By The Associated Press
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says results of the “referendums” that Moscow held in four regions of Ukraine before annexing them are valid despite being described as a sham by the West and Kyiv.
The vote results are “more than convincing, and it is absolutely transparent and not subject to any doubt,” Putin said.
“This is objective data on people’s mood,” the Russian president said at an event dedicated to the Teachers’ Day. He added that he himself was pleasantly “surprised” by the outcome.
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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials are reporting further strategic losses for Russia within the territories Moscow has illegally annexed following sham referendums.
Russian troops have started to withdraw from a southern Ukrainian city that was annexed along with the Kharson region though it administratively belongs to the neighboring Mykolaiv area, said Mykolaiv governor Vitaliy Kim on Wednesday.
Kim says officials are “seeking to confirm that officers have left Snihurivka, but there are troops still remaining there.” Earlier, a Russia-installed official, Yury Barbashov, admitted Ukrainian troops were advancing toward the city but claimed Russia was still in control.
Snihurivka, a city of 12,000, is a strategic railway hub in the Mykolaiv region. The Russians have seized the city in March and then annexed it together with the neighboring Kherson region.
In the eastern Luhansk region, the governor Serhiy Haidai said Wednesday that Ukrainian forces have retaken several localities in the region, which also is among the four illegally annexed by Moscow.
“The de-occupation of the Luhansk region has begun, we can talk about it officially – several settlements have been liberated from the Russian army and the invaders,” Haidai said in a video statement on Telegram.
The official did not name the recaptured places, but said that the retreating Russian forces “are trying to mine everything as much as possible – roads, buildings, everything around.”
BRUSSELS — The head of the European Union’s executive arm wants to introduce checks on key EU infrastructure, including energy, after the suspected sabotage of natural-gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the damage last week to the Nord Stream pipelines linking Russia and Germany has shown “how vulnerable our energy infrastructure is.”
She says that a comprehensive plan is needed to ensure the safety of key EU networks, including for data. Von der Leyen also says that satellite surveillance will be used to detect potential threats.
KYIV, Ukraine — Residents of Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv have expressed anger and dismay that Russia declared annexations of parts of their country.
Sofia Moroz, 20, says she can’t understand how all this is happening.” Moroz adds “it’s strange, there is sovereignty, there is a country.”
“There is a state, borders, ministries,” she said. “I can’t understand why some people decided to change it. Why is it like that? For what?”
Olha Sviatka, 19, from Kyiv, says “it’s not logical and it’s not true.” The land is not Russian, so “they must not touch it.”
A 38-year-old man from Kyiv who identified himself only by his first name, Oleh, says “it’s my land.”
“They, Russians, need to be thrown out,” he says. “All of them.”
Serhiy Lischuk, 26, agrees: “It’s our country and we will defend it, and our rights.”
KYIV, Ukraine — The head of Ukraine’s nuclear power company says he will take over managing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, after its director was first kidnapped and then released by Russian forces who occupy the facility.
Petro Kotin, the head of Energoatom, said Wednesday he will be running the plant from the capital Kyiv. Ukrainian workers continue to operate the facility, which shut down its last operational reactor last month.
Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s biggest nuclear plant. Fighting close to the complex has sparked fears of leaks or incidents.
WARSAW, Poland — Belarus’ opposition leader says she believes that Russian military setbacks in Ukraine could shake Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s hold on power.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said at a security conference in Warsaw on Wednesday that it seems that Russia is “about to lose this war,” and that, if it does, it will no longer be able to prop up the Belarusian dictator.
Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania after Russian ally Lukashenko claimed victory in August 2020 elections that were viewed in the West as fraudulent, and which many thought she won.
She told the Warsaw Security Forum that hundreds of Belarusian volunteers have supported Ukrainians in their recent liberation of Ukrainian territory, and that 15 have died.
Researchers at the U.S.-based intelligence firm Nisos say in a new report that Russia has disguised its own propaganda videos so they can be posted on platforms such as Twitter without revealing their true origin.
The report says the videos falsely claim that Ukraine caused civilian deaths attributed to Russian forces or say residents of areas forcibly annexed by Russia welcome their occupiers.
The reported new tactic is Russia’s latest attempt to circumvent efforts by European governments and tech companies trying to stop Kremlin propaganda and disinformation about the war.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials have released disturbing evidence and images they say are from areas that Ukrainian forces recently have retaken from Russian troops.
Serhiy Bolvinov, who heads the investigative department of the national police in the eastern Kharkiv region, on Wednesday said authorities are investigating an alleged Russian torture chamber in the village of Pisky-Radkivski.
He posted an image showing a box of what appeared to be precious metal teeth and dentures presumably extracted from those held at the site.
MOSCOW — Russian-installed authorities of the Kherson region accused Ukrainian forces on Wednesday of carrying out a missile strike on a hotel in the city of Kherson.
Moscow-backed health officials in the region said one person was killed and three more were wounded. Ukrainian officials haven’t commented on the strike.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed laws on Thursday absorbing Kherson and three other Ukrainian regions occupied by his army into Russia after the Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” that Ukraine and the West have rejected as a sham.
Putin’s attempt to cement the increasingly precarious gains of Russia’s army come as Ukrainian troops are pressing a counteroffensive to reclaim those very regions.
MOSCOW — The Kremlin held the door open for expanding areas of Ukraine under Russian control following the absorption of four regions it currently holds.
Speaking in a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “certain territories will be reclaimed, and we will keep consulting residents who would be eager to embrace Russia.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed laws absorbing the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine into Russia after the Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” that Ukraine and the West have rejected as a sham.
The move came even as Ukrainian forces were pressing a counteroffensive to reclaim those regions.
Asked about Ukraine taking back some territory in the four regions after their declared annexation, Peskov said Russia would reclaim them.
He wouldn’t say if Moscow planned to organize votes in any more Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.
A former Russian state television journalist who quit after staging an on-air protest against the conflict in Ukraine and who was later charged with spreading false information about Russia’s armed forces, said on Wednesday that she is no longer abiding by house arrest rules.
Marina Ovsyannikova separately was charged in August for taking part in a street protest and holding a banner reading: “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is a killer, his soldiers are fascists. 352 children have been killed (in Ukraine). How many more children should die for you to stop?”
A former state-controlled Channel One employee, Ovsyannikova faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted under a new law that penalizes statements against the military and that was enacted shortly after Russian troops moved into Ukraine.
Ovsyannikova was placed under house arrest pending an investigation and trial, but over the weekend her ex-husband claimed she had escaped with her young daughter.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Ovsyannikova herself said that “starting from Sept. 30, I refuse to abide by the restrictions imposed on me in the form of house arrest and (I) release myself from it.”
BRUSSELS — European Union countries agreed on Wednesday to impose new sanctions on Russia after it illegally annexed four regions in Ukraine, according to an EU official, including an expected price cap on Russian oil.
No details of the sanctions were immediately released. They will be published as soon as Thursday.
They are expected to include a price cap on Russian oil, curbs on EU exports of aircraft components to the country and limits on Russian steel imports.
The moves build on already unprecedented European sanctions against Russia as a result of its war against Ukraine since February. EU measures to date include restrictions on energy from Russia, bans on financial transactions with Russian entities including the central bank and asset freezes against more than 1,000 people and 100 organizations. They also include a ban on most Russian oil products from December.
MOSCOW — A Russian-installed official in the Kherson region insisted Wednesday that Ukrainian advances in the region have been halted.
Kirill Stremousov, in comments to the state-run news agency RIA Novosti, said that “as of this morning … there are no movements” by Kyiv’s forces.
Stremousov vowed that “they won’t enter (the city of) Kherson, it is impossible.” He added that the Russian forces in the region were “regrouping” in order to “gather strength and strike (back.)”
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s presidential office says that at least five civilians have been killed and eight have been wounded by the latest Russian shelling.
A statement on Wednesday says Russian troops used six Iranian suicide drones to strike the town of Bila Tserkva in the Kyiv region, leaving one person wounded.
The strikes were the first on the town since March when the Russians retreated from the areas near the Ukrainian capital after a failed attempt to capture it.
Russian forces also shelled the areas on the western bank of the Dnieper facing the Russia-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and in the Donetsk region.
In Sviatohirsk, which was reclaimed by Ukrainian forces, a burial ground for civilians was found and bodies of four civilians were discovered, according to Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said the Ukrainian forces were pressing their offensive from Lyman toward Kreminna snd Svatove. In the Kherson region, the Ukrainian troops captured eight towns and villages so far this week during their counteroffensive, according to the presidential office.
KYIV, Ukraine — Kyiv has dismissed as “worthless” the laws that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed on Wednesday formalizing the annexation of four Ukrainian regions into Russia.
“The worthless decisions of the terrorist country are not worth the paper they are signed on,” the head of the Ukraine President’s Office, Andriy Yermak, said on Telegram messaging application. “A collective insane asylum can continue to live in a fictional world.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier said in his nightly address that he has signed a decree rendering void any of Putin’s acts designed to annex Ukrainian territories since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“Any Russian decisions, any treaties with which they try to seize our land — all this is worthless,” Zelenskyy said at the end of his video address.
MOSCOW — Russian energy company Gazprom says it is resuming gas supplies to Italy after reaching an agreement for transit through Austria.
The Russian government-controlled company had suspended delivery to Italy through Austria last week citing regulatory changes that came into effect in the Alpine nation last month.
In a statement Wednesday, Gazprom said the operator of an Austrian pipeline has indicated its willingness to handle the transit of gas to Italy “making it possible to resume the supplies of Russian gas across Austria.”
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed laws formally absorbing four Ukrainian regions into Russia, even as its military is struggling to hang on to control of the regions it illegally annexed.
The documents finalizing the annexation carried out in defiance of international laws were published on a Russian government website on Wednesday morning.
Earlier this week, both houses of the Russian parliament ratified treaties making the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions part of Russia. That followed Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” in the four regions that Ukraine and the West have rejected as a sham.
On the ground, the conflict has entered a new, more dangerous phase. Russia faces mounting setbacks, with Ukrainian forces retaking more and more land in the east and in the south — the very regions Moscow has pushed to annex.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian army has recaptured a number of villages in Kherson region as a part of its massive counteroffensive in the south of the country, the regional military command said.
The Ukrainian flag has been raised above Liubymivka, Khreschenivka, Zolota Balka, Biliaivka, Ukrainka, Velyka and Mala Oleksandrivka villages, Operational Command South said.
The villages are all concentrated on the right bank of the Dnipro river in the northern part of the region.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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