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Approaching winter ticks for Ukraine and Russia

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The onset of autumn weather, with rains making fields too muddy for tanks, is beginning to cloud Ukraine’s efforts to retake more territory from Russian control before winter freezes over. battlefields, a Washington-based think tank said Sunday. .

Russia, meanwhile, continued its call for hundreds of thousands of troops to be thrown into the seven-month war, seeking to undo its recent losses. It also deployed suicide drones on Sunday against the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, Ukrainian authorities said. No casualties were reported immediately.

The Russian mobilization – its first call since World War II – is sparking protests in Russian cities, with further demonstrations on Sunday.

It also opens up divisions in Europe over whether the fleeing Russian men of fighting age should be welcomed or turned away.

For Ukrainian and Russian military planners, time is running out, with the approach of winter likely to make fighting more complicated. Already, the wet weather is bringing muddy conditions that are beginning to limit the mobility of tanks and other heavy weapons, according to the Institute for the Study of Warfare.

But the think tank said Ukrainian forces were still gaining ground in their counter-offensive, launched in late August, which has dramatically rolled back Russian occupation in large areas of the northeast and also prompted the Russian president Vladimir Putin to request reinforcements.

The partial mobilization sparked an exodus of men seeking to avoid the project – and sharp differences of opinion in Europe over how to handle them.

Lithuania, a European Union member country that borders Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea, said it would not grant them asylum. “The Russians must stay and fight. Against Putin,” Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis tweeted.

His Latvian counterpart, also an EU member and neighbor of Russia, said the exodus poses “considerable security risks” for the 27-nation bloc and that those fleeing cannot be considered objectors of conscience against invasion.

Many “agreed to kill Ukrainians, they didn’t protest at that time,” Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics tweeted. He added that they had “lots of countries outside the EU to go to”.

However, officials from other EU countries say Europe has a duty to help and fear the Russians’ refusal will play into Putin’s favor, fueling his narrative that the West has always hated Russians. and that the war is waged to protect their country against Western hostility.

“Closing our borders would correspond neither to our values ​​nor to our interests,” a group of 40 French senators said in a statement. They urged the EU to grant refugee status to Russians fleeing mobilization and said sending them back would be “a mistake by Europe in the war of communication and influence that is being played out”.

The mobilization also goes hand in hand with Kremlin-orchestrated votes in four occupied regions of Ukraine that could pave the way for their imminent annexation by Russia.

Ukraine and its Western allies claim that the referendums in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south and in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk have no legal value. Voting is due to end on Tuesday but is being dismissed in Ukraine and the West as a sham, with footage showing armed Russian troops going door to door to pressure Ukrainians to vote.

Ukraine’s Reintegration Ministry said Russia had brought in people from Belarus, Brazil, Egypt, South Africa, Syria, Togo, Uruguay and Venezuela to act as supposed outside observers. The ministry warned that they “will be punished”, without specifying how.

In cities across Russia, police arrested hundreds of protesters against the mobilization order. Women opposed to the call demonstrated in the Siberian city of Yakutsk on Sunday. Videos shared by local media showed a crowd of a few hundred people, mostly women, holding hands and marching in a circle around a group of police officers. Later, the police dragged some of them or forced them into police vans. The SakhaDay news site said the women were chanting peace slogans and songs.

At least 2,000 people have been arrested in recent days for similar protests across the country. Many of those taken away received summonses immediately.

Other Russians show up for work. Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the order applies to reservists who have recently served or have special skills, but nearly all men are considered reservists until age 65 and the Putin’s decree left the door open for a broader summons.

The Kremlin said its initial goal was to add about 300,000 troops to its forces in Ukraine, struggling with equipment losses, rising casualties and weakening morale. The mobilization marks a sea change from Putin’s previous efforts to frame the war as a limited military operation that would not interfere with the lives of most Russians.

The appeal comes with tougher penalties for Russian soldiers who disobey officers’ orders, desert or surrender to the enemy. Putin signed those measures into law on Saturday.

The Ukrainian government stopped allowing most men between the ages of 18 and 60 to leave the country immediately after the February 24 Russian invasion under a general mobilization order to build up an army of one million. ‘men.


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