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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Sept. 22

A boy holds a banner during a protest against the mobilization announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Belgrade, Serbia, Sept. 21, 2022.
A boy holds a banner during a protest against the mobilization announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Belgrade, Serbia, Sept. 21, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EDT.

10 p.m.: Turkey is weighing whether to stop processing transactions made using Russia's Mir payments system after receiving repeated warnings from the United States, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported.

Washington has increased pressure on Turkish banks and businesses to comply with Western sanctions against Russia, warning that Turkish entities risked being exposed to secondary sanction themselves.

Two of the five Turkish banks processing Mir payments have heeded Washington's warnings and suspended the transactions, seeking further guidance about how sanctions could potentially be applied.

Erdogan signaled that he was not happy about possibly stopping the Russian payments, which help support Turkey's tourism industry.

9:08 p.m.:

8:15 p.m.: Ukrainian tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk, one of 56 prisoners handed over to Russia on Wednesday in exchange for 215 imprisoned soldiers, Agence France-Presse reported, was seen as President Vladimir Putin's top ally in Kyiv and defended the Kremlin's interests for years.

"In exchange for the life and freedom of our defenders, Ukraine gave Medvedchuk away," Ukrainian chief prosecutor Andriy Kostin said in a Facebook message on Thursday.

Denis Pushilin, a leader of Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, confirmed Medvedchuk's release to Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

Medvedchuk, a 68-year-old former Ukrainian lawmaker, was captured in April by Ukraine's special services after fleeing home arrest when Russia invaded.

7:27 p.m.: Israel said Thursday that immigration to the country over the past 12 months hit a two-decade high, with influxes from Russia and war-torn Ukraine accounting for nearly three-quarters of new arrivals, Agence France-Presse reported.

In a statement issued days before the start of the Jewish New Year holiday, Rosh Hashana, Israel's immigration ministry said 60,000 Jews had moved to the country during the last Jewish calendar year, more than double the 28,000 recorded the previous year.

Russians accounted for 47% while 25% were people who came from Ukraine.

Under Israel's law of return, anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent is entitled to Israeli citizenship.

6:48 p.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Thursday that talk of a nuclear conflict is "totally unacceptable" and effectively warned that so-called referenda in areas under Russian control would be annexation, Reuters reported.

Referendums on Ukrainian areas joining Russia are to take place from Friday until Tuesday in several largely Russian-held regions in eastern and southern Ukraine, which comprise around 15% of the country's territory.

"Any annexation of a state's territory by another state resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the U.N. Charter and of international law," Guterres said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.

5:56 p.m.: At the U.N. General Assembly in New York, VOA’s Persian service interviewed U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price about Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Price said, “Secretary [of State Antony Blinken] delivered a very simple message today, and in some ways, you can distill it down to one sentence. He said, “If Russia were to stop fighting today, the war would end. If Ukraine were to stop fighting today, Ukraine would end.” This is a war of territorial aggression that Russia has been waging against its peaceful neighbor. And what's most important, and one of the core objectives of some of today, was to continue to galvanize the rest of the world to speak clearly, to speak consistently and to speak with one voice about the need for Russia to end this brutal war, about the need to stand against this aggression, and to stand with our Ukrainian partners. We and dozens of other countries around the world are doing that. We are providing them with billions of dollars in security assistance, more than $15 billion since the start of this Russian aggression, as are other countries. And we're providing, we're holding Russia to account. We, just as we said we would, have enacted massive costs and consequences on key Russian leaders, on key Russian institutions responsible for this war. We're going to continue to provide support to our Ukrainian partners and to increase pressure on Russia for as long as it takes.”

5:10 p.m.:

4:15 p.m.: NATO on Thursday condemned Moscow's plans to hold referendums in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine and called on all states to reject what it called "Russia's blatant attempts at territorial conquest,” Reuters reported.

"Sham referenda in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions of Ukraine have no legitimacy and will be a blatant violation of the UN Charter," the North Atlantic Council, grouping the member states of the alliance, said in a statement.

"NATO allies will not recognize their illegal and illegitimate annexation. These lands are Ukraine," it added.

Referendums on joining Russia are due to take place from Friday until Tuesday in several largely Russian-held regions in eastern and southern Ukraine, which comprise around 15% of the country's territory.

3:22 p.m.: The European Union appears determined to respond to new Russian attempts to annex parts of Ukraine with more sanctions but finding a consensus among member countries is becoming increasingly difficult as measures meant to punish Moscow bite into their own economies, The Associated Press reported.

The 27-nation bloc has imposed six rounds of sanctions on Russia since President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces into Ukraine on Feb. 24. Banks, companies and markets have been hit — even parts of the sensitive energy sector — and more than 1,200 officials have been targeted with travel bans nd having their assets frozen.

What could have taken years to agree on in the past was achieved in just over three months — relative light speed for the EU. But European economies already battered by the COVID-19 pandemic are now fighting high inflation, with skyrocketing electricity and natural gas prices.

The spur for the EU to act again was the announcement that Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine plan to hold referendums on becoming part of Russia. This could allow Moscow to escalate the war, especially after Putin’s decision to call up 300,000 military reservists.

2:30 p.m.:

2:10 p.m.: World leaders at the United Nations on Thursday called for Moscow to be held accountable for human rights violations in Ukraine as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended Moscow's war and accused its neighbor of committing atrocities.

Addressing a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on atrocities committed in Ukraine since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion, Lavrov accused Ukraine of creating threats against Russian security and "brazenly trampling" the rights of Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine.

"I can assure you that we will never accept this," said Lavrov, who came to the council chamber to speak and then left. "Everything I've said today simply confirms that the decision to conduct the special military operation was inevitable."

He said countries supplying weapons to Ukraine and training its soldiers were parties to the conflict, adding that "the intentional fomenting of this conflict by the collective West remained unpunished."

The Security Council meeting on Thursday took place during the annual gathering of world leaders for the U.N. General Assembly.

The council has been unable to take any meaningful action on Ukraine because Russia is a permanent veto-wielding member along with the United States, France, Britain and China. Thursday's meeting is at least the 20th time the Security Council has met on Ukraine this year.

1:45 p.m.:

1:20 p.m.: Finland said on Thursday it was considering barring most Russians from entering the country as traffic across the border from its eastern neighbor “intensified” following President Vladimir Putin’s order for a partial military mobilization, Reuters reported.

Finnish land border crossings have remained among the few entry points into Europe for Russians after a string of Western countries shut both physical frontiers and their air space to Russian planes in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Thursday the government was assessing risks posed by individuals travelling through Finland, and was considering ways to sharply reduce Russian transit.

“The government’s will is very clear, we believe Russian tourism (to Finland) must be stopped, as well as transit through Finland,” Marin told reporters.

“I believe the situation needs to be reassessed after yesterday’s news,” she added, referring to Putin’s partial mobilization order.

1:05 p.m.: The three Baltic states say they are not prepared to automatically offer asylum to Russians fleeing mobilization into the military, hoping that discontent with the Russian authorities will grow at home instead, The Associated Press reported.

Large numbers of Russians rushed Wednesday to book one-way tickets out of the country after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of military reservists for the war in Ukraine.

There was little sign of any pressure at the borders of the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania after those countries closed their borders to most Russians earlier in the week.

On Wednesday, Estonian Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “the collective responsibility of Russian citizens” and argued that allowing in those fleeing possible army service would violate European Union sanctions aimed at Moscow.

“Putin’s latest move in some ways reinforces the sanctions we have imposed to date, because it will hopefully increase discontent among the population,” Laanemets was quoted by BNS as saying.

“It is no longer just professional soldiers, people from remote regions or convicts who are being sent to the front, but the desire is for everyone to be relegated to cannon fodder,” he said.

12:30 p.m.: The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) on Thursday tweeted a link to its Ukraine humanitarian tracking tool graphic, the Data Explorer.

12 p.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on UN Security Council members to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning that the Kremlin leader’s invasion of Ukraine and attempts to annex more of its territory was threatening to destroy the international order, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Putin is pushing four Kremlin-controlled territories of Ukraine to hold disputed votes for annexation into the Russian Federation beginning on September 23 amid the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II.

“The very international order that we have gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes. We cannot -- we will not -- allow President Putin to get away with it,” Blinken said on Thursday in New York.

Blinken said international support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity is about protecting an international order, where no nation can redraw the borders of another by force.

“If we fail to defend this principle, when the Kremlin is so flagrantly violating it, we send a message to aggressors everywhere that they can ignore it, too. We put every country at risk,” he said.

He said Putin was “violently uprooting” thousands of Ukrainians and busing in Russian citizens to manipulate the results of this week's vote on annexation, calling it a “diabolical strategy.”

The top U.S. diplomat also told the Security Council there is “mounting” proof of Russian war crimes in Ukraine and said he supported international efforts to collect and examine the evidence. He described the violence as a “pattern” of behavior by Russian soldiers and not isolated acts of rogue units.

11:50 a.m.:

11:35 a.m.: Yaryna Herashchenko had not heard from her boyfriend since he surrendered in May when the steelworks he was defending in southeast Ukraine fell to Russian forces - but on Thursday she finally got the message she had so longed to hear, Reuters reported.

"Good morning once again, my darling! At the moment everything is good here," Ihor, 32, said in an audio message to Herashchenko after his release along with more than 200 other Ukrainians in a prisoner swap on Wednesday with Russia.

Asked how she felt on getting news about the swap, Herashchenko said: "Happiness, shock, tears, joy – a whole spectrum of emotions ..."

The 29-year-old has not seen Ihor since August 2021. He serves in the Azov Regiment and had been holed up for months in the besieged steelworks in the port city of Mariupol. She asked that his surname not be used in this article.

Herashchenko, speaking to Reuters in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, said she had last heard from Ihor on May 17 when he messaged her to say he was leaving the Azovstal steel plant and would not be reachable.

Wednesday's prisoner swap, the largest since Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, involved almost 300 people in total, including 55 Russians and pro-Moscow Ukrainians, 10 foreigners and the commanders who led the defense of Mariupol.

11:15 a.m.: The U.N. Secretary General on Thursday thanked Turkey and Saudi Arabia for their roles in securing the recent prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine, VOA’s U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer reported. Also, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday tweeted that he had thanked Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his role in facilitating the exchange.

11:05 a.m.: Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanged missile and artillery barrages on Thursday as both sides refused to concede ground despite recent military setbacks for Moscow and the toll on the invaded country after almost seven months of war, The Associated Press reported.

Russian missile strikes in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia left one person dead and five wounded, Ukrainian officials said. Officials in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk said Ukrainian shelling killed at least six people.

While the hostilities continued, the two sides did manage to agree on a major prisoner swap. At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin began calling up reserve troops to supplement his forces in Ukraine.

The continuation of Russian missile attacks and beginning of a partial mobilization of Russians into the armed forces suggested the Kremlin was seeking to dispel any notion of weakness or waning determination to achieve its wartime aims in light of recent battlefield losses and other setbacks that undercut the aura of Russian military might.

Putin’s order Wednesday of a partial mobilization of reservists to bolster his forces in Ukraine sparked rare protests in dozens of Russian cities and was derided in the West as an act of weakness and desperation. More than 1,300 Russians were arrested in the anti-war demonstrations, according to the independent Russian human rights group OVD-Info.

Putin’s partial call-up was short on details, raising concerns of a wider draft that sent some Russians scrambling to buy plane tickets to flee the country. One Russian man who arrived in the Armenian capital’s airport with his 17-year-old son said he had made plans for such a scenario.

10:50 a.m.:

10:35 a.m.: Ukraine's energy minister German Galushchenko discussed the possibility of sanctions on Russia's nuclear power supplier Rosatom with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at talks in the United States, Ukraine's energy ministry said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

"German Galushchenko emphasized that the Russian state corporation Rosatom takes direct part in the aggression against Ukraine and covers up acts of nuclear terrorism," the ministry wrote on its website.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said last month it was "not normal" that Western countries have not yet imposed sanctions on Rosatom.

10:20 a.m.:

10 a.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Western counterparts are preparing to face off with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over alleged Russian atrocities committed in Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The officials, as well as Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, are expected to meet at a session of the UN Security Council on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York on Thursday.

Lavrov walked out of a meeting of the Group of 20 foreign ministers in July when Russia came under criticism for its war against Ukraine. It is expected that Lavrov will fill Russia's seat on the council during the Thursday meeting.

Ukraine, the United States, and other countries have accused Russia of committing numerous war crimes on Ukrainian soil since its unprovoked invasion in February.

In a prerecorded message to the General Assembly on September 21, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded that a special United Nations tribunal impose "just punishment" on Russia for its invasion.

Earlier the same day, U.S. President Joe Biden said Moscow "shamelessly violated the core tenets" of the UN Charter with its "brutal, needless war."

Ukraine's chief war crimes prosecutor is reportedly investigating nearly 26,000 suspected war crimes since Russia's invasion in February.

9:45 a.m.:

9:30 a.m.: A ship carrying 30,000 tons of wheat destined for Afghanistan has left the Ukrainian port of Odesa, the Kyiv Independent reported Thursday.

“In total, Ukraine has exported 4.4 million metric tons of agricultural products since it signed the UN-backed grain deal with Russia in July,” it said, quoting the Infrastructure Ministry.

9:15 a.m.: The Kremlin on Thursday said reports of an exodus of draft-age men from Russia after President Vladimir Putin's announcement of a partial mobilization were "exaggerated," Reuters reported.

In a call with reporters, Peskov said: "The information about the hype at airports and so on is very much exaggerated ... There is a lot of fake information about this. We need to be very careful about this so as not to become a victim of false information on this matter."

Since President Putin declared a partial mobilization of reservists on Wednesday, flights for the coming days from Russia to nearby countries including Armenia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Serbia have sold out entirely. Lengthy tailbacks were reported at Russia's borders with Georgia, Finland, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

Prices for air tickets out of Moscow soared above $5,000 for one-way flights to the nearest foreign locations, with most sold out for coming days. Traffic also surged at border crossings with Finland and Georgia.

One Russian man arriving at Istanbul Airport said he left partly over the Kremlin's decision. "It can lead to lots of problems for lots of Russians," said Alex, grabbing his suitcase at a baggage carousel.

Social media groups popped up with advice on how to get out of Russia while one news site in Russian gave a list of "where to run away right now from Russia."

9:05 a.m.:

8:55 a.m.: At least six civilians including a teenager were killed in a missile strike on the center of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk on Thursday, Russian-backed authorities said, according to Reuters.

Russian-installed separatists blamed Ukrainian forces for the strike on a covered market in the center of the city, capital of the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), which is about to hold a referendum on joining Russia.

"Ukraine's military are firing on the centre of Donetsk," the military headquarters of the DPR said in a post on social media.

A Reuters journalist at the scene saw the body of a teenager and four others, along with several wounded citizens.

There was no immediate comment from Kyiv.

8:40 a.m.:

8:10 a.m.: A blast hit a crowded market in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol on Thursday, Ukrainian and Russian-installed officials said, on the eve of referendums that could see four regions effectively annexed by Russia, Reuters reported.

Melitopol was one of the first cities to fall into Russian hands after Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. It is in the Zaporizhzhia region, one of the four where a referendum will be held on joining Russia.

Ukrainian and Russian-installed officials traded blame for the explosion.

Melitopol's exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov said the attack had been deliberately staged by the occupying Russian forces in order to accuse Ukraine of terrorism. Fedorov said it had killed three soldiers, while the number of civilian casualties was not clear. Reuters could not independently verify the claim.

Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-installed local administration, said the attack had been carried out by Ukrainian special services to intimidate civilians ahead of the referendums.

7:50 a.m.: The U.K. government confirmed Thursday that it’s lifting a ban on fracking in England, arguing that the move will help boost the country’s energy security amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

Prime Minister Liz Truss announced within days of taking office earlier this month that she would reverse a 2019 ban on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial technique used to extract oil and gas from shale rock. Truss said she “will not be going ahead with anything that carries a risk,” but stressed that “energy security is vital.”

Britain needs to “explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production -– so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realize any potential sources of domestic gas,” business and energy secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said Thursday.

Fracking involves injecting high-pressure water deep underground to extract oil or gas from rock. Environmental groups have long opposed the practice, saying it can pollute groundwater and contributes to climate change.

7:35 a.m.: The European Commission on Thursday tweeted about its REPowerEU plan, which aims “to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels well before 2030, in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

7:20 a.m.: President Emmanuel Macron was set to unveil a plan on Thursday to boost renewable energy in France, including offshore wind farms and solar power, as the country is lagging behind most of its European neighbors, The Associated Press reported.

The move comes amid a major energy crisis in Europe, aggravated by Russia’s war in Ukraine, as Macron wants the country to gain more independence in terms of electricity production.

Macron went on a boat Thursday to visit France’s first offshore wind farm off the port of Saint-Nazaire in western France. He was scheduled to detail in a speech later Thursday a range of measures meant to facilitate and accelerate renewable energy projects, according to the French presidency. A bill will be presented next week at a Cabinet meeting.

France’s energy strategy has long relied on developing nuclear power — based on imported uranium— which provides about 67% of French electricity, more than any other country. But relieving France’s dependence on global gas and oil producers also involves boosting renewable energy, he said.

7:05 a.m.: Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday that any weapons in Moscow's arsenal, including strategic nuclear weapons, could be used to defend territories incorporated in Russia from Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, said that referendums being organized by Russian-installed and separatist authorities in large swathes of Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory will take place, and that "there is no going back."

"The Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk) republics and other territories will be accepted into Russia."

Medvedev said the protection of all the territories would be significantly strengthened by the Russian armed forces, adding:

"Russia has announced that not only mobilization capabilities, but also any Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons and weapons based on new principles, could be used for such protection."

6:55 a.m.:

6:40 a.m.: The head of the UN nuclear agency says he will not abandon a plan to create a protection zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine and hopes to go to Ukraine and Russia soon to push for an agreement, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Thursday.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told reporters at the United Nations in New York on September 21 that the situation at the plant "is still getting worse and we can't wait for something regrettable to happen."

Grossi said he was now entering "real negotiations" with both countries and wanted an agreement on a protection zone as soon as possible.

"Even in the worst of conditions diplomacy should never stop. We can't throw our hands up and say look at what's being said, go away and hope that something will happen to solve this situation," Grossi said. "It's our responsibility to do it by proposing pragmatic, realistic, and physical proposals on the table."

6:20 a.m.: U.N. agencies working in Ukraine have provided over 13 million people with humanitarian assistance, and are now beginning to reach thousands more in newly accessible areas that were previously occupied by Russian forces.

6:05 a.m.: The Associated Press reported Thursday that after two years of discourse dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s U.N. General Assembly has a new occupant of center stage: the war in Ukraine.

The pleas made by leaders from around the world for peace were both an altruistic amplification of besieged Ukrainians’ plight as well as born from self-interest. As several speeches made clear, the repercussions of the Russian invasion have been felt even thousands of miles away.

On the first day alone, Ukraine drew more than 150 mentions across speeches from leaders, including the U.N. secretary-general. Antonio Guterres opened the General Assembly by touting Ukraine and Russia’s deal — with the help of Turkey — over grain shipments as an example of successful multilateral diplomacy.

The war was threaded throughout his speech, as he turned to its gloomier yields. “The fighting has claimed thousands of lives. Millions have been displaced. Billions across the world are affected,” he said.

The theme of territorial sovereignty resonated in other speeches, as countries who have faced infringements invoked their own traumas or cited the fate of Ukraine as a fear.

5:50 a.m.: Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded that a special United Nations tribunal impose "just punishment" on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine in a video address to the UN General Assembly just hours after U.S. President Joe Biden said Moscow "shamelessly violated the core tenets" of the UN Charter with its "brutal, needless war," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

In his prerecorded address to world leaders on September 21, the Ukrainian president demanded Russia be punished "for trying to steal our territory" and "for the murders of thousands of people." He said there also should be financial penalties and Moscow should be stripped of its veto power in the Security Council.

"A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand just punishment," said Zelenskyy, who is the only world leader permitted to address the General Assembly in a video message. "A special tribunal should be created to punish Russia for the crime of aggression against our state.... Russia should pay for this war with its assets," he said.

Zelenskyy, wearing his signature olive-green military T-shirt, said a special tribunal would hold Russia accountable and provide a "signal to all would-be aggressors."

The General Assembly responded with a rare standing ovation.

5:40 a.m.: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed as "superheroes" the senior Ukrainian commanders, including those who led the dogged defense of Mariupol, who were freed by Russia as part of an unexpected prisoner swap involving almost 300 people, including foreigners, Reuters reported Thursday.

Under the terms of the deal, which Turkey helped to broker, 215 Ukrainians - most of whom were captured after the fall of the port city - were released on Wednesday. In exchange, Ukraine sent back 55 Russians and pro-Moscow Ukrainians.

"Five superheroes have been exchanged for 55 of those who deserve neither compassion nor pity," Zelenskyy said in a night-time address that welcomed the broader release as "a victory for the country."

There was no immediate comment from Moscow about the deal. Ukrainians cheered the swap.

"We live for the soldiers. They are our pride, our glory, our joy – our boys. I only hope everyone can be freed. And that our mother-Ukraine is freed too," 55-year-old Kyiv resident Tamara Herasymenko said.

5:35 a.m.:

5:27 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said that Russia's plan to mobilize additional troops is problematic.

Russia is likely to struggle with the logistical and administrative challenges of even mustering the 300,000 personnel, the update said, and the move is effectively an admission that Russia has exhausted its supply of willing volunteers to fight in Ukraine.

4:28 a.m.: North Korea on Thursday denied sending weapons to Russia, accusing the United States of spreading rumors about such a sale to tarnish Pyongyang’s image.

U.S. officials earlier this month said Russia was in the process of “purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for use on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

In a statement posted in the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a North Korean defense ministry official rejected the U.S. accusation.

3:31 a.m.: The latest Ukraine assessment from the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said Ukrainian forces conducted strikes north and east of Kherson City as part of an operational-level interdiction campaign against Russian logistics, military, and transportation assets in Kherson Oblast. Ukrainian forces also likely continued offensive operations around Lyman.

2:27 a.m.: In Moscow's first update on casualty numbers in almost six months, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed since the start of the conflict.

Shoigu dismissed assertions by Kyiv and the West that Russia has suffered heavy losses in its seven-month campaign and said 90% of wounded Russian soldiers had returned to the front line.

It was the first time Russia had given an official death toll since March 25, when it said 1,351 servicemen had died.

The U.S. Pentagon said in August that it believed between 70,000 and 80,000 Russian personnel had been killed or wounded, and in July estimated Russia's death toll at around 15,000.

1:25 a.m.: Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the worst fighting in Europe in decades, Agence France-Presse reported.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said it has recorded 5,916 deaths, including 379 children, with 8,616 injured by Sept. 18.

But the real toll is believed to be several times that.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in April he believed that "tens of thousands" of people had been killed in the destroyed port city of Mariupol alone.

12:02 a.m.: The war in Ukraine has sparked the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, Agence France-Presse reported.

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees said 7.4 million Ukrainians had fled abroad by Sept. 20, with Russia itself taking 2.6 million, followed by Poland (1.4 million) and Germany (1 million).

The figure does not take account of the number of Ukrainians who have returned to areas that have been liberated from Russian control.

The UNHCR said 5.9 million people had crossed land borders into Ukraine since February, without estimating how many were returnees.

Some information in this report came from Agence France-Presse.

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