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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Sept. 30

Russian recruits gather to take a train at a railway station in Prudboi, Volgograd region of Russia, Sept. 29, 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.:

8:55 p.m.:

8:11 p.m.: A judge on Ukraine’s Supreme Court, Bohdan Lvov, has become the subject of a criminal probe by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and an inquiry by the Security Service of Ukraine following a September 15 report by Schemes, the investigative unit of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, which found that he has Russian citizenship.

Amid heightened wartime worries about public officials’ ties to Russia, the investigations mark the highest-level government scrutiny of a judge in the Ukrainian judicial system since Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine began.

For nearly five years, Lvov, 55, has been chairman of the Supreme Court’s Commercial Court of Cassation, Ukraine’s top court for economic and property disputes, which hears cases involving major Ukrainian businesses. In that capacity, he has had access to state secrets.

7:06 p.m.: Another Russian-appointed official has been killed in Ukraine's Kherson region, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported ​Friday.

Russian-imposed authorities in Ukraine's Kherson region said on September 30 that the Moscow-appointed deputy governor of the partially occupied region, Aleksei Katerinichev, was killed in a Ukrainian missile strike.

Five days earlier, state media outlets in Russia reported that former Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Zhuravko, who joined the Russian side after Moscow troops took some parts of the Kherson region in March, was killed in a Ukrainian missile attack in the regional capital, which is also called Kherson.

Since Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in late February, there have been several attacks conducted against Russia-appointed officials in territories occupied by Moscow.

6:04 p.m.: Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday, according to The Associated Press.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed International Olympic Committee advice in February and banned Russian team and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine. With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status. “To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”
Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

5:17 p.m.: The US Congress approved $12.3 billion in aid Friday to help Ukraine battle its invasion by Russia as part of a stopgap spending bill that averts a chaotic government shutdown ahead of a midnight deadline, Agence France-Presse reported.

The package includes $3 billion for arms, supplies and salaries for Ukraine's military and authorizes President Joe Biden to direct the Pentagon to transfer $3.7 billion in weapons and other hardware to Ukraine.

The so-called "continuing resolution" -- passed by 230 votes to 201, with 10 Republicans joining the Democrats -- also provides $4.5 billion for Kyiv to keep the country's finances stable and keep the government running.

4:53 p.m.:

4:24 p.m.: During a September counteroffensive by Ukraine's armed forces, about 400 towns in the Kharkiv region were liberated from Russian occupiers. Ukrainian tank crews spoke to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty about how they launched a surprise attack, coordinated by a commander observing with a drone, that pushed out Russian troops from their fortified positions.

3:44 p.m.: Russia on Friday vetoed a Western bid at the U.N. Security Council to condemn its annexations of Ukrainian territory, with China, Brazil, Gabon and India abstaining, Agence France-Presse reported.

Russia's veto was a certainty, but Western powers will be heartened that Moscow did not find support from Beijing and will now seek to pressure Russia through a vote of the General Assembly, which includes all countries.

The United States pushed through a resolution co-sponsored with Ukraine hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow would take over areas of Ukraine seized in the invasion following Kremlin-organized referendums.

2:30 p.m.: Following years of delays and problems with its new technology, the U.S. Navy’s most advanced aircraft carrier embarks on its first deployment next week and will train with other NATO countries at a time of increasing Russian aggression in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

The USS Gerald R. Ford leaves the world’s largest Navy base in Norfolk, Virginia, Monday along with destroyers and other warships, the U.S. Navy said in a statement Thursday. The carrier strike group will join ships in the Atlantic Ocean from countries that include France, Germany and Sweden for various exercises, including anti-submarine warfare.

“The Atlantic is an area of strategic interest,” Vice Admiral Daniel Dwyer said in a statement. “Our primary goal is to contribute to a peaceful, stable and conflict-free Atlantic region through the combined naval power of our Allies and partners.”

Dwyer commands the U.S. Navy’s 2nd Fleet, which oversees American warships as they deploy between the U.S. East Coast and the Barents Sea, off of the coasts of Norway and Russia. The U.S. has sharpened its focus on the North Atlantic in recent years after the Russian military ramped up operations to a pace not seen since the end of the Cold War.

2:20 p.m.: The Democratic-led House passed a short-term spending bill on Friday that finances the federal government through mid-December and provides another infusion of military and economic aid to Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 230-201. The measure next goes to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

2:10 p.m.:

2 p.m.: Deep under water, the pipes and cables that carry the modern world’s lifeblood — energy and information — are out of sight and largely out of mind. Until, that is, something goes catastrophically wrong, The Associated Press reported Friday.

The suspected sabotage this week of gas pipelines that tied Russia and Europe together is driving home how vital yet weakly protected undersea infrastructure is vulnerable to attack, with potentially disastrous repercussions for the global economy.

It isn’t known who detonated explosions, powerful enough to be detected by earthquake monitors across the Baltic Sea, that European governments suspect were the cause of multiple punctures in the Nord Stream pipelines. The leaks released frothing torrents of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Because underwater sabotage is harder to detect and easier to deny than more readily visible attacks on the ground and in the air, the blasts also seemed to fit Russia’s military playbook for “hybrid war.” That’s the use of an array of means — military, nonmilitary and subterfuge — to destabilize, divide and pressure adversaries.

1:45 p.m.:

1:30 p.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree creating a simplified naturalization process for foreigners who join the Russian armed forces on a contractual basis, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The decree that came into force immediately after it was signed on Friday appeared on the website for Russian legislative documents.

Putin signed the decree on the same day he signed other decrees to formally seize four Ukrainian territories partially occupied by Moscow as he escalates his failing seven-month invasion.

According to the decree to simplify the naturalization process, foreigners who sign contracts on military service in the Russian armed forces for at least one year and then spend at least six months in military operations in armed conflict zones during which they are seriously wounded will be eligible to obtain Russian citizenship in a simplified and expedited way.

1:15 p.m.: Germany's embassies in countries neighboring Russia have seen a surge in visa enquiries from Russian citizens since partial mobilization for the war in Ukraine began in their home country, a source from the German foreign ministry said on Friday, according to Reuters.

"We can confirm a sharp increase in the number of enquiries sent to our foreign missions in the region, particularly by e-mail and telephone," the source told Reuters.

In some cases, people were going to the embassies in person.

Der Spiegel news magazine previously reported that German missions in Yerevan, Astana, Tbilisi, Baku and Minsk had registered thousands of requests for entry permits to Germany since President Vladimir Putin ordered the partial mobilization on Sept. 21.

An exact figure was not given because it had become impossible to process the requests within set deadlines, the report said, adding that appointments for hearings were no longer being handed out.

1 p.m.:

12:25 p.m.: The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G-7) countries condemned Russia's proclaimed annexation of four Ukrainian regions on Friday as a "new low point" in the war and vowed to take further action against Moscow, Reuters reported.

"We will never recognize these purported annexations, nor the sham 'referenda' conducted at gunpoint," said a statement from the top diplomats of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

"We will impose further economic costs on Russia, and on individuals and entities - inside and outside of Russia - that provide political or economic support to these violations of international law," it added.

12 p.m.: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg addressed the media Friday, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of four regions of Ukraine “illegal and illegitimate” and saying it amounts to “the largest attempted annexation of European territory by force since the second world war.”

“NATO allies will not and do not recognize any of this territory as part of Russia. We call on all states to reject Russia’s blatant attempts at territorial conquest. These lands are Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

The NATO chief said that now is a “pivotal moment” in the conflict. “Putin has mobilized hundreds of thousands of more troops, engaged in irresponsible nuclear saber rattling, and now illegally annexed more Ukrainian territory. Together this represents the most serious escalation since the start of the war.”

Stoltenberg said Putin bears full responsibility for the war and that it is Putin’s responsibility to end it.

“NATO reaffirms our unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. We remain resolute in providing support to Ukraine as it continues to defend itself, against Russia’s aggression,” he said.

Stoltenberg, asked about accelerated NATO membership for Ukraine, emphasized the alliance’s open-door policy but said there is a process that must be followed.

11:50 a.m.: U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday discussed concerns over Russia's attempted annexation of Ukraine territory and the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the White House said in a statement.

"In the wake of the apparent sabotage of Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea, they discussed protection of critical infrastructure," the White House statement said.

11:40 a.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday said “The United States unequivocally rejects Russia’s fraudulent attempt to change Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including by holding sham “referenda” in Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya regions.”

“This is a clear violation of international law and the United Nations Charter,” he said in a statement, adding that the U.S. and its partners would impose additional “swift and severe” sanctions against Russian leaders.

11:35 a.m.:

11:20 a.m.: British defense minister Ben Wallace met his Ukrainian counterpart in Kyiv this week to discuss the ongoing war and reiterate the country's support, the British government said on Friday, according to Reuters.

"The Defense Secretary met with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov to discuss the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s ongoing offensive to recapture and liberate territory seized in Putin’s illegal war," the government said in a statement.

"The pair also talked about the next steps in the war as Ukraine battles to free itself from Russia’s occupation, and what further support the UK can provide."

11:10 a.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden strongly condemned Russia’s attempts to annex Ukrainian territory on Friday, according to a statement issued by the White House.

“Russia is violating international law, trampling on the United Nations Charter, and showing its contempt for peaceful nations everywhere,” he said.

“Make no mistake: these actions have no legitimacy. The United States will always honor Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders,” Biden said. “We will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically, including through the $1.1 billion in additional security assistance the United States announced this week,” he added.

In response to Russia’s annexation claim, the U.S. is announcing new sanctions imposing “costs on individuals and entities -- inside and outside of Russia -- that provide political or economic support to illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory,” according to the statement.

‘I urge all members of the international community to reject Russia’s illegal attempts at annexation and to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Biden said.

10:55 a.m.: NATO was not immediately able to respond to questions about what Ukraine’s “accelerated” application to join the alliance would mean, The Associated Press reported Friday.

Ukraine is already considered an “aspirant country” for membership at the world’s biggest security alliance, along with Georgia. All 30 NATO allies would have to agree for the country to join.

NATO is wary of allowing any country to join when its borders and territory are not clearly defined. NATO’s Article 5 defense clause – the pledge that all allies must come to the aid of any ally who’s territory is under threat – would be compromised in the case of Ukraine, as its unclear what parts of the country would join.

Ukraine has officially applied for membership of the European Union but member countries have warned that it would take several years for the conflict torn country to be able to join.

10:45 a.m.: In a video address on Friday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine has applied for NATO membership.

The country should count on the NATO fast-track accession, the Kyiv Independent quoted Zelenskyy as saying.

Zelenskyy’s statement came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties to annex occupied areas of Ukraine that he warned he would protect using “all available means,” according to The Associated Press.

The Ukrainian leader’s NATO application adds another layer of complexity to the seven-month old conflict that rapidly escalated following Putin’s announcement of annexing parts of Ukraine.

10:30 a.m.: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine won't negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Kyiv Independent reported Friday.

Ukraine offered Russia "to agree on coexistence on equal, honest, dignified, and fair terms," but this is impossible with "this Russian president," the media organization reported.

"We are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but with another president of Russia," it quoted Zelenskyy as saying.

Zelenskyy also repeated his pledge to retake all Ukrainian territory now held by Russia which he said “feels our power,” The Associated Press reported.

10:20 a.m.:

9:45 a.m.: The European Union said on Friday it firmly condemned the annexation by Russia of occupied Ukraine regions, adding it would never recognize "illegal" referendums held there and would tighten its sanctions to increase pressure on Moscow, Reuters reported.

The European Council, which groups the 27 EU member states, said in a statement on behalf of those members that Russia's willful undermining of the international order was putting global security at risk.

"We do not and will never recognize the illegal 'referenda' that Russia has engineered as a pretext for this further violation of Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, nor their falsified and illegal results," the statement said.

"We will strengthen our restrictive measures countering Russia's illegal actions. They will further increase pressure on Russia to end its war of aggression," it said.

9:20 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday denied seeking to revive the Soviet Union, moments after announcing Moscow would annex four Ukrainian provinces following "referendums" decried in Kyiv and the West as a sham, Reuters reported.

In a speech from the Kremlin to hundreds of Russia's top politicians, Putin said Russia would defend its new territory with all the means at its disposal, remarks that could signal an escalation in the conflict with Ukraine.

Putin vowed to defend Russia's "homeland and values" in a defiant speech from the Kremlin in which he announced Russia was annexing four regions from Ukraine and said the West feared Russian culture.

Presenting a long list of grievances against the West, Putin accused the United States and its allies of waging a "hybrid war" against Russia and the separatist administrations it backed in eastern Ukraine.

He said the West had broken its promises to Russia and had no moral right to talk about democracy, and that the countries of the West were acting as the imperialist states that they had "always been".

9:10 a.m.:

9 a.m.: European Union countries on Friday edged toward agreeing what would be the bloc's eighth round of sanctions against Russia for waging war against Ukraine, diplomatic sources told Reuters.

The EU executive earlier this week recommended that the bloc imposes more trade curbs and individual black listings, and moves towards - rather than adopting straightaway - a price cap for Russian sea-borne oil deliveries to third countries, mostly insured by European companies.

The 27 EU countries' envoys to Brussels discussed the proposal on Friday and several sources said they hoped for a final approval next week.

"The willingness to go ahead is high, we want to be ready as soon as possible because of everything that is going on," said one senior EU diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

8:50 a.m.:

8:30 a.m.: The explosions that rocked natural gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea ahead of huge methane leaks “probably corresponded to an explosive load of several hundred kilos (pounds),” Denmark and Sweden wrote Friday in a letter to the United Nations, The Associated Press reported.

Norwegian researchers published a map Friday projecting a huge plume of methane released by the damaged Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines will travel over large swaths of the Nordic region.

Moscow has requested an emergency meeting at the U.N. Security Council to discuss the pipelines and called for a thorough international probe to assess the damage to the pipelines, which carry natural gas from Russia to Europe. Russia says “it looks like a terror attack, probably conducted on a state level.”

The suspected sabotage this week on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines have produced two methane leaks off Sweden, including a large one above North Stream 1 and a smaller one above North Stream 2, and two leaks off Denmark.

8:05 a.m.:

7:45 a.m.: Ukraine’s leaders have denounced Russia’s planned annexation of four regions in a ceremony scheduled for Friday in Moscow.

Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak warned on Twitter Friday that this and other recent actions by Russia indicate a clear escalation of the existing conflict and threaten “to bring Democracy to its knees.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that he appreciated U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ clear position against Russia’s “criminal intention” to annex more Ukrainian lands.

7:30 a.m.: The head of Russia's lower chamber of parliament said on Friday that President Vladimir Putin had notified the house about plans to admit four regions of Ukraine into Russia - a technical step toward Russia's annexation of the territories, Reuters reported.

State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, a key Putin ally, said on the Duma's official Telegram channel that Putin had informed the parliament of official requests by the regions.

Putin was due to preside over a signing ceremony with the Russian-installed heads of the four regions in the Kremlin later on Friday.

7:10 a.m.: The last major speech that Vladimir Putin delivered live came in the early hours of February 24, when the Russian president announced he was ordering tens of thousands of troops to invade Ukraine in what has become the biggest war in Europe since World War II -- and the biggest test for Putin in his 23 years in power.

His next speech, scheduled for Friday, comes at one of the most critical junctures in Putin's four terms as president.

The planned address, announced just one day in advance, dovetails with legislation moving at lightning speed through parliament aimed at annexing four regions of Ukraine that are partially occupied by Russian forces.

Putin will deliver a "voluminous speech" at a ceremony in the regal St. George's Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. The ceremony will feature the Russian-installed administrators in the Ukrainian regions signing agreements to make them, in Moscow's eyes, part of Russia.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty analyst Mike Eckel filed this report on what to be watching for in Putin's speech.

7 a.m.:

6:25 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met military chiefs on Friday to discuss "the further plan for liberation" of Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory, Reuters reported.

Zelenskyy said on the Telegram messaging app that he and the military chiefs also discussed supplies of weapons for the country's armed forces, as well as Russia's possible further plans following its invasion of Ukraine.

6:10 a.m.: The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Friday condemned the attack that killed civilians outside the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia.

"Local organizations & civilian volunteers have been at the forefront of the humanitarian response since day one. I salute their courage and send heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families," said Denise Brown, Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine.

She noted that “this was only one of today's attacks impacting civilians.”

6 a.m.: Russia pounded Ukrainian cities with missiles, rockets and suicide drones, with one strike reported to have killed 25 people, as it moved Friday to annex Ukrainian territory into Russia and put it under the protection of Moscow’s nuclear umbrella, opening an internationally condemned phase of the seven-month war, The Associated Press reported.

But even as it prepared to celebrate the incorporation of four occupied Ukrainian regions, the Kremlin was on the verge of another stinging battlefield loss. Russian and Western analysts reported the imminent Ukrainian encirclement of the eastern city of Lyman. Retaking the city could open the path for Ukraine to push deep into one of the regions Russia is absorbing in a move widely condemned as illegal.

The salvos of Russian strikes reported in Ukrainian cities together amounted to the heaviest barrage that Russia has unleashed for weeks. They followed analysts’ warnings that Russian President Vladimir Putin was likely to dip more heavily into his dwindling stocks of precision weapons and step up attacks as part of a strategy to escalate the war to an extent that would shatter Western support for Ukraine.

The Kremlin preceded its scheduled annexation ceremonies Friday with another warning to Ukraine that it shouldn’t fight to take back the four regions. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would view a Ukrainian attack on the taken territory as an act of aggression against Russia itself.

5:50 a.m.:

5:38 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said medical provision for Russian combat troops in Ukraine is probably growing worse. Some newly mobilized Russian reservists have been ordered to source their own combat first aid supplies, the update said, with the advice that female sanitary products are a cost-effective solution.

5 a.m.: In its latest Ukraine assessment, the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said Ukrainian troops have likely nearly completed the encirclement of the Russian grouping in Lyman and cut critical ground lines of communication that support Russian troops in the Drobysheve-Lyman area. Ukrainian troops continued to target Russian logistics, transportation, and military assets in Kherson Oblast, and Russian troops continued ground attacks in Donetsk Oblast.

4:16 a.m.: On the day that Russia is set to celebrate its annexation of four Ukranian territories, a humanitarian convoy was hit by Russian shelling near the town of Zaporizhzhia.

Officials say at least 23 people were killed in the incident and 28 people were wounded. The convoy was headed to the area to rescue family members from the occupied territory.

Russia is set to formally announce annexation of four Ukrainian territories -- Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia -- on Friday. The Kremlin is to mark what many view as an illegal move with celebratory concerts and rallies in Moscow.

3:33 a.m.: Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan pressed Vladimir Putin in a call on Thursday to take steps to reduce tensions in Ukraine and urged the Russian leader to extend a deal protecting Black Sea grains exports, the president's office said, according to Reuters.

Erdogan also cited Moscow's plans to incorporate four Ukrainian regions into Russia, which Turkey opposes, and he asked Putin to give peace negotiations another chance, according to Ankara's readout of the call.

2:17 a.m.: Finland’s future NATO membership will make the Nordic country a more interesting target for Russian intelligence and influencing operations, and Moscow may seek to acquire NATO-related intelligence through its neighbor, the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service said on Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

In its national security review, the agency known by the abbreviation SUPO said that Russia has turned to the cyber environment and other intelligence sources, including foreigners living in Russia, as it is facing obstacles with its human intelligence operations in the West.

“The main intelligence gathering approach traditionally applied by the Russian intelligence services is human intelligence under diplomatic cover,” SUPO said. “This has become substantially more difficult since Russia launched its war of aggression in Ukraine, as many Russian diplomats have been expelled from the West.”

1:06 a.m.: Europeans are opening their energy bills with trepidation these days, bracing for hefty price hikes as utility companies pass on the surging cost of natural gas, oil and electricity tied to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Many are trying to conserve by turning down the heat and shutting off lights this winter.

Not so the people of Feldheim, population 130.

Located about an hour and a half south of Berlin, this modest but well-kept village has been energy self-sufficient for more than a decade, The Associated Press reported.

12:02 a.m.: The Right Livelihood Award — known as the “Alternative Nobel” — was awarded Thursday to community activists and organizations working on three continents, including a Ukrainian civil rights activist, The Associated Press reported.

Oleksandra Matviichuk and the Center for Civil Liberties that she heads were honored “for building sustainable democratic institutions in Ukraine and modeling a path to international accountability for war crimes.”

In a statement released by the award committee, Matviichuk said that “now we are going through a very dramatic time of Ukrainian history ... this award is a gesture of support for our struggle in general, and for my work, in particular.”

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.