Putin ally freed in major prisoner swap; Russia detains 1,400 anti-draft protesters

Putin ally freed in major prisoner swap; Russia detains 1,400 anti-draft protesters
A handout photo made available by the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine on 22 September 2022 shows (from left) Denys Monastyrskyi, Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine; Ukrainian fighters of the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol Svyatoslav Palamar, Denys Shlega, Denys Prokopenko, Oleg Khomenko and Serhii Volynskyi; and Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov after a prisoners of war exchange at an undisclosed location. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Handout)

Ukraine sealed a major prisoner swap with Russia, an exchange that included handing over a key ally of President Vladimir Putin in return for leading defenders of Mariupol under a deal facilitated in part by Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Putin’s order to call up as many as 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine triggered protests around the country, the biggest since the early days of the war. Turkey’s president urged the United Nations to do more to push for a peace deal. 

President Joe Biden excoriated Putin for making “overt nuclear threats” to Europe as the Russian leader escalated his war in Ukraine with the partial mobilisation and vowed to annex territory. The G7 followed up on Thursday with similar commentary, including condemnation of Russia’s planned “sham referenda” in occupied Ukraine.   

Key developments 

On the ground

Nearly seven months into the war, Russia declared a “partial mobilisation” calling up 300,000 reservists in a major escalation of its flagging invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian forces conducted strikes north and east of the city of Kherson against Russian logistics, military, and transportation assets in the Kherson region, according to the latest report from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. Russia hit Mykolayiv and Zaporizhzhia with 18 rockets early this morning, according to the Mykolayiv region’s governor and Zelenskiy’s office. No casualties were reported. 

Zelensky meets with Italian minister, speaks with Saudi’s Crown Prince 

Ukraine’s president met with Italian Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini, days before a national election in Italy is tipped to sweep a new right-wing government into power. 

“We feel the constant support for our sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as for the struggle for our existence, from Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the government, and the Italian people,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in an Instagram post.

Zelensky also spoke on Thursday with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a day after Saudi Arabia helped negotiate the release of foreign citizens held by Russia.  

Erdoğan urges UN to do more on ending war  

The United Nations must make a greater effort to end the war in Ukraine, state-run Anadolu Agency cited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as saying.

The Turkish leader said he planned to continue “telephone diplomacy” upon his return home, and urged the UN to “take the initiative”.   

Germany ready to take in Russian deserters  

Germany is ready under certain circumstances to take in deserters from the Russian army as well as opponents of Putin’s regime, according to Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.  

“As a rule, deserters threatened by severe repression will receive international protection in Germany,” Faeser said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. “Anyone who courageously opposes Putin’s regime and therefore puts themselves in great danger can apply for asylum in Germany because of political persecution,” she added.

Latvia tightens rules on residency for Russians 

Latvia’s Parliament adopted legislation to tighten rules for residency permits for Russians and Belarusians.

Under the measures, residency permits granted in exchange for investment will not be extended, and Russian citizens will also no longer be able to receive remote work visas. 




Putin ally says Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons 

Former President Dmitry Medvedev, now a top security official, said Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons to protect newly annexed Ukrainian regions, joining President Vladimir Putin in ramping up atomic threats. 

Four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine are due to hold referendums on joining Russia starting from Friday. The votes have been denounced as “shams” by the G7. 

“The defence of all territories will be significantly bolstered by the Russian armed forces” drawn into a new mobilisation announced this week, Medvedev said on Telegram. 

Baltics won’t open borders for Russians fleeing mobilisation 

The leaders of the Baltic states said their countries won’t offer asylum or humanitarian visas to Russians trying to flee Putin’s latest mobilisation.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said humanitarian help is reserved for people who’ve consistently demonstrated their position against the war. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Russians are responsible for their leaders’ actions and asylum is open for opposition activists only. 

“I could hardly understand a situation in which we’d allow people to enter Lithuania on humanitarian grounds just because the war was okay for them when they saw it on TV, sitting on a sofa, but it is no longer okay when your government and your (Defence Minister Sergei) Shoigu calls you to join the army,” Simonyte said.  

G7 deplores Russia’s referendum plans  

Foreign ministers of the G7 on Thursday “strongly condemned” Russia’s plan to conduct “sham referenda” on Ukrainian territory in the next few days. 

“Any referenda held under conditions of Russian military presence, intimidation, and forced deportation cannot be free or fair,” Germany’s Annalena Baerbock said in a statement on behalf of the group following a meeting at the UN General Assembly. 

The ministers called on all states to condemn any votes and not to recognise the results. Further targeted sanctions on Russia are being pursued.  

EU sets moderate goals in new sanctions talks 

The EU’s next round of sanctions targeting Russia for its latest escalation against Ukraine is likely to be limited to further trade restrictions and new listings, according to people familiar with the matter. 

The bloc has been working on additional bans on key technologies and components, but there’s little appetite for major items, according to one of the people. Much of the current focus is on monitoring and enforcing existing measures, including by analysing trade flows with third countries that may be helping Moscow soften the impact of some of the sanctions imposed so far. 

EU member states are also set to discuss how to change already approved oil sanctions to make way for a price cap agreed in principle by the Group of Seven nations. 




Russia says planned terror attack on energy facility thwarted  

Russia’s security service said it thwarted a planned terror attack on infrastructure delivering energy to Turkey and Europe, raising concerns over supplies to the region.

The Federal Security Service “prevented an attempt by the Ukrainian special services to commit a sabotage and terrorist act at the facility of the oil and gas complex that supplies energy to Turkey and Europe”, according to a statement on its website. A Russian citizen, whom the nation’s security service claimed was recruited by Ukraine’s special service, was detained.

“We are not commenting on fantasies of Russian special services,” a representative of Ukraine’s State Security Service said.

Hundreds detained around Russia in anti-draft protests  

President Putin’s order to call up as many as 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine triggered alarm and demonstrations as Russians were forced to confront the reality of the deadly conflict.

Police detained about 1,400 people at protests against the order in 38 cities on Wednesday night, according to the OVD-Info monitoring group, marking the biggest protests since the early days of the war. 

Some of the male detainees were handed draft notices. 

Orban says EU should withdraw sanctions against Russia 

The European Union should scrap its sanctions against Russia by the end of this year, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said, according to Magyar Nemzet newspaper, which is closely affiliated with the premier’s party.

His call came just as EU foreign ministers agreed to bring forward additional restrictive measures against Russia as Moscow prepares to annex further parts of Ukraine. 

At least 215 soldiers released by Russia in prisoner swap  

Ukrainian soldiers, including 108 defenders of the Azov battalion, have been swapped for 55 Russian prisoners, Ukrainian and Russian officials said. 

“This was the most difficult prisoner exchange,” Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said. Saudi Arabia helped facilitate part of the swap, winning praise from Western officials for the effort.

Ukraine calls for more weapons at UN 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also called for more weapons as he addressed the United Nations General Assembly by video conference on Wednesday.

“We cannot agree to a delayed war. Because it will be even hotter than the war now,” he said. “For us, this is a war for life. That is why we need defence support — weapons, military equipment and shells. Offensive weapons, a long-range one is enough to liberate our land, and defensive systems, above all, air defence.” DM 


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