1. Ukraine accuses Russia of coercion in ‘sham’ referendums
Russia on Friday launched referendums aimed at annexing four occupied regions of Ukraine, upping the ante in what Kyiv described as a sham that saw residents threatened with sanctions if they did not vote.
Ukrainian officials said people were banned from leaving certain occupied areas until the end of the four-day vote, armed groups entered homes and employees were threatened with dismissal if they did not participate.
“Today, the best thing for the people of Kherson would be not to open their doors,” said Yuriy Sobolevsky, the first deputy chairman of the council displaced from the Kherson region.
Referendums on joining Russia were hastily called after Ukraine recaptured large parts of the northeast in a counteroffensive earlier this month.
2. Investigation finds Russia has committed war crimes
A UN-mandated body said Friday that war crimes, including rape, execution, torture and kidnapping of children, had been committed by Russia in areas it occupied in Ukraine.
The commission is one of the first international bodies to draw a conclusion based on on-the-ground evidence. Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian soldiers of a litany of abuses since the invasion, but Moscow has routinely dismissed the allegations as a smear campaign.
“Based on the evidence gathered by the Commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine,” Erik Mose, who heads the Ukraine Commission of Inquiry, told the Human Rights Council. United Nations man in Geneva.
He did not give an estimate of the number of crimes that took place, but later said in an interview that “a large number” were committed by Russia and only two cases by Ukraine involving bad people. treatment of Russian soldiers.
The Kremlin denies deliberately attacking civilians during what it still describes as its “special military operation”.
Russia was called upon to respond to the accusations at the council meeting, but has yet to provide a response.
3. Former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi claims Putin was ‘pushed’ into invading Ukraine
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi claimed on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been “pushed” to invade Ukraine and wanted to put “honest people” in charge of Kyiv, sparking major controversy in Italy.
The Italian leader, whose Go Italy (Forza Italia) party belongs to a right-wing bloc led by Giorgia Meloni and is likely to win Sunday’s snap election, is a longtime friend of Putin and his comments are likely to alarm allies Westerners.
“Putin was pushed by the Russian people, by his party, by his ministers to come up with this special operation,” Berlusconi told Italian state television RAI on Thursday evening, using the official Russian wording of war.
Russia’s plan was originally to conquer Kyiv ‘in one week’, replace democratically elected Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskiy with ‘a government of decent people’ and exit ‘in another week’, he said. he declares.
Center-left leader and opponent Enrico Letta rebutted saying that “Putin’s words are very serious… [i]If on Sunday the left won, the happiest would be Putin.”
4. Moscow draft hits rural areas hard
On Wednesday, Putin announced the mobilization of 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine, a decision that sparked an outcry in Russia and hit rural areas of the country particularly hard.
In Buryatia, a mostly rural region wrapped around the southern shore of Lake Baikal, the mobilization saw some men drafted regardless of age, military record or medical history, according to interviews with local residents, activists from the rights and even statements from local officials.
Buryat rights activists suspect that the burden of mobilization – and of the war itself – falls on poor ethnic minority regions to avoid unleashing popular anger in the capital Moscow, which is 6,000 km (3,000 miles) away. 700 miles).
Putin always stresses that Russia, where hundreds of ethnic groups have lived for centuries alongside the predominantly Slavic population, is a multi-ethnic state and that soldiers of all ethnicities are heroes if they fight for Russia.
“It pains me that the state only remembered him after his death,” Semyonova, a professional musician and activist in Ulan-Ude, told Reuters, recounting her brother’s appeal.
“He was disabled and had never served in the army.”
5. Russia increasingly isolated from its partners
The tide of world opinion appears to be turning decisively against Russia, as a number of non-aligned countries join the United States and its allies in condemning Moscow and its war on Ukraine.
While most Western countries were resolutely united in their opposition to the conflict, this was not the case for nations like India and China.
But now both countries have criticized the war in Ukraine, and on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday much of the international community spoke out against the conflict in a rare show of unity at the often fractured United Nations.
The UN General Assembly also ignored Russia’s objections and voted overwhelmingly to make Ukrainian President Zelensky the only leader to address the body remotely, instead of asking him to appear. in person.
At the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized Moscow’s war.
“I know that today’s era is not an era of war, and I told you about it on the phone,” Modi told Putin during a televised meeting in the ancient Uzbek city of Samarkand. .