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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Sept. 28

People stand by a crater left near a railway yard of the freight railway station in Kharkiv, which was partially destroyed by a missile strike, Sept. 28, 2022.
People stand by a crater left near a railway yard of the freight railway station in Kharkiv, which was partially destroyed by a missile strike, Sept. 28, 2022.

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

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

11:20 p.m.: Ukraine is determined to reclaim territory that Russia is likely to annex following stage-managed voting in occupied areas and takes seriously Moscow’s threats to use nuclear weapons in the war with its neighbor, an adviser to Ukraine’s president said Wednesday.

In an interview with The Associated Press in Kyiv, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak insisted that nothing would change on the battlefield if Russia moves to incorporate four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine in the coming days, as is widely expected.

“We will liberate our territory by military means,” Podolyak said. “And for us, our actions depend not so much on what the Russian Federation thinks or wants, but on the military capabilities that Ukraine has.”​

9:31 p.m.: Rowing past their severed road bridge, Ukrainians return to liberated villages, Reuters reported Wednesday.

7:18 p.m.: Kyiv said on Wednesday that Moscow-orchestrated votes on becoming part of Russia held in four Ukrainian regions partially controlled by Russian troops and proxies were "null and worthless," and called on the West to "significantly" increase its military aid to Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Russian-backed officials had announced the final results earlier, saying voters had "overwhelmingly" supported becoming part of Russia. Two Moscow-appointed regional heads sent "requests" to join Russia shortly after.

Referendums that the West and United Nations have called “sham” votes took place between September 23-27 in the parts of the Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Kherson regions that are under Moscow's military occupation. The territories account for about 15% of Ukraine's territory.

The move has been dismissed by Ukraine, Western governments, and the United Nations as illegal under international law.

6:22 p.m.: Norway will deploy its military to protect its oil and gas installations against possible sabotage after two Russian pipelines transporting gas to Europe had been damaged, the prime minister said on Wednesday. The resulting gas leaks on the Nord Stream pipelines have roiled energy markets and heightened security concerns, Reuters reported.

5:29 p.m.: Finland has shut down a section of one of its main highways for five days for the first time in decades to allow its fighter jets to practice landings and take-offs on a reserve road runway, Reuters reported.

The Nordic country, which is applying for NATO membership following neighboring Russia's invasion of Ukraine, has a dozen similar reserve runways designed for wartime use around the country.

But the reserve road base located in Joutsa, Central Finland, has not been used for decades due to its importance as the main highway connecting the capital Helsinki to the more northern parts of the country.

Nevertheless, it took the Air Force only a few days to clear the roadsides and prepare the site for the exercise in which some 200 staff and Finland's F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets, older Hawk Mk 51 trainer planes and other military aircraft participate, the head of Finnish Air Force Academy, Colonel Vesa Mantyla said.

4:10 p.m.: The U.S. will provide an additional $1.1 billion in aid to Ukraine, with funding for about 18 more advanced rocket systems and other weapons to counter drones that Russia has been using against Ukrainian troops, the Biden administration announced Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

The latest package is being provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which funds contracts to purchase weapons and equipment. And it brings the total of U.S. aid to Ukraine to nearly $17 billion since the Biden administration took office.

The aid announcement comes as Russia moves to annex parts of Russian-occupied Ukraine that held Kremlin-orchestrated referendums on living under Moscow’s rule. The votes were denounced by Kyiv and the West as illegal and rigged.

4:04 p.m.:

4:07 p.m.:

4:12 p.m.:

3:21 p.m.:

2:30 p.m.:

2:10 p.m.: Prime Minister Liz Truss told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday that Britain would never recognize Russian attempts to annex its territory, a spokesperson for her office said following a call between the pair, Reuters reported.

"The prime minister made clear that the UK would never recognize Russian attempts to annex sovereign territory. She reiterated that Ukraine could depend on the UK’s support until President Putin was defeated," the spokesperson said.

The two leaders also discussed how to work together to secure gas supplies in the long term, the spokesperson added.

1:40 p.m.:

1:15 p.m.: Moscow will not give out passports to Russians mobilized by the army, a government information portal said Wednesday, as fears of travel restrictions rise and tens of thousands flee the country, Agence France-Presse reported.

"If a citizen is summoned for army service or received a summons (for mobilization), he will be refused a passport," the government website said.

It added that those who are not issued a passport will be notified how long the hold will be in place.

Since President Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization to prop up the Russian army in Ukraine, tens of thousands have crossed into neighboring countries to evade the draft.

Many have feared that men of military age would be barred from leaving the country, with reports that some have already been turned away.

Only a minority of Russians hold a passport that allows them to leave the country.

12:45 p.m.:

12:10 p.m.: Russia has asked for a U.N. Security Council briefing tomorrow on the attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, VOA’s U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer reported. It requested the head of the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs to brief. The meeting has been scheduled for Friday afternoon.

11:50 a.m.: Russia's North Ossetia republic on Wednesday imposed restrictions on cars arriving from other parts of the country as an exodus of military-age men led to a queue of over 3,000 vehicles at the region's Verkhny Lars crossing point into Georgia, Reuters reported.

North Ossetia Governor Sergei Menyailo said the ban was being introduced after 20,000 people crossed the border in two days, with far more remaining in line.

"We will not be physically able to ensure order and security if this flow continues to grow," he said on Telegram.

Menyailo said the ban would not apply to residents or tourists, or to cars entering from Georgia or its breakaway South Ossetia region.

11:20 a.m.: Months after their mother was killed in an air strike on Kramatorsk railway station in Ukraine's Donetsk region, two grieving sisters are struggling without their mom. Thirteen-year-old Kateryna and her 8-year-old sister, Yulia, are now living with their aunt and grandmother in Kyiv. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

11:05 a.m.: Russia’s Balkan ally Serbia says it won’t recognize the expected annexation of four Russian-held territories in Ukraine where separation referendums were held this week, The Associated Press reported.

President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters Wednesday that Serbia “won’t and can’t” endorse the votes also because of Kosovo, whose 2008 declaration of independence Belgrade does not accept.

“We are protecting our own territorial integrity and it is in our best interest to protect the territorial integrity of internationally recognized countries,” said Vucic. “That is the only thing that cannot change, those things are crucial for us.”

Serbia maintains close relations with Russia despite the war in Ukraine and has refused to join Western sanctions, although the Balkan nation is formally seeking to join the European Union. Belgrade in the past several days has faced criticism for signing a foreign policy agreement with Russia.

10:55 a.m.: Thousands of Czechs protested in Prague on Wednesday against the government’s handling of soaring energy prices which have cut into pocketbooks as winter approaches, Reuters reported.

The demonstration on a national holiday in Prague’s main square, organized by a number of far-right and fringe parties including the Communists, followed a similar protest earlier in September that drew tens of thousands of people.

The organizing group “Czech Republic First!” opposes the European Union and NATO and calls for the central European nation of 10.7 million to be militarily neutral.

The Czech Republic is a member of both the EU and NATO.

10:40 a.m.:

10:15 a.m.: India is articulating its position against the Ukraine war more robustly to counter criticism that it is soft on Russia, but it still has not held Moscow responsible for the invasion and will not alter its policy on importing cheap Russian oil and coal, Reuters reported Wednesday.

In their first in-person meeting since the February 24 invasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told President Vladimir Putin earlier this month that "today's era is not an era of war" - the clearest position New Delhi has taken on the conflict.

India's foreign minister followed up last week at the U.N. Security Council, describing the trajectory of the Ukraine war as "very concerning" and the risk of a nuclear escalation as of "particular anxiety".

Analysts said New Delhi's shift, even though nuanced, reflected concern about the growing economic costs of the conflict and how it would affect India. Russia's first mobilisation of troops since World War Two marks a major escalation of the conflict that has thrown markets into turmoil and threatens a global recession.

10:00 a.m.: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell scheduled an announcement on Wednesday on plans for a tightening of sanctions against Russia.

Ukraine has urged the European Union to impose economic sanctions on Russia to punish it for staging annexation votes in four occupied regions.

The bloc is looking at an oil price cap, tighter curbs on high-tech exports to Russia and more sanctions against individuals, diplomats have said.

9:45 a.m.: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says separation referendums in four Russia-controlled regions in Ukraine complicate efforts to seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict, The Associated Press reported.

Erdogan’s comments were carried in a statement from his office issued after a phone call Wednesday with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Erdogan also reiterated during the call Turkey’s readiness to “make the necessary contribution” for a peaceful resolution of the war, offering to act as a mediator or facilitator for the establishment of a demilitarized zone around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

9:20 a.m.:

9:05 a.m.: The U.S. government on Wednesday issued a security alert for U.S. citizens in Russia, warning them that some dual nationals could be caught up in Russia’s mobilization campaign, and urging U.S. citizens to leave as soon as possible.

“On September 21, the Russian government began a mobilization of its citizens to the armed forces in support of its invasion of Ukraine,” the statement said.

“Russia may refuse to acknowledge dual nationals’ U.S. citizenship, deny their access to U.S. consular assistance, prevent their departure from Russia, and conscript dual nationals for military service,” it warned.

The statement went on to note that commercial flight operations out of Russia are “extremely limited” and that anyone planning to depart Russia should make “independent arrangements” as soon as possible.

“The U.S. Embassy has severe limitations on its ability to assist U.S. citizens, and conditions, including transportation options, may suddenly become even more limited,” the statement said.

8:45 a.m.:

8:30 a.m.: Entire villages emptied out as Ukrainians fled from Russian annexation, Reuters reported Wednesday.

"It's funny. Nobody voted, yet the results are in," laughed Lyubomir Boyko, 43, from Golo Pristan, a village in Russian-occupied Kherson province as he waited on Wednesday outside a United Nations aid office with his family at a refugee reception center.

As Russia prepares to annex a swathe of Ukrainian territory the size of Portugal after staging what it calls referendums in four occupied provinces, Ukrainians who have been able to escape describe an exercise that would be funny if it were not so menacing.

"They can announce anything they want. Nobody voted in the referendum except a few people who switched sides. They went from house to house, but nobody came out," Boyko said.

He, his wife and their two children had arrived at the aid center in the parking lot of a home improvement store in Ukrainian-held Zaporizhzhia city the previous day, after waiting for two days before Russian forces abruptly allowed them out through the last checkpoint.

8:15 a.m.:

8:00 a.m.: Moscow said on Wednesday that training for newly mobilized reservists had started across Russia, in places including the Rostov region on the Ukrainian border and the Crimean peninsula seized from Ukraine in 2014, Reuters reported.

The Defense Ministry said on its Telegram channel that training had also begun in the Kaliningrad exclave, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

In Rostov, where Russian forces massed before invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, the ministry said all personnel had already been "provided with the necessary clothing, received weapons and started firing training."

President Vladimir Putin last week ordered Russia's first military mobilization since World War Two, which could see hundreds of thousands more men sent to fight in Ukraine.

7:50 a.m.:

7:35 a.m.: Russia fired a salvo of missiles at Ukraine's second city Kharkiv overnight, officials said on Wednesday, hitting a railway yard and knocking out power to more than 18,000 households, Agence France-Presse reported.

Kharkiv governor Oleg Synegubov said Russian forces had fired S-300 missiles, an anti-aircraft weapon now often re-purposed to hit civilian targets in Ukrainian cities. The Kharkiv regional emergency service said the blasts, which were audible in the city center at around 9:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Tuesday, destroyed an electrical transformer and hit a workshop.

No casualties were reported, but the regional energy company said 18,500 customers in the Shevchenkivsky, Kholodnogirsky and Novobavarsky districts of the city had lost electricity.

Kharkiv residents in these districts woke to find their power cut and commuter trams marooned without current in the streets. The Ukrainian presidency said six people had been wounded in shelling in the broader Kharkiv region over the previous 24 hours.

At the railway yard, AFP reporters found fire crews extinguishing a fire left by at least two strikes that demolished an office, ripped up tracks and destroyed parked wagons.

7:20 a.m.:

7:00 a.m.: The Kremlin on Wednesday said claims that Russia was somehow behind an attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines were stupid, adding that Moscow saw a sharp increase the profits of U.S. companies supplying gas to Europe, according to Reuters.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a daily conference call with reporters that the incident needed to be investigated and the timings for repair of the damaged pipelines were not clear.

Europe has been investigating what Germany, Denmark and Sweden said were attacks which had caused major leaks into the Baltic Sea from two Russian gas pipelines at the center of an energy standoff.

6:40 a.m.:

6:25 a.m.: The Kremlin on Wednesday said that the "special military operation" in Ukraine must continue until Russia takes full control of east Ukraine's Donetsk region.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the military campaign in Ukraine would continue "at a minimum" until the "liberation" of the "Donetsk People's Republic," referring to the region's Russian-backed administration.

6 a.m.: German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke ruled out extending the lifespans of two nuclear plants beyond the coming winter after the government said it was planning for them to stay operational for three months longer than previously planned.

Germany had intended to complete a phase-out of nuclear power by the end of this year but a collapse in energy supplies from Russia because of the war in Ukraine has prompted the government to keep two plants on standby until April.

"I rule out extending the running time beyond the coming winter and the necessary purchase of new fuel elements," said Lemke, a member of the Greens party, in a statement on Wednesday.

5:40 a.m.: Following a hastily organized referendum that the West has denounced as an illegitimate sham, the Russian-installed administrator of Ukraine's Luhansk region said on Wednesday that he had formally asked President Vladimir Putin to incorporate the region into Russia, Reuters reported.

"Taking into account the fact that the population of the republic approved the decision in the referendum, I ask you to consider the issue of Luhansk People's Republic becoming a part of Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation," separatist leader Leonid Pasechnik said.

5 a.m.: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday attributed the leaks on the Nord Stream pipelines to acts of sabotage and said he had discussed the protection of critical infrastructure in NATO countries with the Danish defense minister.

"Discussed the sabotage on the NorthStream pipelines with Defence Minister Morten Bødskov," he said on Twitter.

"We addressed the protection of critical infrastructure in NATO countries."

4:30 a.m.: Russian-installed officials in occupied regions of Ukraine said Wednesday they would ask President Vladimir Putin to incorporate the territories into Russia, The Associated Press reported.

Pro-Moscow officials in the eastern Luhansk region and partially occupied southern region of Zaporizhzhia said they will make the request later on Wednesday, while officials in the neighboring Kherson region said they will do so "in the coming days."

Separatist officials in the Donetsk region, large swaths of which still remain under Ukrainian control, are expected to follow suit.

Pro-Moscow administrations of all four occupied regions of Ukraine said Tuesday night that their residents had voted to join Russia. Western officials have dismissed the referendums as illegal, but Putin is likely to use them to declare annexation of the four regions.

4:15 a.m.: The last three Turkish banks still processing Russian Mir bank cards are pulling out of the arrangement under pressure from the United States, a senior Turkish official told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday.

The decision follows weeks of intensifying pressure from Washington for NATO member Turkey to limit its booming economic relations with Russia.

The US Treasury warned last week that Turkish banks working with the Russian cards "risk supporting Russia's efforts to evade U.S. sanctions" and could be sanctioned themselves.

4 a.m.: Denmark's defense minister said on Wednesday there is reason to be concerned about the security situation in the Baltic Sea region, highlighting the suspected sabotage on the two Nord Stream pipelines as the latest example, Reuters reported.

"Russia has a significant military presence in the Baltic Sea region and we expect them to continue their saber-rattling," Morten Bodskov said in a statement following a meeting with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels.

3:35 a.m.: Russia's Gazprom said it "categorically rejects all claims" by Naftogaz of Ukraine regarding initiated proceedings on transit of Russian gas to Europe.

3 a.m.: Ukrainian foreign ministry urged the EU, NATO and G-7 to increase military aid to Ukraine. The ministry said its international partners should impose tough new sanctions on Moscow and provide Kyiv with more military aid, and that "Ukraine will never agree to any ultimatums."

The ministry said that Russian-staged votes in four Ukrainian regions on becoming part of Russia were "null and worthless," and that Kyiv would press on with efforts to liberate Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces.

2:35 a.m.: EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Wednesday slammed "illegal" annexation votes Russia held in four occupied regions of Ukraine and their "falsified" results, Agence France-Presse reported.

"EU denounces holding of illegal 'referenda' and their falsified outcome," Borrell said on Twitter.

"This is another violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, amidst systematic abuses of human rights," he said.

2:15 a.m.: Foreign Minister Ann Linde told SVT public television on Wednesday that the suspected sabotage against the Nord Stream gas pipelines does not constitute an attack on Sweden, Reuters reported.

"This is not an attack against Sweden because it is not in our territory" Linde said. "It is an international incident."

She said U.S. Secretary Anthony Blinken had offered support to find out what had happened and that both the EU and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had been informed.

Denmark and Sweden on Tuesday said major leaks on the two Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea were caused by deliberate acts of sabotage carried out in each of the two countries' exclusive economic zones.

The blasts were outside of Swedish or Danish territorial waters; however, the countries have said.

The blasts hitting Nord Stream 1 and 2 did not represent a direct military threat or attack on Sweden or Denmark, the Swedish and Danish prime ministers said late on Tuesday.

1:45 a.m.: Nationalist leader Giorgia Meloni, set to become Italy's next prime minister, has pledged her full support for Kyiv after receiving congratulations from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy for her election victory.

In a Tweet late on Tuesday, a day after Meloni and her right-wing allies won a commanding parliamentary majority, Zelenskiyy said he was looking forward to "fruitful cooperation with the new government."

Meloni replied swiftly. "Dear (Zelenskiy), you know that you can count on our loyal support for the cause of freedom of Ukrainian people. Stay strong and keep your faith steadfast!" she wrote in English on Twitter.

Meloni has been one of the few Italian political leaders to wholeheartedly endorse outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi's decision to ship weapons to Ukraine, even though she was in opposition to his government.

By contrast, Meloni's two political allies, the League and Forza Italia, which were both in Draghi's coalition, have been much more ambivalent, reflecting their historically close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Underscoring the depth of those ties, Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi said last week that Putin had been "pushed" into invading Ukraine and had wanted to put "decent people" in charge of Kyiv.

1:20 a.m.: Russia's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that newly mobilized reservists in the Kaliningrad region have started combat training at the base of Russia's Baltic Fleet, Reuters reported.

"All mobilized military personnel comply with the standards for shooting from small arms. In addition, citizens called up from the reserve restore their skills in the operation and maintenance of weapons, military and special equipment," the ministry said on its Telegram channel.

Courses have been also held to increase firing skills and prepare military personnel for "confident actions on the battlefield."

President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia's first military mobilization since World War Two last week, which could see hundreds of thousands more people sent to fight in Ukraine.

Russia has a significant military presence in Kaliningrad, a Russian Baltic coast enclave located between NATO and European Union members Poland and Lithuania, including nuclear-capable missiles, its Baltic fleet and tens of thousands of soldiers.

12:30 a.m.: Canada will impose new sanctions over Russia's "sham" referendums in four occupied regions of Ukraine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Trudeau said Canada would never recognize the results of the referendums or Russia's attempted illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories.

"We intend to impose new sanctions against persons and entities that are complicit in this latest attempt to undermine the principles of state sovereignty, and that share responsibility for the ongoing senseless bloodshed across Ukraine," Trudeau said in a statement.

Russian-installed officials in four occupied regions of Ukraine reported huge majorities on Tuesday in favor of becoming part of Russia after five days of voting.

Trudeau said Canada was engaging with international partners and allies for a united rejection of the "illegitimate votes."

12:01 a.m.: Sabotage is suspected in multiple ruptures of the two Nord Stream natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

"The leaks are under investigation. There are initial reports indicating that this may be the result of an attack or some kind of sabotage," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Tuesday. "But if it is confirmed, that's clearly in no one's interest."

"I'm not going to speculate on the cause" of the leaks, replied White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to questions about the incident, adding that she had nothing to report on whether the United States had been requested by European officials to help determine the cause of the ruptures.

The 1,222 kilometer-long Nord Stream 1 pipeline has been, until recently, a major source of gas for Germany. Nord Stream 2, which is 1,234 kilometers in length, has yet to go into commercial operation. VOA's Chief National Correspondent Steve Herman has this report with contributions from VOA's White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara and VOA’s State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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