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Ukraine war latest news: referendums to start in occupied regions; Zelenskiy urges Russian protests

Key events

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

Summons delivered to eligible men at midnight. Schoolteachers pressed into handing out draft notices. Men given an hour to pack their things and appear at draft centres. Women sobbing as they sent their husbands and sons off to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The first full day of Russia’s first mobilisation since the second world war produced emotional showdowns at draft centres and even signs of protest, while it appears Russia could be considering far more than the 300,000 new conscripts claimed by the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu.

Read the full report here:

Preparations have begun in four Russian-occupied territories to hold ‘referenda’ on whether to become part of Russia.

The Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces represent about 15% of Ukrainian territory. Voting there is due to run from Friday to Tuesday. The results are seen as a foregone conclusion in favour of annexation, and Ukraine and its allies have already made clear they will not recognise the results.


Good morning. I’m Tess McClure, and will be with you for our live coverage as Europe wakes up. It’s 7.30AM in Kyiv. Here are the latest developments:

  • Four areas of Ukraine controlled by Russia and pro-Moscow forces are preparing to hold referendums on joining Russia. Voting in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing around 15% of Ukrainian territory, is due to run from Friday to Tuesday.

  • Nato has condemned plans to hold “referendums” on joining the Russian Federation in Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine, describing them as Moscow’s “blatant attempts at territorial conquest”. The “sham referenda” have no legitimacy, the alliance said. Referenda plans have been widely condemned by the West as illegitimate and a precursor to illegal annexation.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called on Russians to resist the partial military mobilisation announced by Vladimir Putin, which has sparked protests and a fresh exodus out of Russia. The Ukrainian president said in his daily address on Thursday: “55,000 Russian soldiers died in these six months of war … Want more? No? Then protest, fight back, run away, or surrender” to the Ukrainian army.

  • Thousands of men across Russia have been handed draft papers after the mobilisation announcement. Among those called up since Putin’s announcement on Wednesday were Russians detained while protesting against the mobilisation, the independent OVD-Info protest monitoring group said.

  • The Kremlin has dismissed reports of an exodus of Russian men of fighting age as “exaggerated”. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, also declined to deny Russian media reports that some anti-mobilisation protesters detained on Wednesday night had been given draft papers, saying: “This is not against the law.”

  • Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, also denied reports that an undisclosed clause in Putin’s mobilisation decree provided for 1 million reservists to be enlisted to fight in Ukraine. “This is a lie,” Peskov said in response to a report by Novaya Gazeta.

  • Traffic at Russian border crossings with Finland and Georgia surged after the mobilisation announcement sparked fears that men of fighting age would be called to the frontlines in Ukraine. Prices for one-way flights out of Moscow to the nearest foreign locations rose above $5,000 (£4,435), with most air tickets sold out for the coming days. Photos showed long tailbacks at border crossings with Finland and Georgia.

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

  • Putin is giving directions directly to generals in the field, CNN reported. The direct orders from the Russian president to generals “hints at the dysfunctional command structure” that has affected Russian forces on the battlefield, according to two sources familiar with American and western intelligence who spoke to CNN.

  • Many of the Ukrainians exchanged in the largest prisoner swap with Russia since the beginning of the invasion show signs of violent torture, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence said on Thursday. On Wednesday, Ukraine announced the exchange of a record-high 215 imprisoned soldiers with Russia, including fighters who led the defence of Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks that became an icon of Ukrainian resistance.

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

  • The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, wants European Union sanctions on Russia lifted by the end of the year, a pro-government daily newspaper said. Orban, a Putin ally, has frequently railed against the sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

  • Five Britons released from Russia are meeting their families after several months of captivity in which it was feared they would be executed for fighting for Ukraine. A major diplomatic effort was behind the release of the five Britons who, together with two Americans, a Moroccan, a Croat and a Swedish national, were released by Russia to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.


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