More than 730 people have been arrested across Russia in the latest protests against the country’s mobilization decree, a rights group said, three days after President Vladimir Putin ordered the country’s first military draft since World War II. Independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info said it was aware of detentions in 32 cities, from St Petersburg to Siberia. Unauthorized gatherings are illegal under Russian law, which also bans any activity deemed defamatory of the armed forces.
A new law signed by Putin says Russian troops who refuse to fight, desert, disobey or surrender to the enemy could now face a prison sentence of up to 10 years, according to Russian media. The law was approved by parliament within a week.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Dmitry Bulgakov has been removed from his post. Bulgakov, responsible for military logistics since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, said was replaced by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of the National Defense Management Center, which oversaw Russia’s siege of Mariupol.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addressed the UN General Assembly on Saturday, opposing Russia’s assault on its neighbor, limited to Washington and the countries under its sway. “Official Russophobia in the West is unprecedented. Now the scope is grotesque,” Lavrov told the general assembly. He criticized the West for not engaging with Russia, saying, “We never stopped maintaining contact.”
Lavrov, at a press conference after his speech to the New York assembly, said the Ukrainian regions where votes were taking place would be under Moscow’s “full protection” if annexed by Russia, including with nuclear weapons.
The so-called referendums are underway in in the provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, regions of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops, the inhabitants being invited to vote on the proposals for the declaration of independence and then to join Russia. Polls are due to run until Tuesday.
Chinese foreign minister says he supports all efforts conducive to peaceful resolution of ‘crisis’ in Ukraine. Wang Yi told the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday that the most pressing priority was to facilitate peace talks, Reuters reported.
Iran regrets Ukraine’s decision to downgrade diplomatic ties, its foreign ministry said. A statement said Iranian ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani “advised” Ukraine to “refrain from being influenced by third parties who seek to destroy relations between the two countries.” It came after Ukraine stripped Iran’s ambassador of his accreditation over what it said was Tehran’s “unfriendly” decision to supply drones to Russian forces.
The queue at the Russia-Georgia border is about 10 km (six miles) long, where people reportedly waited over 20 hours to cross. The number of border crossings from Russia to Finland has doubled in recent days compared to last week.
Kyiv and Moscow shared responsibility for the shelling in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region on Saturday. Regional Governor Oleksandr Starukh said on Telegram that Russian forces launched a “massive missile strike” on the area from around 10 planes, injuring at least three people. Russian news agency RIA, citing unnamed sources, said Ukrainian forces shelled a granary and fertilizer warehouses in the area. Reuters was unable to verify either party’s claims.
Two civilians were killed in attacks in Ukraine’s Donetsk region Friday and three were injured, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of Donetsk oblast. Russian forces also shelled settlements near the Russian border. In Kupyan district, five people were injured by shelling, including two children, aged 10 and 17.
Russian authorities in occupied Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions reportedly began distributing draft notices and mobilizing men of conscription age who “renounced Ukrainian citizenship and received passports from the Russian Federation”, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Ukrainians in the occupied territories to hide from Russian mobilization, avoid conscription letters and travel to Ukrainian-held territory. However, if they ended up in the Russian army, Zelenskiy asked people to save their lives and help liberate Ukraine.
Russian forces are likely trying to attack checkpoints in Ukraine in order to flood Ukrainian military crossings amid Russian concerns over battlefield setbacks, the latest UK MoD briefing said. The strikes were “unlikely to have caused significant disruption to Ukrainian operations due to the distance between damaged dams and combat zones”, he said.