UKRAINE UPDATE: 21 SEPTEMBER 2022
Russia announces hasty annexation referendums; Kuleba urges allies to send more weapons
Russia announced a hasty vote on annexing some regions of Ukraine that it’s still occupying despite losing ground in recent weeks, with the Luhansk and Donetsk regions aiming to hold a referendum as soon as this weekend and others saying they’ll follow soon.
Russia should return occupied territory to Ukraine as part of a peace settlement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in an interview with PBS in New York, adding that he had “very extensive discussions” with President Vladimir Putin last week in Uzbekistan. “He is actually showing me that he’s willing to end this as soon as possible,” he said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who is also in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, earlier urged allies to send more weapons to help maintain the momentum of the country’s recent counteroffensive.
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- Russia to flood Asia with fuels as Europe ramps up sanctions
- Swiss imports of Russian gold rise to most since April 2020
- Middle East shakes Russian dominance of European diesel market
- Send more weapons, Ukraine’s foreign minister urges the West
On the ground
Ukrainian authorities in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and other regions which have faced constant shelling urged local citizens to flee to safer places ahead of a difficult heating season. Many settlements in southern and eastern Ukraine are 80% destroyed and there are low prospects of restoring gas, water, heat and power supplies. Infrastructure in more than 33 cities, towns and villages, including Kramatorsk, Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv, was damaged by Russian shelling over the past day, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Facebook.
Biden aide says mass graves in Izyum may be worst yet
President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said mass graves unearthed around Izyum in Ukraine indicate that Russian atrocities there may be worse than those discovered in Bucha, outside Kyiv, earlier this year.
Sullivan said he had spoken with Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“He gave me a report on what Ukrainians are discovering around Izyum, and he put it quite bluntly. He said this, in some ways, is worse than Bucha, and we will see more of these as we go, as Ukraine de-occupies towns that have previously been occupied by Russian armed forces,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said the US will continue to seek to hold Russia accountable for alleged atrocities in Ukraine. Zelensky’s government and the Biden administration have accused Putin of committing war crimes in the invasion.
Nato’s Stoltenberg decries ‘sham’ referendums in Ukraine
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg decried Russia’s plans for what he called “sham” referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine, warning Putin against further escalating the conflict.
“Such sham votes, referendums, do not have any legitimacy, and therefore they do not change the nature of the conflict,” Stoltenberg said in an interview Tuesday with Bloomberg Television on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “This will only further worsen the situation, and therefore we need to provide more support to Ukraine.”
Nato allies and partner countries “have to support Ukraine for as long as it takes, because the alternative is much more dangerous for all of us,” Stoltenberg said. “We have to understand that this goes beyond Ukraine.”
Planned Russian votes ‘imperialistic aggression’, says Scholz
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Russia’s plan to hold votes on annexing Ukrainian regions under its control is in clear breach of international law and cannot be accepted, reiterating a call for the Kremlin to withdraw its troops.
“It’s all just an effort at enforcing imperialistic aggression,” Scholz told reporters in New York, where he’s attending the UN General Assembly. “Ukraine has every right to defend the sovereignty and integrity of its own territory and its own democracy.”
EU countries warn against weakening Russian coal sanctions
A group of European Union nations pushed back against new guidance from the EU executive that they fear weakens sanctions and could allow countries to transport key Russian commodities such as coal globally.
Member states including Poland and the Baltic nations said that new sanctions guidance contained references to wood, some cement products and coal, the people said. Diplomats have asked the commission to further explain the proposed move, fearing it could go beyond the earlier food security commitments and effectively be watering down sanctions on those Russian commodities.
Germany to nationalise gas giant Uniper
The German government is planning to inject about €8-billion into gas giant Uniper, as the ruling coalition in Berlin moves to stave off a collapse of the country’s energy sector this winter.
Uniper confirmed on Tuesday it was in final discussions with the government over a package that would include an €8-billion capital increase, subscribed entirely by the government. Berlin will also buy the shares of its main shareholder, Finland’s Fortum Oyj.
Ukrainian calls annexation plans ‘naive blackmail’
Russia’s annexation votes are an “asymmetrical response” to Ukraine’s counteroffensive and “naive blackmail,” the head of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, Andriy Yermak said on Twitter. “The enemy is afraid and resorts to manipulations. It won’t work.”
Russia to hold annexation votes as soon as this weekend
The Russian forces occupying the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in Ukraine plan to hold a controversial referendum on joining Russia starting this weekend, Interfax quoted officials as saying.
Russian officials have already said they’d grant the regions’ requests to be annexed if they made them. For the Kremlin, the move would help reassure supporters there worried by its hurried retreat from other territories in the face of the Ukrainian advance in the last few weeks.
Finland seeks joint EU stance on Russian visas
Finland’s government asked the European Union to issue a recommendation for all Schengen countries on annulling or cancelling visas granted to Russian citizens. Finland also proposed that tourist visas should be made part of EU sanctions against Russia, in order to strengthen the unity of EU members.
The Nordic country is the only land crossing where Russians can enter the EU, after the Baltic nations and Poland began turning away most Russians seeking to enter the EU on visas for tourism, culture, sports and business.
Shelling ebbs near nuclear plant
Ukraine has seen a decline in Russian shelling of areas near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deployed its staff at the site, Petro Kotin, the head of Ukrainian “Energoatom” said in an interview with Inter TV channel.
There are two IAEA representatives at the station, he said. Ukraine also managed to resupply the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant with necessary materials, including diesel fuel, which can last for 10 days in case of need.
Kotin also mentioned the situation at the Pivdenno-Ukrainska Nuclear Power Station, to the north of the Mykolaiv region, which was also hit this week. According to Kotin, three lines and the hydraulic unit of the nearby hydropower station were disconnected right after the strike by a Russian Iskander rocket. But now all lines have been restored and now are connected to the Ukrainian grid.
UK says Russia relocated threatened subs
The Kremlin has “almost certainly” relocated its Kilo-class submarines from their base at Sevastopol in Crimea across the Black Sea to Novorossiysk in southern Russia after recent Ukrainian attacks, according to the latest intelligence update from the UK Ministry of Defence.
“This is highly likely due to the recent change in the local security threat level in the face of increased Ukrainian long-range strike capability,” the ministry said in a tweet.
“Guaranteeing the Black Sea Fleet’s Crimea basing was likely one of Putin’s motivations for annexing the peninsula in 2014,” it added. “Base security has now been directly undermined by Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine.”
Morgan Stanley in talks to sell Moscow mall
A fund managed by Morgan Stanley is in talks to sell a Moscow shopping mall that it bought for a record price in 2013 back to its original developer at a deep discount, as the war in Ukraine has soured international firms on Russian assets.
Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund VII, together with venture partners Hines Interests and the California Public Employees Retirement System, are in talks to sell the Metropolis Shopping and Entertainment Mall to Kazakhstan developer Capital Partners, according to people with knowledge of the talks. The negotiations are still at an early stage and there’s no certainty that a deal will be completed, the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private.
Slovenia, Germany agree on tank swap deal
Slovenia will send 28 M-55S tanks to Ukraine and receive 40 military transport vehicles from Germany in exchange under the latest swap deal brokered by the government in Berlin.
Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed on the deal in a telephone conversation on Monday, the Slovenian government said in a statement. The M-55S tanks were left in Slovenia by the army of the former Yugoslavia and were removed from active use in 2006, according to public broadcaster RTVSLO.
UN to ‘focus on alleged Russian crimes’
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said one focus of the UN General Assembly will be on “how the horrific crimes committed in the name of Russia in Ukraine can be dealt with and prosecuted”.
“And it will be about the situation of the Ukrainian nuclear power plants, which Russia uses as a bargaining chip in this war and thus raises the prospect of catastrophe for millions of people every day,” Baerbock said in an emailed statement.
“We stand firmly with Ukraine and we will continue to support it — with everything it needs — to end the war and the immeasurable suffering of the people of Ukraine,” she added.
UK to match or exceed 2022 Ukraine aid in 2023
Prime Minister Liz Truss will announce this week that the government will match or exceed its 2022 military support to Ukraine next year.
“The Prime Minister will use her speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday to underscore the UK’s long-term commitment to Ukraine,” according to a statement. “The Prime Minister will use her meetings with fellow leaders and CEOs in New York to catalyse global efforts to stop Russia from profiting off its energy exports while ending energy dependence on authoritarian regimes.”
Two Turkish banks suspend Russian Mir cards
Turkey’s largest private lender by assets and the local unit of Emirates NBD Bank stopped using a payment system popular among Russian tourists, following a warning by the US.
The decisions come after the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, last week warned financial institutions against entering new agreements or expanding the existing ones with the Russian operator of Mir cards.
Aircraft losses hindered Russia, says US general
Ukraine air-defence forces, firing mainly Soviet-era SA-10 and SA-11 systems, destroyed at least 55 Russian aircraft, most at the start of the invasion, General James Hecker, the head of US Air Forces in Europe, said on Monday during a meeting with reporters at the annual Air & Space Forces conference.
Asked if there was a correlation between the loss of those aircraft and Russia’s failure to establish air superiority over Ukraine, Hecker said “Yes — definitely yes.” Because “as soon as they got shot down” Russian aircraft moved back their operations and “they didn’t go after any” of the Ukrainian integrated air defences. DM