(NEW YORK) — More than six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion into neighboring Ukraine, the two countries are engaged in a struggle for control of areas throughout eastern and southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose forces began an offensive in August, has vowed to take back all Russian-occupied territory. But Putin in September announced a mobilization of reservists, which is expected to call up as many as 300,000 additional troops.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Sep 30, 9:28 AM EDT
Putin formally annexes occupied Ukrainian regions
Vladimir Putin has formally annexed four occupied territories in Ukraine, the biggest land grab in Europe since World War II and one of the most egregious violations of international law since then.
It is a key moment in the war with major implications for what happens next.
Russia has annexed 15% of Ukraine’s territory, including several major cities — but right now none of the areas Putin is seizing are under full Russian control and all are facing Ukrainian efforts to retake them.
The annexation will absorb the self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas region, as well as parts of the southern Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions that Russia occupies.
At a ceremony in the Kremlin today Putin signed “treaties of accession” with the Russian-installed leaders of the regions.
Meanwhile, on Red Square outside, preparations have been made for a large concert-rally to celebrate the annexation.
This is another no-going back moment for Putin. By making these territories part of Russia itself he has made negotiations even more difficult. He has locked himself into a long war and linked the survival of his regime to it.
He cannot give up the regions in negotiations — in 2020, when he changed the constitution to let him stay in power beyond his term limits he also introduced a new clause that forbids Russian president’s from giving up any Russian land.
But perhaps even more importantly, he is likely to lose parts of these regions — Ukraine is on the counteroffensive still in northeast Donbas and Kherson.
The Kremlin on Friday said it will treat attacks on the newly annexed regions as direct attacks on Russia itself. The implied threat is that Putin could use nuclear weapons in some form against Ukraine if it does not stop.
Most experts believe that for now Putin is very unlikely to use a nuclear weapon — they see his threats as bluffs. But, they say the risk he might is growing and is now the most serious it has been.
For now, many experts believe Putin would prefer to use mobilized troops to try to stabilize Russia’s front lines in Ukraine and then try to outlast the West through the energy crisis this winter. But should Ukraine continue to advance and Russia’s position in the newly annexed regions starts to collapse, the risk he will use a nuclear weapon could grow.
-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell
Sep 30, 4:20 AM EDT
Major attack on civilian convoy near Zaporizhzhia leaves many feared dead and injured
Ukrainian officials say a Russian strike on a humanitarian convoy has killed at least 23 people and wounded 28.
The convoy of about 40 vehicles was heading into Russian-occupied territory to pick up their relatives and then take them to safety when it was struck.
Videos that have emerged from the scene show destroyed vehicles along the road and what appears to me a number of casualties as well.
Sep 29, 6:31 PM EDT
Putin signs decrees for annexation of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia
Russian President Vladimir Putin took the intermediary step on Thursday of signing decrees paving the way for the occupied Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be formally annexed into Russia.
The Kremlin publicly released the decrees.
Putin is scheduled to hold a signing ceremony in the Kremlin on Friday to formally annex the two regions, along with the Russian-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
-ABC News’ Jason Volack
Sep 29, 7:05 AM EDT
Putin to formally annex occupied Ukraine territories on Friday
Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony in the Kremlin on Friday to formally annex the areas of Ukraine that Russia has occupied, his spokesman has said.
The ceremony will be to sign “treaties of accession” with the four regions created by Russia’s occupation forces — the two self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and the Zaporozhzhia and Kherson regions.
Putin will also deliver a major speech to lawmakers gathered there, his spokesman said.
It is a major moment in the war — another no-going-back moment for Putin. In reality, none of the areas being annexed are under full control of Russia right now as all are seeing fighting and facing Ukrainian efforts to re-take them.
If Putin attempts to annex the occupied regions, it will be one of the most egregious violations of international law in Europe since World War II.
Sep 28, 12:21 PM EDT
State department advises US citizens to leave Russia
American citizens are being advised by the U.S. State Department to get out of Russia immediately.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has issued an alert, saying “severe limitations” could prevent it from assisting U.S. citizens still in the country.
“If you wish to depart Russia, you should make independent arrangements as soon as possible,” the alert said.
Noting that Russia has begun a military mobilization against Ukraine, U.S. Embassy officials warned Americans with dual Russian citizenship that they could get drafted by Russia.
“Russia may refuse to acknowledge dual nationals U.S. citizenship, deny their access to U.S. consular assistance, prevent their departure from Russia, and conscript dual nationals for military service,” the alert said.
The alert also advised U.S. citizens to avoid political or social protests in Russia, saying Americans have been arrested in Russia for participating in demonstrations.
“We remind U.S. citizens that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are not guaranteed in Russia,” the alert said.
Sep 27, 3:56 PM EDT
66,000 Russians cross European borders since Putin announced draft
Roughly 66,000 Russian citizens have fled across borders into European countries amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week of a military mobilization against Ukraine, the European Border and Coast Guard said Tuesday.
The number of Russian citizens pouring into Europe was up 30% compared to last week, according to the agency which also goes by the name Frontex.
Most of the Russian citizens are entering the European Union through Finnish and Estonian border crossing points, Frontex said on Twitter.
Putin announced on Sept. 21 that he is ordering the mobilization of 300,000 recruits to fight in Ukraine, prompting widespread protests and clashes with police across Russia.
In recent days, photos have emerged of huge traffic jams at border crossings. On Monday, the wait at the border between Russia and Georgia was estimated to be 40 to 50 hours, according to the independent Russian news outlet The Insider.
Sep 27, 1:56 PM EDT
‘Sham referenda’ in Russia-occupied Ukraine going Kremlin’s way
Partial results from what Ukraine and its Western allies have called “sham” referendums in four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine show that more than 96% of voters favor becoming part of Russia, according to the state-owned Russian news agency RIA.
Voting has taken place over five days in the four areas — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
The early results showed that 97.93% of voters in the Luhansk People’s Republic favored joining the Russian Federation, according to the data. In Donetsk People’s Republic, early results showed 98.69% favored joining the Russian Federation.
In Zaporizhzhia, 97.81% of voters cast ballots to join Russia and 96.75% of voters in Kherson also favored joining Russia, according to the data.
President Joe Biden and other Group of 7 leaders condemned Russia’s “sham referenda” in occupied Ukrainian territories, calling it a Russian attempt to “create a phony pretext for changing the status of Ukrainian sovereign territory.”
Sep 27, 12:42 PM EDT
Leaks in major gas pipeline between Russia and Europe investigated following blasts
Leaks in a major gas pipeline running from Russia to Europe under the Baltic Sea have been detected after the Swedish seismic network said it registered blasts near the pipeline.
The leaks in the Nord Stream pipeline were first reported on Monday by Denmark’s maritime authority and photos released by Denmark’s Defense Command showed what appeared to be gas bubbling up to the surface.
The operator of the pipeline said the leaks were detected southeast of the Danish island Bornholm.
The underwater pipeline runs about 764 miles from Russia to Germany.
While the cause of the leaks remains under investigation, unconfirmed report reports from Germany allege authorities suspect sabotage.
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of causing leaks in a “terrorist attack,” according to the BBC.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak alleged the damage to the pipeline was an “an act of aggression” by Russia toward the European Union.
Sep 27, 12:18 PM EDT
Aid to Ukraine detailed in bill to keep US government running
A continuing resolution to keep the federal government running through Dec. 16 was released by Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday morning and breaks down how $12.3 billion in the package earmarked for Ukraine will be spent.
For the first time, Congressional lawmakers, at the insistence of GOP members, will require U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to provide a report “on the execution of funds for defense articles and services provided Ukraine,” according to a summary of the resolution.
Both houses of Congress must vote on the resolution by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.
The resolution includes $3 billion for “security assistance” for Ukraine and authorizes an additional $3.7 billion in weapons for President Joe Biden to drawdown from U.S. stocks to support Ukraine’s military. It will also authorize $35 million to respond to potential nuclear and radiological incidents in Ukraine in an apparent reply to Russian President Valdimir Putin’s thinly-veiled nuclear threats in a televised speech last week.
In addition, the resolution calls for $2.4 billion to replenish U.S. stocks of weapons already sent to Ukraine and to provide Ukraine.
The new assistance for Ukraine would be on top of the $53 billion Congress has already approved through two previous bills.
-ABC News’ Lauren Minore and Trish Turner
Sep 26, 1:29 PM EDT
40- to 50-hour wait as people attempt to flee Russia into Georgia to avoid military draft: Report
A massive line of traffic continued to grow Monday at the border between Russia and Georgia as huge numbers of Russians seek to flee the country amid fears they will be drafted to fight in the war in Ukraine.
Drone video, posted on Twitter by the independent Russian news outlet The Insider, showed hundreds of cars and trucks backed up for miles at the Verkhny Lars border between the two countries.
The Insider reported that people are waiting 40-50 hours in the line to cross.
Tens of thousands of Russians are trying to flee the country following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week of a military mobilization of 300,000 more troops against Ukraine. Besides the Russia-Georgia border, large crowds of people attempting to leave the country have been packing border crossings into Finland, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and others.
Sep 26, 12:08 PM EDT
New clashes break out in Russia between police and protesters over Kremlin’s mobilization
More clashes broke out Monday in Russia’s Dagestan capital city, as police tried to disperse hundreds of protesters demonstrating against the Kremlin’s military mobilization of men to fight in Ukraine.
Videos circulating on social media showed scuffles between protesters and police in Makhachkala.
On Sunday, there were violent clashes in Dagestan, with police firing warning shots and people angrily shouting chants against the mobilization.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that he is mobilizing 300,000 more troops against Ukraine.
The announcement sparked major protests in Moscow and at least 30 other cities across Russia over the weekend. At least 17 military recruitment offices have been targeted with arson attacks. A man was detained by authorities on Monday after he allegedly opened fire on a recruitment center in Siberia, severely injuring a recruitment officer.
Sep 26, 11:01 AM EDT
US sending Ukraine $457.5 million in civilian security assistance
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday that the U.S. will give Ukraine another $457.5 million in civilian security assistance to bolster the efforts of Ukrainian law enforcement and criminal justice agencies “to improve their operational capacity and save lives.”
Blinken said some of the funds will also go toward supporting efforts to “document, investigate, and prosecute atrocities perpetrated by Russia’s forces.” He said that since December, the United States has pledged more than $645 million toward supporting Ukrainian law enforcement.
Blinken’s announcement follows a U.N.-led investigation that found Russian troops had committed war crimes in occupied areas of Ukraine, including the rape, torture and imprisonment of children.
Sep 26, 10:14 AM EDT
Ukrainian first lady ‘worried’ about Russian mobilization
In a new interview, Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenka told ABC News that recent developments in the war are upsetting, saying this is not an “easy period” for the people of Ukraine.
“When the whole world wants this war to be over, they continue to recruit soldiers for their army,” said Zelenska, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week that he is mobilizing 300,000 more troops against Ukraine. “Of course, we are concerned about this. We are worried and this is a bad sign for the whole world.”
Zelenska, who spoke with ABC News’ Amy Robach through a translator, said Ukrainians will continue to persevere in the face of conflict.
“The main difference between our army and the Russian army is that we really know what we are fighting for,” she said.
Zelenska attended the United Nations General Assembly in-person in New York City, where she spoke to ABC News about the U.N.’s recent finding that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine by Russian troops. An appointed panel of independent legal experts reported that Russian soldiers have “raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined” children in Ukraine, among other crimes.
“On the one hand, it’s horrible news, but it’s the news that we knew about already,” she said. “On the other hand, it’s great news that the whole world can finally see that this is a heinous crime, that this war is against humanity and humankind.”
Sep 26, 5:40 AM EDT
Man opens fire at Russian military enlistment office
A man has opened fire at a military enlistment office in eastern Russia, severely injuring a recruitment officer there.
An apparent video of the shooting was circulating online, showing a man shooting the officer at a podium in the officer in the city of Irkutsk.
Irkutsk’s regional governor confirmed the shooting, naming the officer injured as Alexander V. Yeliseyev and saying he is in intensive care in a critical condition.
The alleged shooter has been detained, according to the governor.
Sep 25, 12:49 PM EDT
Russia Defense Ministry announces high-level leadership shake-up
The Russian Defense Ministry announced a high-level shake-up in its military leadership amid reports Russian forces are struggling in the war against Ukraine.
The defense ministry said Saturday that Col. Gen. Mikhail Y. Mizintsev has been promoted to deputy defense minister overseeing logistics, replacing four-star Gen. Dmitri V. Bulgakov, 67, who had held the post since 2008.
Bulgakov was relieved of his position and is expected to be transferred “to another job,” the Defense Ministry statement said.
The New York Times reported that Mizintsev — whom Western officials dubbed the “butcher of Mariupol” after alleged atrocities against civilians surfaced in the Ukrainian city in March, previously served as chief of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, which oversees military operations and planning.
In this previous role, Mizintsev became one of the public faces of the war in Ukraine, informing the public about what the Kremlin still calls a “special military operation.”
Mizintsev was put on international sanctions lists and accused of atrocities for his role in the brutal siege of the Mariupol.
Sep 25, 11:58 AM EDT
Russian recruits report for military mobilization
Newly recruited Russian soldiers are reporting for duty in response to the Kremlin’s emergency mobilization to bolster forces in Ukraine, according to photographs emerging from Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week a mobilization to draft more than 300,000 Russians with military expertise, sparking anti-war protests across the country and prompting many to try to flee Russia to avoid the draft.
Putin signed a law with amendments to the Russian Criminal Code upping the punishments for the crimes of desertion during periods of mobilization and martial law.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview Sunday with ABC News This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos that Russia’s military draft is more evidence Russia is “struggling” in its invasion of Ukraine. He also said “sham referendums” going on in Russia-backed territories of eastern and southern Ukraine are also acts of desperation by the Kremlin.
“These are definitely not signs of strength or confidence. Quite the opposite: They’re signs that Russia and Putin are struggling badly,” Sullivan said while noting Putin’s autocratic hold on the country made it hard to make definitive assessments from the outside.
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