The Ukrainian military has recaptured a village in the eastern Donetsk region, as well as territory around the key town of Bakhmut in Donbas, a senior officer said on Friday. The military gains come as Moscow-proxies held votes on annexation by Russia. Follow FRANCE 24’s liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
3:35pm: Ukraine recaptures territory in DonbasUkraine said Friday its forces had recaptured a village in the eastern Donetsk region, as well as territory around the key town of Bakhmut. The military gains come as Moscow-proxies held votes on annexation by Russia.
“The Ukrainian army has retaken the village of Yatskivka in the Donetsk region,” a senior army official told reporters, adding that Kyiv’s forces had “also regained controlled over positions to the south of Bakhmut,” also in Donetsk, where voting was underway Friday in Russian-controlled territory.
3:09pm: Russians flee to borders after military call-upMoscow began its mandatory troop call-up Thursday to try to bolster a stumbling war effort in Ukraine, with authorities saying thousands had volunteered even as Russian men fled the country to avoid being forced to fight. Watch our video below:
2:17pm: Russian deputy foreign minister: Moscow is not threatening anybody with nuclear weaponsRussian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday that Moscow was not threatening anybody with nuclear weapons and that open confrontation with the United States and NATO was not in Russia’s interests, Russian state news agencies reported.
1:49pm: UN-mandated inquiry to investigate Izium mass burial site A UN-mandated investigative body intends to investigate a mass burial site near Izium, in eastern Ukraine, where hundreds of bodies have been found, its head said on Friday.
“This is of course a novel incident but we certainly intend to look into the Izium event as well,” Erik Mose, who heads the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, said at a press briefing.
Asked about whether crimes against humanity had been committed, Mose said that the commission had not yet reached that conclusion citing both a lack of evidence and analysis. He did state that evidence of war crimes had been found.
1:43pm: Finland set to restrict Russian entries as numbers riseThe number of Russians entering Finland has doubled since Moscow announced a mobilisation for the Ukraine war, a border agency spokesman told AFP on Friday, as the Nordic country prepared to restrict entry.
“6,470 Russians arrived in Finland across the land border on Thursday,” compared with 3,100 entries in the beginning of the week, a border guard spokesman told AFP.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that: “Russian tourism and travel has to be stopped, including transit through Finland.”
Marin added that the security risk posed by Russian travellers should be “re-evaluated” after Moscow’s announcement of mobilisation.
1:40pm: Germany: good sign that many Russians don’t want to join Ukraine warGermany said on Friday many Russians being called up to fight in the war in Ukraine do not want to take part, adding that this was welcome.
“Many Russians who are now being called up do not want to take part in this war either. This is a good sign,” a government spokesperson told a regular news conference.
“A way must be left open for Russians to come to Europe and also to Germany,” the spokesperson added.
1:38pm: More than 1 million Ukrainians may have been deported, US envoy saysA US envoy said that Russia has forcibly deported between 900,000-1.6 million Ukrainians, citing unnamed sources, and urged a UN-mandated commission of inquiry to investigate.
“We urge the commissioners to continue to examine the growing evidence of Russia’s filtration operations, forced deportations and disappearances,” US Ambassador Michele Taylor told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, referring to a commission of inquiry into Ukraine.
“Numerous sources indicate that Russian authorities have interrogated, detained and forcibl[y] deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens,” she said.
1:21pm: Chinese and Ukrainian foreign ministers meet in New YorkChinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the Chinese foreign ministry said Friday.
Thursday’s meeting was the first between the two since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February — though they have held two phone calls in that time.
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 ministry said in a statement.
12:12pm: Russia excludes some IT professionals, bankers and state journalists from mobilisationSome Russian technology professionals, bankers, and journalists at state media outlets will be not be called up to serve in Ukraine as part of Russia’s mobilisation drive, the defence ministry said on Friday in a statement.
The section of the official decree announcing mobilisation which included the number of people who would be drafted was kept classified and unpublished, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The defence ministry said some employees working in critically important industries would be excluded from the draft in a bid to “ensure the work of specific high-tech industries, as well as Russia’s financial system” is unaffected by Russia’s first military mobilisation since World War Two.
11:30am: UN rights experts cite signs of war crimes in UkraineA team of experts commissioned by the UN’s top human rights body to look into rights violations in Ukraine said Friday its initial investigation found evidence of war crimes in the country following Russia’s invasion nearly seven months ago.
The experts from the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, mandated by the Human Rights Council earlier this year, have so far focused on four regions – Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy.
Presenting their most extensive findings so far, they cited testimonies by former detainees of beatings, electric shocks and forced nudity in Russian detention facilities, and expressed grave concerns about executions in the four regions.
“We were struck by the large number of executions in the areas that we visited. The commission is currently investigating such deaths in 16 towns and settlements,” Erik Mose, the commission’s chairman, said. He said his team had received and was documenting “credible allegations regarding many more cases of executions.”
The investigators visited 27 towns and settlements, as well as graves and detention and torture centers; interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses; and met with advocacy groups and government officials, he said.
“Based on the evidence gathered by the commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine,” Mose said.
He said the team had also examined two incidents of ill-treatment against Russian soldiers by Ukrainian forces.
The commission plans to gradually expand its investigation, with areas of interest including allegations of filtration camps for people being detained or deported, the forced transfer of people, and allegations of expedited adoption of children.
11:07am: Voting begins in Russia’s annexation plan for swathes of UkraineVoting is taking place in self-styled Donetsk (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republics (LPR), which Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised as independent just before the invasion, and Russian-controlled areas of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions
“All of us have been waiting for a referendum on joining Russia for 8 long years,” said Leonid Pasechnik, the Russian-backed leader of Luhansk. “We have already become part of Russia. There remains only a small matter – to win (the war).”
“We are returning home,” said the Russian-backed leader of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin. “Donbas is Russia.” Outcomes that support joining Russia are almost certain, as is a swiftly choreographed legal annexation along the lines of the 2014 annexation of Crimea, which took just days.
Members of the local electoral commission gather at a polling station ahead of the planned referendum on the joining of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic to Russia, in Donetsk, Ukraine, September 22, 2022. © Alexander Ermochenko, Reuters As voting began, Ivan Fedorov, the deposed Ukrainian mayor of Russian-occupied Melitopol, part of Zaporizhzhia province, said on Telegram that a loud explosion was heard by residents in the city centre at 7 am local time.
“People are afraid to leave their homes,” Fedorov said.
11:02am: Abramovich played ‘key part’ in release of Britons held in UkraineSanctioned former Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich played a “key part” in the release of five men held by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, a report said on Friday.
One of the five men freed in a prisoner swap earlier this week, John Harding, said the Russian oligarch identified himself to fellow detainee Shaun Pinner after they boarded their flight to Riyadh.
Harding, meanwhile, said he spoke to Abramovich’s assistant who said the Russian had played a “key part” in their release, The Sun daily reported.
The freed prisoners were flown to the Saudi capital Riyadh on Wednesday after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took part in negotiations.
Abramovich, 55, was sanctioned by the UK government on March 10, with Downing Street claiming he had proven his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is also subject to EU sanctions.
8:32am: Russians seeking to avoid being drafted arrive in Istanbul”The young Russian men we have spoken to have a haggard look of uncertainty in their eyes. Some bought their tickets in reaction to Putin’s latest declarations to avoid being drafted in the war with Ukraine that they say is not their war, but Putin’s. Others had vacations planned in Turkey and decided to pack as many belongings as possible, ‘just in case'”. FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Turkey Shona Bhattacharyya provides more details below.
7:49am: Signs of torture witnessed on bodies exhumed from mass burial site in Izium”Ukraine’s leadership has not hestitated in affirming that some of the 460 people buried at the mass burial site in Izium were tortured to death but we have no idea at this stage how many. Most, in fact, died under shelling as Russian forces attacked Izium in March”, reports Gulliver Cragg, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Ukraine.
7:11am: Referendums on Russian annexation start in occupied Ukraine territoryReferendums on Russia’s annexation began on Friday in Ukrainian territory controlled by Moscow, Russian news agencies reported, in what Kyiv and the West have denounced as a “sham” vote.
Voting began at 0500 GMT on Friday and was due to end Tuesday in four regions controlled entirely or in part by Russian troops – Donetsk and Lugansk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.
6:24am: Four Ukraine regions prepare to hold referendums on joining RussiaFour areas of Ukraine controlled by Russia and pro-Moscow forces were preparing to hold referendums on Friday on joining Russia, votes widely condemned by the West as illegitimate and a precursor to illegal annexation.
Russian-installed leaders on Tuesday announced plans for the ballots, a challenge to the West that could sharply escalate the war. The results are seen as a foregone conclusion in favour of annexation, and Ukraine and its allies have made clear they will not recognise the outcomes.
Voting in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing about 15% of Ukrainian territory, is due to run from Friday to Tuesday.
Ukraine this month launched a counteroffensive that has recaptured large swathes of territory, seven months after Russia invaded and launched a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions and damaged the global economy. The referendums had been discussed for months by pro-Moscow authorities but Ukraine’s recent victories prompted a scramble by officials to schedule them.
3:27am: Russian men fleeing draft arrive in TurkeyTurkey is a relatively straightforward destination for Russians, who can still obtain three-month tourist visas at the airport. Many of the men fleeing the draft don’t know if they’ll return. FRANCE 24’s Shona Bhattacharyya reports from Istanbul:
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