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Ukraine war: Russia's mobilisation, referenda criticised and Pope slams Ukrainians' suffering

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP, Reuters
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Destroyed cars are seen, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Izium, recently liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine
Destroyed cars are seen, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Izium, recently liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine   -   Copyright  Credit: Reuters

1. Vladimir Putin orders Russia's first military mobilisation since WWII

In an early-morning television address and on the back of a successful Kyiv counteroffensive in the Ukraine war, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia's first mobilisation since World War II.

The decree published on the Kremlin's website said the call-up would apply only to reservists with previous military experience.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu stated Russia will draft 300,000 reservists to support its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

A spokesman for Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the mobilisation a “big tragedy” for the Russian people.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Sergii Nikiforov said conscripts sent to the front line in Ukraine would face a similar fate as ill-prepared Russian forces who were repelled in an attack on Kyiv in the first days of the invasion last February.

“This is a recognition of the incapacity of the Russian professional army, which has failed in all its tasks,” Nikiforov said.

The US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, tweeted that the mobilisation is a sign "of weakness, of Russian failure”.

Shoigu, giving Moscow's first update on casualty numbers in almost six months, said 5,397 Russian soldiers had been killed since the start of the war.

It was the first time Russia had given an official death toll since 25 March, when it said 1,351 servicemen had died. 

The US reported in July that around 15,000 Russian personnel had likely been killed.

Putin, in a seven-minute televised address to the nation, also warned the West that he isn't bluffing over using all the means at his disposal to protect Russia's territory, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear capability.

Putin has previously warned the West not to back Russia against the wall and has rebuked NATO countries for supplying weapons to help Ukraine.

2. 'Sham', 'parody' and 'tragic': European leaders slam referenda plans

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy joined Western criticism of plans to hold "referenda" in the country's occupied territories on becoming part of Russia.

"I thank all of Ukraine's friends and partners for their massive and firm condemnation of Russia's intentions to organise yet another pseudo-referendum," he said.

“There was some pretty loud news today from Russia. But what happened? What was new compared to what has already been said before?"

The upcoming votes, in the Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions are all but certain to go Moscow’s way.

But they were quickly dismissed as illegitimate by Western leaders who are backing Kyiv with military and other support that has helped its forces seize momentum on battlefields in the east and south.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the referenda would be a "parody" of democracy, adding that Russia's actions represent "a return to the age of imperialism and colonialism".

"If the Donbas referendum idea wasn't so tragic, it would be funny," Macron told reporters in New York.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz labelled the so-called referendums a "sham," while US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Washington would never recognise the results as legitimate.

Credit: AP
A woman covered with a Ukrainian flag stands in front of Russian troops in a street during a rally against Russian occupation in Kherson, Ukraine, on March 19, 2022.Credit: AP

3. German police reportedly raid estate of Russian oligarch Usmanov

On Wednesday, German police raided properties owned by a Russian oligarch who has been targeted by EU sanctions.

According to media reports, the properties were owned by Alisher Usmanov, a billionaire and close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has lived in Bavaria in recent years.

A total of 24 properties linked to the oligarch and four other people were reportedly searched.

German prosecutors said that nearly 250 federal agents were involved in raids on Wednesday in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Schleswig-Holstein, and Hamburg.

Usmanov is suspected of using a security company to monitor his properties, which were on the list of sanctions imposed by the European Union on 28 February following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

By paying for these surveillance services, the 69-year-old is alleged to have violated the ban on frozen funds.

Investigators in Germany believe Usmanov is currently residing in his native Uzbekistan.

Credit: AP
Uzbek-born Russian businessman Alisher UsmanovCredit: AP

4. Pope says Ukrainians subjected to 'savageness, monstrosities, and torture'

Pope Francis has declared that Ukrainians were being subjected to "savageness, monstrosities and torture" amid the war.

In his general audience in St. Peter's Square, Francis labelled Ukrainians a "noble" people being martyred, without referring to Russia.

The speech came after the Pope met with Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, his charity chief who is delivering aid in Ukraine.

Francis also referred to "tortured corpses" after Krajewski reportedly visited mass graves in Ukraine.

"He told me about the pain of these people, the savagery, the monstrosities, the tortured corpses that they find," Francis said.

Recent reports from Izium in eastern Ukraine are that hundreds of bodies and mass graves have been discovered after Russian forces withdrew from the area.

Ukraine's President Zelenskyy said investigators at the site had found evidence of torture, including bodies with hands tied.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has called these allegations a "lie" and has repeatedly denied committing war crimes.

Since the start of the war, Pope Francis has tried to maintain a delicate balance between condemning a "cruel" conflict and maintaining dialogue with Moscow.

Credit: AP Photo
Pope Francis, arrives in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican for his weekly general audience, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022Credit: AP Photo

5. Far-right German politicians plan to visit to Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine

Politicians from Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party have been criticised for a planned trip to Russian-controlled Ukraine.

Several regional MPs have announced plans to travel from Russia to the Donbas region, which is largely controlled by pro-Russian forces.

The group is reportedly led by Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, vice-chairman of the AfD parliamentary group in the Saxony-Anhalt regional parliament.

“In view of distorted and biased reporting on the Ukraine conflict, we want to get our own picture of the situation and assess the humanitarian situation,” Tillschneider wrote on Twitter.

Members of the far-right party have previously argued that "Western" media coverage of the Ukraine war is "biased".

Numerous AfD members have visited the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine, as well as the annexed Crimean peninsula, but this is the first visit since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The news was condemned by Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, who has called for the intervention of state security agencies.

According to German media reports, the party's federal leadership had not been informed of the plans beforehand.

The MPs involved belong to the party's most radical wing, which is known to have previously expressed pro-Russian positions. Multiple media have reported the visit to eastern Ukraine will be sponsored by the Russian Duma.

Additional sources • EFE