fight in the conflict in Ukraine under the pretext of “jihad” or holy war, the Muslim board in Uzbekistan said.

But in reality, it was not permissible for a Muslim to participate in any military action except to defend their homeland, it said.

The statement by Uzbekistan’s top religious authority came after Russia offered fast-track citizenship to foreigners who sign up to join its army, part of a broader drive to strengthen its military.

Uzbekistan’s state prosecutors have warned its citizens not to join foreign armies, saying that those fighting in military conflicts abroad face criminal prosecution under Uzbek law.

A video circulated on social media earlier this month showed two Uzbeks captured in fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces. The detainees said they were recruited in Moscow.

Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine, say UN investigators

The United Nations has said its investigators have concluded that Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine, including bombings of civilian areas, numerous executions, torture and horrific sexual violence.

The UN has made the investigation of human rights violations in the war a priority and in May its top human rights body mandated a team of experts to begin work in the country.

Members of an international team of war crimes prosecutors visit a mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine, in April. Investigators found mass graves in the city, where the bodies of civilians, tortured and murdered, had been buried.
Members of an international team of war crimes prosecutors visit a mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine, in April. Investigators found mass graves in the city, where the bodies of civilians, tortured and murdered, had been buried. Photograph: Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA

Since then, UN investigators, have risked their own lives to collect evidence of crimes perpetrated against civilians, including in areas still threatened by enemy forces or laid with mines.

The team of three independent experts on Friday presented their first oral update to the UN human rights council, after it launched initial investigations looking at the areas of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, adding that it would broaden its inquiries.

The team of investigators visited 27 towns and settlements, as well as graves and detention and torture centres; interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses; and met with advocacy groups and government officials.

Read the full story here:

Border queues build as people flee Russia to escape Putin’s call-up

Pjotr Sauer and Dan Sabbagh report for the Guardian on the exodus of young men from Russia:

Long lines of vehicles continue to form at Russia’s border crossings on the second day full day of Vladimir Putin’s military mobilisation, with some men waiting over 24 hours as western leaders disagree over whether Europe should welcome those fleeing the call-up to fight in Ukraine.

The Russian president’s decision to announce the first mobilisation since the second world war has led to a rush among men of military age to leave the country, likely sparking a new, possibly unprecedented brain drain in the coming days and weeks.

Witnesses on the border with Georgia, a popular route used by Russians to leave the country, said that some men resorted to using bicycles and scooters to skip the miles-long queue of traffic jams.

Footage from the scene circulating on social media appears to confirm these reports.

“I have been waiting in my car since Thursday afternoon,” said Anton, who declined to give his surname fearing it might complicate his travel. “Everyone is worried that the border will be closed by the time we get anywhere close to it,” he added.

Usually sleepy border crossings into Kazakhstan and Mongolia have also been overwhelmed by the sudden influx of Russians looking for a way out.

Russian international borders remain open for now, but there are widespread fears Putin will impose martial law next week in an effort to prevent a further outflow of men from leaving the country.

Read more of Pjotr Sauer and Dan Sabbagh’s report here: Border queues build as people flee Russia to escape Putin’s call-up

Roman Starovoyt, the governor of Russia’s Kursk region, has announced extra payments for people from his region who are mobilising to fight in Ukraine.

He opens his message on Telegram:

The first groups of mobilised [soldiers] from the Kursk region are sent to replenish the ranks of the Russian army. I instructed to prepare additional support measures for our fighters in addition to federal payments.

He then goes on to detail a series of regular additional payments, before concluding:

Some of the necessary documents have already been signed, the rest I instructed to prepare as soon as possible. Payments will also be received by those Kursk people who have already signed contracts or have been mobilised.

The Kursk region borders the north-east of Ukraine.

Russia facing 'major challenges' over 300,000 recruit target, says west

This is from Dan Sabbagh, the Guardian’s defence and security editor:

Western officials believe that Russia “will face major challenges” to mobilise 300,000 more people to its armed forces and that the country’s military will struggle to train and equip any new recruits unless the Kremlin waits several months before deploying them on the front line in Ukraine.

The intelligence experts acknowledged that the true recruitment target could be higher, but although some reports have suggested the Kremlin’s real goal is to mobilise 1million, the officials reiterated in a briefing on Friday that it was their belief it will be very hard for Russia to reach 300,000, never mind any larger figure.

When pressed, one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that 300,000 was “an immense number of people to then try to get in any sense of semblance to be able to fight in Ukraine”. The official added: “The authorities will face major challenges even in mustering this number of personnel.”

Russia has faced problems with training and equipment throughout the conflict so far, and the officials said that would almost certainly extend to newly pressed recruits. “We think that they will be very challenged in training, let alone equipping such a large force quickly,” the official said. Recruits will likely be issued “old stuff and unreliable equipment,” they said.

Western officials believe there was a clear regional bias in Russian recruitment, focusing on poor and minority areas in the country’s east - and avoiding the country’s middle class urban centres. “We are not as yet seeing at the moment, recruiting teams in St. Petersburg or Moscow,” an official said.

Western officials are not keen to engage particularly with recent nuclear threats issued by Vladimir Putin, but they did say they believed that it was not necessarily the case that any Ukrainian territory annexed in the coming days through so-called referendums and weeks would be deemed as covered by its nuclear umbrella.

“Russian red lines are not necessarily where they say they are,” the official said, and that “there are parts of the territory that Russia now controls which are of greater strategic significance to Moscow than others”. Although the locations were not spelled out, the Kremlin has long placed a high value on Crimea as well as the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces occupied since 2014.

Updated

The Russian central bank has issued a statement welcoming the announcement earlier that key workers in the financial, IT and communications sectors are to be excluded from Russia’s partial mobilisation by the ministry of defence. [See 10.16am]

Reuters quotes the statement saying:

Employees who are engaged in critical areas will remain in their positions so the financial system can continue to work smoothly, people can receive their salaries, pensions and social benefits on time, card payments and transfers work and new loans can be issued.

Reuters is carrying a little more detail on those quotes from Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov. It quotes him saying:

We are not threatening anyone with nuclear weapons. The criteria for their use are outlined in Russia’s military doctrine. We hope the Biden administration is also aware of the danger of an uncontrolled escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.

Reuters notes that under Russia’s nuclear doctrine, use of nuclear weapons is permitted if Moscow feels it faces as “existential threat”.

Here are the words – in translation – that Vladimir Putin said in his address.

Nuclear blackmail was also launched. We are talking not only about the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is encouraged by the west, which threatens a nuclear catastrophe, but also about the statements of some high-ranking representatives of the leading Nato states about the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction against Russia – nuclear weapons.

For those who allow themselves to make such statements about Russia, I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for some components more modern than those of the Nato countries.

And if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow was not threatening anybody with nuclear weapons, Russian state media reported.

Ryabkov was also cited as saying that open confrontation with the US and Nato alliance was not in Russia’s interests.

A video shows Russian men who have been called up as part of Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation being told by an officer that the “games are over”.

The officer is heard telling the draftees that they will receive two weeks of training before they are sent to the front.

436 bodies exhumed from mass burial site in Izium, says official

The governor of the Kharkiv region Oleh Synyehubov has said 436 bodies have been exhumed from a mass burial site in the eastern city of Izium.

Thirty of the bodies bore visible signs of torture in the burial site in Kharkiv, a region held largely by Russian forces before a Ukrainian counteroffensive this month, Synyehubov told reporters alongside the region’s police chief, Volodymyr Tymoshko.

Three more grave sites have been located in areas retaken by Ukrainian forces, he added.

Updated

Britain’s ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, has condemned the “sham referenda” in areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops.

The outcome of these “referendums” in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces on whether to declare independence and join Russia has been “almost certainly already decided”, Simmons wrote on Twitter.

She described the polls, which have been widely condemned in the west as illegitimate, as “a media exercise designed to pursue further an illegal invasion by Russia”.

Updated

A Russian draftee kisses his partner before boarding a bus to be sent to the military units of the Eastern Military District, in Yakutsk, Russia.
A Russian draftee kisses his partner before boarding a bus to be sent to the military units of the Eastern Military District, in Yakutsk, Russia. Photograph: AP

Olga Chyzh, an assistant professor in the department of political science at the University of Toronto, writes for us today about how Vladimir Putin needs nothing short of a miracle to avoid a devastating defeat in Ukraine.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and Putin did not disappoint when he announced a partial military mobilisation earlier this week, she writes. At the same time, the self-proclaimed leaders of the occupied Ukrainian territories have rushed to schedule the dates of the sham referendums on whether to join Russia.

If mobilising more troops is key to winning the war, then why has Putin waited this long? Why didn’t he declare mobilisation at the first sign that his “three-day war” plan had hit snags? He waited so long that a longtime member of his inner circle, Ramzan Kadyrov, went on the record calling on him to escalate.

Putin has been hesitant because he knows mobilisation is risky. If all goes to plan, mobilisation could help quickly replenish Russian troops in occupied territories and stop Ukrainian advances. In the medium-to-long term, it could significantly increase Russia’s capacity for a new successful offensive, and with that, force Ukraine to accept peace on Russia’s terms.

Read the full opinion piece here:

Traffic into Finland across its south-eastern border with Russia continues to be busy following President Vladimir Putin’s order for a partial military mobilisation.

The Finnish border force has published figures showing the number of Russian citizens entering the country at border crossings on Finland’s eastern border.

Six thousand four hundred and 70 Russians arrived in Finland across the land border on Thursday, it said.

Updated

China ‘reaffirms respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity’, says Kuleba

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi has told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba that the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected”.

The meeting between Wang and Kuleba took place on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York, and was the first since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Wang was cited by Chinese state media as saying that all efforts conducive to peaceful settlement of the Ukraine crisis must be supported.

The meeting took place as voting in “referendums” began in the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine – Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces.

Wang told Kuleba that the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected... the legitimate security concerns of all countries must be taken seriously, and all efforts that are conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis must be supported,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

Wang also told his Ukrainian counterpart that “China has always been committed to promoting peace talks, never stands idly by, never adds fuel to the fire and never takes advantage of the situation for self-interests”, it said, adding:

China always stands on the side of peace, and will continue to play a constructive role.

Following the meeting, Kuleba wrote on Twitter that Wang “reaffirmed China’s respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Wang also restated China’s “rejection of the use of force as a means of resolving differences”, Kuleba added.

Hello everyone. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong here, taking over the live blog from Martin Belam to bring you the latest developments from the Russia-Ukraine war. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter or via email.

Updated

Russian forces have forcibly deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainians, the US ambassador to the UN’s human rights council, Michele Taylor, said.

Speaking to the UN council, Taylor urged a UN-mandated commission to examine “the growing evidence of Russia’s filtration operations, forced deportations and disappearances”.

She said:

Numerous sources indicate that Russian authorities have interrogated, detained and forcible deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens.

Ukraine and its allies have accused Russian troops of transporting their citizens to “filtration camps” before forcibly relocating them to Russia. The Kremlin has dismissed these allegations as “fantasy”.

Updated

It would be cynical to see Saudi Arabia’s efforts to secure the release of international prisoners held by Russian proxies in Ukraine as an attempt to improve the country’s image after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, its foreign minister has said.

Adel al-Jubeir said on Friday Riyadh had first approached the UK government in April, shortly after Aiden Aslin, a British citizen, and others were captured at Mariupol, and had acted for compassionate reasons, hoping to negotiate their release.

Asked if it was a rare opportunity to repair relations with the west, the minister said:

I think that’s a very cynical view. What we saw, what the kingdom’s leadership saw, was an opportunity to achieve a humanitarian breakthrough to facilitate the return of these detainees to their families. And that’s the motivation.

British citizens Aiden Aslin (left) and Shaun Pinner (right), with Moroccan Brahim Saadoun in a courtroom in Donetsk in June. All three were released this week.
British citizens Aiden Aslin (left) and Shaun Pinner (right), with Moroccan Brahim Saadoun in a courtroom in Donetsk in June. All three were released this week. Photograph: AP

Saudi Arabia, which has sought to take a softer stance on Russia following the outbreak of the war, has previously said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in a major diplomatic effort that also appears to have involved the former Chelsea football club owner and billionaire Roman Abramovich.

One of the five Britons released, Shaun Pinner, recognised Abramovich on the plane flying them out from Russia to Riyadh earlier this week and approached him to ask if he was the former football club owner, according to a report in the Sun.

Another of those released, John Harding, recounted the exchange that followed between the two men. “He went over to him on the plane and asked where he was from and Roman said ‘London’.

“Then Shaun said, ‘You really look like Roman Abramovich’ and he replied, ‘That’s because I am him, sir’. He couldn’t believe it.”

Read the full story here:

Summary of the day so far …

  • Pro-Russian authorities in four regions of occupied Ukraine – Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – have been conducting widely-condemned “referendums” on whether the regions desire to be annexed by the Russian Federation.

  • Nato has condemned the plans to hold “referendums”, describing them as Moscow’s “blatant attempts at territorial conquest”. The “sham referenda” have no legitimacy, the alliance said. Referenda plans have been widely condemned as illegitimate and a precursor to illegal annexation.

  • Voting is also taking place for displaced Ukrainian citizens within the territory of Russia.

  • Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the office of Ukraine’s president, described the votes as a “propaganda show”, saying “there is no legal action called a ‘referendum’ in the occupied territories.”

  • Ivan Fedorov, Ukraine’s elected mayor of Melitopol, has said “participation in a pseudo-referendum is the worst betrayal”. Serhai Haidai, Ukraine’s governor of Luhansk, said that all those involved in running today’s “referendums” will be punished.

  • The UK’s MoD says that “the battle situation remains complex” on the ground, but that “Ukraine is now putting pressure on territory that Russia considers essential to its war aims”, with fighting along the Oskil River, and a Ukrainian assault on the town of Lyman, Donetsk, which Russia captured in May.

  • Russia’s ministry of defence has issued a statement to say that people working in key roles in the country’s information technology, financial and communications sectors will be exempt from the partial mobilisation announced earlier this week.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy appealed directly to Russians in his address on Thursday evening, calling on them to protest mobilisation, fight back, or run away. Those who did not “are already complicit in all these crimes, murders and torture of Ukrainians. Because you were silent,” the Ukrainian president said.

  • Thousands of men across Russia have been handed draft papers after the mobilisation announcement. Among those called up since Putin’s announcement on Wednesday were Russians detained while protesting against the mobilisation, the independent OVD-Info protest monitoring group said.

  • The Kremlin has dismissed reports of an exodus of Russian men of fighting age as “exaggerated”. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, also declined to deny Russian media reports that some anti-mobilisation protesters detained on Wednesday night had been given draft papers, saying: “This is not against the law.”

  • Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, also denied reports that an undisclosed clause in Putin’s mobilisation decree provided for 1 million reservists to be enlisted to fight in Ukraine. “This is a lie,” Peskov said in response to a report by Novaya Gazeta.

  • Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas told her nation overnight that power blackouts are possible if Russia kicks the Baltic states from the joint power grid.

The Swiss government has condemned what it described as “sham referendums” taking place today in four areas of occupied Ukraine – Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Reuters reports that the Swiss government said they were illegal under international law, and that yesterday it summoned the Russian ambassador over the matter.

Here are some images from inside Russia, where people in Volgograd are voting in the “referendum” on whether the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic should be annexed by the Russian Federation.

A “referendum” sign is seen as voting begins in Volgograd, Russia.
A “referendum” sign is seen as voting begins in Volgograd, Russia. Photograph: AP
A man from Ukraine’s occupied Luhansk region votes at a temporary accommodation facility in Volgograd, Russia.
A man from Ukraine’s occupied Luhansk region votes at a temporary accommodation facility in Volgograd, Russia. Photograph: AP
An elderly woman shows her Ukrainian passport as she prepares to vote at a temporary accommodation facility in Volgograd, Russia.
An elderly woman shows her Ukrainian passport as she prepares to vote at a temporary accommodation facility in Volgograd, Russia. Photograph: AP
People from the occupied Luhansk region voting in Russia.
People from the occupied Luhansk region voting in Russia. Photograph: AP

Russia to exempt key IT and communications workers from conscription

Russia’s ministry of defence has issued a statement to say that people working in key roles in the country’s information technology, financial and communications sectors will be exempt from the partial mobilisation announced earlier this week.

It says:

To ensure the operation of certain hi-tech industries, as well as the financial system of the Russian Federation, it was decided not to recruit citizens with higher education in the relevant specialties and areas of training, working in accredited organisations operating in the field of information technology and involved in the development, implementation, maintenance and operation of solutions in the field of information technology and ensuring the functioning of the information infrastructure.

The statement goes on to list sectors including telecoms and financial services and those working on the technical side of media organisations where people can apply to be exempted from mobilisation.

Updated

Ivan Fedorov, Ukraine’s elected mayor of Melitopol, has written on Telegram urging residents of the occupied areas of Ukraine not to co-operate with the “referendums” being held by the Russian-imposed authorities in those regions, He writes:

We call on the residents of the occupied territories not to participate in the pseudo-referendum in any way. Participation in it is to support the bloody plan to escalate the war against Ukraine, to voluntarily become part of a closed totalitarian society, to assume part of the responsibility for war crimes, to agree to the mobilisation of men aged 16-55 to replenish the cannon fodder of the Russian Army, to commit a criminal offence

He added, “most importantly, participation in a pseudo-referendum is the worst betrayal”, saying:

Don’t open the door to agitators. Do not go to the polling stations. Completely ignore the entire election process. Stay as far as possible from Russian military and enemy equipment. Our heroic armed forces of Ukraine will definitely liberate all occupied territories from racism.

Here are a couple of images of the “voting” that is taking place in occupied Luhansk today. The pictures show members of the armed forces of the chiefly unrecognised self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic casting their votes at a military unit in Luhansk.

Service members of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic vote in Luhansk.
Service members of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic vote in Luhansk. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
Another view of men queing to “vote” in the occupied region of Luhansk in Ukraine.
Another view of men queuing to vote in the occupied region of Luhansk in Ukraine. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Updated

Berlusconi says Putin 'pushed' into Ukraine war

Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi appears to have made a sympathetic interjection on the war on behalf of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Reuters quotes him saying overnight that “Putin was pushed by the Russian people, by his party, by his ministers to invent this ‘special operation’,” Berlusconi said, using the Russian wording for the war.

Moscow’s plan was originally to conquer Kyiv “in a week”, replace Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy with “a government of decent people” and get out “in another week”, he added.

“I haven’t even understood why Russian troops spread around Ukraine while in my mind they should have only stuck around Kyiv,” Berlusconi insisted.

Updated

In a message on Telegram, Serhai Haidai, Ukraine’s governor of Luhansk, has said all those involved in running today’s “referendums” in occupied areas of Ukraine will be punished.

He described them as “elections without elections”, and referring to the suggestion that officials are going house-by-house to enable people to vote from home, Haidai said “they fill out some pieces of paper in kitchens, in apartments and yards. It looks extremely strange. It does not smell like privacy.”

He also suggested that part of the operation was also to establish people who might be available for conscription, saying “apartment-by-apartment/yard patrols – this is purely for the purpose of checking apartments to identify men. the occupiers are just looking for ‘cannon fodder’.”

Sir Mark Lyall Grant, a former permanent representative of the UK to the UN has been interviewed on Sky News television in the UK.

He said Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov gave an “Alice in Wonderland” kind of address to the UN about Russia’s position. He told viewers:

I think we’re entering a very dangerous period now. You’ve got the mobilisation of at least 300,000 servicemen, you’ve got the sham referenda in four occupied territories now in eastern Ukraine, and you got the increasingly violent rhetoric, made explicit by Dmitry Medvedev, the number two if you like in Russia, yesterday, saying that Russia would be prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory.

I think it has now become clear what Putin’s plan is. He will annex these lands on the back of the sham referenda over the next few days, claim that they are now in Russian territory, and that therefore any attack on that territory is an attack on Russia itself.

Referendums are 'propaganda show' – Ukraine official

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the office of Ukraine’s president, has tweeted to reiterate Ukraine’s position on the “referendums” that have started today under Russian control in occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. He has tweeted:

Today, there is no legal action called a “referendum” in the occupied territories. There is only – 1. Propaganda show for z-conscription. 2. The territory of Ukraine that needs an immediate release.

Updated

Oleh Synyehubov, governor of Kharkiv, has issued an update on the overnight situation in his region on Telegram.

In his message he says “the enemy continued to terrorise the civilian population of Kharkiv oblast, shelling settlements adjacent to the contact line and the border with the Russian Federation. There are victims, including children.”

He reports that three people were injured in Kupyansk, including “two children - a boy and a girl, seven years old. Doctors assess their condition as moderate”. Synyehubov said that a 51-year-old man was killed by shelling in Kharkiv district.

He also reported two people injured by mines, repeating a warning to “remember the high mine danger and to be very careful. Do not touch suspicious objects and do not move around places that could potentially be mined.”

The casualty claims have not been independently verified.

Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas told her nation overnight that power blackouts are possible if Russia kicks the Baltic states from the joint power grid.

Reuters reports she said “We must also be prepared for Russia might disconnect Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from their electricity grid. It would be wise to be prepared for possible power outages – that includes public authorities, companies, and every individual.”

She called on Russian citizens living in Estonia to ignore any summons to fight in Ukraine: “do not go, because there is no turning back”.

That “one million” figure that keeps recurring in some reports about a potential ceiling for the number of people mobilised by Russia comes from news reports yesterday in the independent Novaya Gazeta Europe that the seventh paragraph of the mobilisation decree, which is the only bit of the document that has not been made public, contains that figure in secret.

This has been denied as “a lie” by the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, and defence minister Sergei Shoigu gave the figure for mobilisation as 300,000, but the rumours persist.

The RIA Novosti news agency reported yesterday:

The seventh point is hidden in the document, which attracted the attention of journalists. As Peskov explained, this paragraph is for official use, so he cannot disclose its content. The spokesperson clarified that it was about the number of conscripts.

As Swedish journalist Carl Fridh Kleberg notes, the easiest way for the Russian government to quash the rumours would be to end the public redaction of that part of the decree.

The Sky News correspondent Alex Rossi is in Russia, and he has just offered this analysis of the situation from Moscow where he is based. He told viewers in the UK:

Certainly on the ground in terms of ordinary people here what’s rattling people a great deal is this partial mobilisation. According to the defence ministry that could see something like 300,000 people drafted into the meat grinder in Ukraine.

But I think people are extremely worried. If you talk to NGOs, human rights organisations, they say that they have been contacted by large numbers of people who are extremely concerned that their rights are going to be violated and they will be drafted.

Now the defence ministry says that it is only people who’ve had previous active military experience, but anecdotally, we’re seeing that that isn’t the case either. And some people say that as many as a million people could be affected by this.

Now again, anecdotally, we are seeing larger numbers of people trying to get out of the country. There have been reports of large queues at the borders of neighbouring countries like Finland’s young man of conscripts age trying to get out. Also we are seeing that the price of airline tickets out of Russia to countries that you don’t need a visa to, they are also increasing in price dramatically as well.

So it is hard to say at this point what effect this will have on Russian society, but certainly, all the signs are it could be fairly corrosive. It is something that Vladimir Putin had so far resisted doing, calling people up into what is effectively a war, but what he is still calling a “special military operation”.

Mykhailo Fedorov, the digital minister in Ukraine, has responded to Russia’s partial mobilisation with a tongue-in-cheek fundraising appeal to make sure that every new Russian soldier has their own Ukrainian drone to deal with. He tweeted:

Ukrainian soldiers are not concerned about Putin’s mobilisation. They are getting their job done. Still for Army of Drones it’s a new challenge: to ensure enough of UAVs for everyone ‘mobilised as a gesture of goodwill’.

Updated

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

A local resident searches through leftovers outside a vacated retirement home in Martove, Kharkiv oblast.
A local resident searches through leftovers outside a vacated retirement home in Martove, Kharkiv oblast. Photograph: Maria Senovilla/EPA
Spent cartridges at a former position of Russian troops in the Kharkiv area.
Spent cartridges at a former position of Russian troops in the Kharkiv area. Photograph: Oleksandr Ratushniak/EPA
The Trinity Church that was used as field hospital by Russian forces in Mala Komyshuvakha village, Kharkiv region.
Trinity Church, whichg was used as field hospital by Russian forces in Mala Komyshuvakha village, Kharkiv region. Photograph: Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA

Updated

The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) that occupies parts of eastern Ukraine has issued overnight casualty figures. It claims that “eight people received injuries of varying severity”, 15 houses were damaged and “seven people died (including two teenagers born in 2008)“ after Ukrainian forces fired into territory which the DPR claims to control.

The DPR is recognised as a legitimate authority by only three UN member states: Russia, Syria and North Korea. The claims have not been independently verified.

Updated

The British Ministry of Defence has giving its latest intelligence update on how it sees the situation on the ground in the war. It says that “the battle situation remains complex” but that “Ukraine is now putting pressure on territory that Russia considers essential to its war aims”, with fighting along the Oskil River, and a Ukrainian assault on the town of Lyman, Donetsk, which Russia captured in May.

Updated

If you missed Ukraine’s response to the news of mobilisation: the country’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy appealed directly to Russians in his address on Thursday evening, calling on them to protest, fight back, or run away. Those who did not “are already complicit in all these crimes, murders and torture of Ukrainians. Because you were silent,” he said.

55,000 Russian soldiers died in this war in six months. Tens of thousands are wounded and maimed. Want more? No? Then protest. Fight back. Run away. Or surrender to Ukrainian captivity. These are options for you to survive.

Russia’s decision on mobilisation is a frank admission that their regular army, which has been prepared for decades to take over a foreign country, did not withstand and crumbled. And now, due to mobilisation, Russia’s war against Ukraine for the majority of Russian citizens is not something on TV or on the internet, but something that has entered every Russian home.

Zelenskiy has published the address on Telegram.

Updated

A number of Russian media outlets are now reporting that voting has begun in “referendums” in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces.

Luhansk mayor Sergey Haidai claimed in a Telegram post that Russian forces were coercing residents to vote and forbidding them from leaving the area.

“According to available information, the occupiers are creating armed groups to go around homes and force people to participate in the so-called ‘referendum’,” he said.

At some businesses, he said, “those who will not take part in the voting will be automatically dismissed from their jobs”. Elsewhere, “authorities forbade the local population to leave the city between September 23 and 27”.

Secretary of the Zaporizhzhia city council Anatoly Kurtev said on Friday that “preparation and holding of the so-called ‘referendum’ … intensified”.

“Local residents are promised cash rewards and household appliances for providing passport data and obtaining citizenship of the Russian Federation,” he said.

The Guardian has not been able to independently verify those reports.

Updated

Traffic into Finland across its south-eastern border with Russia continues to be busy, the country’s border guard told Reuters on Friday, adding that the number of Russian citizens entering more than doubled on Thursday compared with the week before.

Updated

Voting begins in 'referendums' on occupied Ukrainian regions joining Russia

Russian state media is reporting that voting has begun in some of the regions of Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine where Putin announced referendums this week.

The Tass news agency says: “Voting began at 08:00 in the DPR and LPR, as well as in the Kherson region and in the liberated territories of the Zaporozhye region.”

The “referendums” have been decried as illegal and a “sham” by Ukraine and the west.

Updated

A little more detail on the referendums that Russia has said it will hold in occupied regions of Ukraine, from Russian state media via AFP.

In the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions – which Putin claimed before the invasion were “independent” from Ukraine – – residents will have to answer if they support their “republic’s entry into Russia”, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

Ballots in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions ask: “Are you in favour of secession from Ukraine, formation of an independent state by the region and its joining the Russian Federation as a subject of the Russian Federation?”

Votes would be collected by Russian-selected authorities going door-to-door for the first four days, and polling stations would be open on the final day, Tuesday.

The referendums have been decried as farcical, a sham and illegal by Ukraine and the west. They are reminiscent of the 2014 referendum that led to the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine being annexed by Russia. That vote – criticised internationally as rigged – had an official result of 97% in favour of formal annexation.

Updated

The conscription drive under way in Russia is “unlikely to generate effective soldiers and is prompting significant domestic backlash for little gain,” thinktank the Institute for the Study of War has said in its latest Russian offensive campaign assessment, released a few hours ago.

According to the ISW and Guardian reports, Russian authorities have already begun breaking their commitments to restrict conscription to men with military experience, and not to draft Russian students. Footage out of Russia shows military police pulling students from lessons, reportedly for mobilisation, ISW reports. In Moscow, hundreds gathered to protest after Putin announced the mobilisation. Police officers reportedly began giving draft notices to all those they detained.

“The Kremlin’s heavy-handed approach to mobilisation is prompting public anger and distrust across Russia,” ISW writes.

Updated

In Moscow, our correspondent Andrew Roth has been documenting the aftermath of Putin’s announcement that Russia would begin conscripting its citizens to fight in the invasion of Ukraine.

Summons delivered to eligible men at midnight. Schoolteachers pressed into handing out draft notices. Men given an hour to pack their things and appear at draft centres. Women sobbing as they sent their husbands and sons off to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The first full day of Russia’s first mobilisation since the second world war produced emotional showdowns at draft centres and even signs of protest, while it appears Russia could be considering far more than the 300,000 new conscripts claimed by the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu.

Read the full report here:

Preparations have begun in four Russian-occupied territories to hold ‘referenda’ on whether to become part of Russia.

The Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces represent about 15% of Ukrainian territory. Voting there is due to run from Friday to Tuesday. The results are seen as a foregone conclusion in favour of annexation, and Ukraine and its allies have already made clear they will not recognise the results.

Summary

Good morning. I’m Tess McClure, and will be with you for our live coverage as Europe wakes up. It’s 7.30AM in Kyiv. Here are the latest developments:

  • Four areas of Ukraine controlled by Russia and pro-Moscow forces are preparing to hold referendums on joining Russia. Voting in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing around 15% of Ukrainian territory, is due to run from Friday to Tuesday.

  • Nato has condemned plans to hold “referendums” on joining the Russian Federation in Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine, describing them as Moscow’s “blatant attempts at territorial conquest”. The “sham referenda” have no legitimacy, the alliance said. Referenda plans have been widely condemned by the West as illegitimate and a precursor to illegal annexation.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called on Russians to resist the partial military mobilisation announced by Vladimir Putin, which has sparked protests and a fresh exodus out of Russia. The Ukrainian president said in his daily address on Thursday: “55,000 Russian soldiers died in these six months of war … Want more? No? Then protest, fight back, run away, or surrender” to the Ukrainian army.

  • Thousands of men across Russia have been handed draft papers after the mobilisation announcement. Among those called up since Putin’s announcement on Wednesday were Russians detained while protesting against the mobilisation, the independent OVD-Info protest monitoring group said.

  • The Kremlin has dismissed reports of an exodus of Russian men of fighting age as “exaggerated”. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, also declined to deny Russian media reports that some anti-mobilisation protesters detained on Wednesday night had been given draft papers, saying: “This is not against the law.”

  • Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, also denied reports that an undisclosed clause in Putin’s mobilisation decree provided for 1 million reservists to be enlisted to fight in Ukraine. “This is a lie,” Peskov said in response to a report by Novaya Gazeta.

  • Traffic at Russian border crossings with Finland and Georgia surged after the mobilisation announcement sparked fears that men of fighting age would be called to the frontlines in Ukraine. Prices for one-way flights out of Moscow to the nearest foreign locations rose above $5,000 (£4,435), with most air tickets sold out for the coming days. Photos showed long tailbacks at border crossings with Finland and Georgia.

  • In response, Finland’s prime minister said her government was considering ways to sharply reduce Russian tourism and transit through Finland. “The government’s will is very clear: we believe Russian tourism [to Finland] must be stopped, as well as transit through Finland,” Sanna Marin told reporters.

  • Putin is giving directions directly to generals in the field, CNN reported. The direct orders from the Russian president to generals “hints at the dysfunctional command structure” that has affected Russian forces on the battlefield, according to two sources familiar with American and western intelligence who spoke to CNN.

  • Many of the Ukrainians exchanged in the largest prisoner swap with Russia since the beginning of the invasion show signs of violent torture, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence said on Thursday. On Wednesday, Ukraine announced the exchange of a record-high 215 imprisoned soldiers with Russia, including fighters who led the defence of Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks that became an icon of Ukrainian resistance.

  • The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has strongly rebuked Russia for “totally unacceptable” nuclear threats. Speaking at the start of a UN security council meeting the day after Putin raised the stakes in his invasion of Ukraine, Guterres said Moscow’s plans to annex parts of Ukraine were a “violation of the UN charter and of international law”.

  • The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, wants European Union sanctions on Russia lifted by the end of the year, a pro-government daily newspaper said. Orban, a Putin ally, has frequently railed against the sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

  • Five Britons released from Russia are meeting their families after several months of captivity in which it was feared they would be executed for fighting for Ukraine. A major diplomatic effort was behind the release of the five Britons who, together with two Americans, a Moroccan, a Croat and a Swedish national, were released by Russia to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

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