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Latest news from the war in Ukraine: referendums will begin in the occupied regions; Zelenskiy urges Russians to demonstrate | Ukraine

Key events

In Moscow, our correspondent Andrew Roth documented the aftermath of Putin’s announcement that Russia would begin conscripting its citizens to fight in the invasion of Ukraine.

Summons issued to eligible men at midnight. Teachers insisted on handing out draft notices. The men have one hour to pack their things and report to the recruiting centers. Women sobbed as they sent their husbands and sons to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The first full day of Russia’s first mobilization since World War II has sparked emotional clashes at recruiting centers and even signs of protest, as it looks like Russia could be considering far more than the 300,000 new conscripts requested by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Read the full report here:

Preparations have begun in four Russian-occupied territories to hold “referendums” on whether to become part of Russia.

The Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia the provinces represent about 15% of the Ukrainian territory. Voting is to take place from Friday to Tuesday. The results are seen as a fatality in favor of annexation, and Ukraine and its allies have already made it clear that they will not recognize the results.


Hello. I’m Tess McClure and I’ll be with you for our live coverage as Europe wakes up. It is 7:30 a.m. in Kyiv. Here are the latest developments:

  • Four regions of Ukraine controlled by Russia and pro-Moscow forces are preparing to hold referendums on joining Russia. Voting in the provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which represent about 15% of Ukrainian territory, is due to take place from Friday to Tuesday.

  • NATO has condemned the “referendum” projects on joining the Russian Federation in Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine, calling them “flagrant attempts at territorial conquest” of Moscow. “Fake referendums” have no legitimacy, the alliance said. The referendum plans have been widely condemned by the West as illegitimate and a precursor to illegal annexation.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on the Russians to resist the partial military mobilization announced by Vladimir Putin, which sparked protests and a new exodus from Russia. The Ukrainian president said in his daily address on Thursday: “55,000 Russian soldiers have died in these six months of war… Do you want more? Nope? Then protest, retaliate, flee or surrender” to the Ukrainian army.

  • Thousands of men across Russia received drafts after the mobilization was announced. Among those called since Putin’s announcement on Wednesday were Russians detained while demonstrating against the mobilization, independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info said.

  • Kremlin dismisses reports of exodus of Russian men of fighting age as ‘exaggerated’. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also refused to deny Russian media reports that some anti-mobilization protesters arrested on Wednesday night had received draft papers, saying: ‘It’s not against the law’ .

  • Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, also denied reports that an undisclosed clause in Putin’s mobilization decree called for 1 million reservists to be drafted to fight in Ukraine. “It’s a lie,” Peskov said in response to a Novaya Gazeta report.

  • Traffic at Russian border crossings with Finland and Georgia has increased after the announcement of the mobilization raised fears that men of fighting age would be called up to the front in Ukraine. Prices for one-way flights from Moscow to the nearest foreign destinations have topped $5,000 (£4,435) with most airfares sold out for the coming days. Photos showed long traffic jams at border crossings with Finland and Georgia.

  • In response, Finland’s prime minister said his government was considering ways to sharply reduce Russian tourism and transit through Finland. “The will of the government is very clear: we believe that Russian tourism [to Finland] must be stopped, as well as transit through Finland,” Sanna Marin told reporters.

  • Putin directs instructions to generals in the field, reported CNN. The Russian president’s direct orders to generals “hint at the dysfunctional command structure” that has plagued Russian forces on the battlefield, according to two sources close to US and Western intelligence who spoke to CNN.

  • Many Ukrainians exchanged in largest prisoner swap with Russia since invasion began show signs of violent tortureUkraine’s military intelligence chief said on Thursday. On Wednesday, Ukraine announced the exchange of a record 215 imprisoned soldiers with Russia, including fighters who led the defense of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, which has become an icon of Ukrainian resistance.

  • UN Secretary General António Guterres has strongly rebuked Russia for its “totally unacceptable” nuclear threats. Speaking at the start of a UN Security Council meeting the day after Putin raised the stakes of his invasion of Ukraine, António Guterres said Moscow’s plans to annex parts of Ukraine were a “violation of the UN charter and international law”.

  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban wants European Union sanctions against Russia to be lifted by the end of the yearsaid a pro-government daily. Orban, an ally of Putin, has frequently spoken out against sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

  • Five Britons freed from Russia reunited with their families after several months of captivity during which it was feared that they would be executed for having fought for Ukraine. An important diplomatic effort was at the origin of the release of the five Britons who, accompanied by two Americans, a Moroccan, a Croat and a Swede, were released on Wednesday by Russia to Saudi Arabia.

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