Ukraine war: Putin to annex Ukrainian regions; new Nord Stream leak; and Finland closes border

A military vehicle drives along a street with a billboard that reads: "With Russia forever, September 27", prior to a referendum in Luhansk, Ukraine on Sept. 22, 2022
A military vehicle drives along a street with a billboard that reads: "With Russia forever, September 27", prior to a referendum in Luhansk, Ukraine on Sept. 22, 2022 Copyright AP
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By Euronews with AFP, AP, Reuters
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Here's our latest round-up of key developments in the Ukraine war.


Here are six key developments in the Ukraine war to know about today.

1. Putin to annex four Ukrainian regions on Friday

The Russian-installed leaders of the four regions of southeastern Ukraine have visited Moscow to finalise plans for annexation.

Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia have all held "referendums" on joining Russia in the last week.

Kyiv and its international allies have slammed them as a sham.

According to Russian officials, the four regions -- which represent about 15% of Ukraine -- voted overwhelming to be incorporated into Russian territory.

The West has stated that it will never recognise the annexation, with videos on social media showing armed soldiers enforcing the vote door-to-door.

"I am in Moscow," Leonid Passetchnik, the Russian-installed head of the Lugansk region, told the Tass news agency on Thursday.

The separatist leaders will soon be received by Russian President Vladimir Putin to ratify their "official" requests for annexation on Friday.

Russia's state parliament in Moscow is then expected to vote on the matter in the next few days.

In a sign that the Kremlin intends to mark the occasion, some streets in the Russian capital around the famous Red Square will be closed on Friday. Giant video screens have been set up, with billboards proclaiming “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson – Russia!”

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a new warning to Russia of a "very harsh" response if Moscow annexes the four regions.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a fresh round of sanctions on Russia designed “to make the Kremlin pay” for escalating the conflict in Ukraine with the "sham referendums".

The EU's energy commissioner has also called for the bloc to cap the price of Russian gas exports to Europe.

But Hungary's government said on Thursday that it cannot support more energy sanctions against Russia.

2. Sweden finds a new leak in Nord Stream gas pipeline

The Swedish coastguard said on Thursday that it had discovered a fourth gas leak on the damaged Nord Stream pipelines.

Damage to the undersea gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea has sent plumes of natural gas into the water near the island of Bornholm, while also heightening security concerns.

The European Union suspects sabotage and has promised a "robust" response to any intentional disruption of its energy infrastructure.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that a deliberate attack against allies' infrastructure would be met with a "united and determined" response.


"All currently available information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage," a statement read.

Russia's foreign ministry has claimed that the damage occurred in territory that is "fully under the control" of US intelligence agencies.

Russia also suspects sabotage and prosecutors say they have opened an investigation into an "act of international terrorism".

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has dismissed accusations of Russian involvement as "stupid" and says the leaks appeared to be "an act of terrorism, possibly on a state level".

The United Nations Security Council will convene on Friday at the request of Russia to discuss damage to the gas pipelines.


3. Putin blames collapse of USSR for conflict

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that conflicts in the former Soviet Union, including the ongoing one between Russia and Ukraine, were "of course" the result of the "collapse of the Soviet Union" and accused the West of sowing discord.

"We know that the West is working out scenarios to stir up new conflicts in the CIS space. But we already have enough (conflicts)," he told a meeting with security officials from member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which brings together former Soviet republics.

"You only have to look at what is happening right now between Russia and Ukraine, what is happening on the borders of some CIS countries. All this, of course, is a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union," he continued.

The Russian president also said that a "fairer world order" was being formed through "a difficult process".

By clinging to the past and trying to pursue a policy of diktat in all areas - from international relations to the economy, culture and sport - this so-called collective West is creating new problems and new crises," Putin said.


On 16 September, at an Asian regional summit, President Putin had already posed as a counterweight to the Western order, welcoming the "growing role of new centres of power".

In the past, Putin has described the collapse of the USSR as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century.

4. Finland to ban entry to Russian tourists

The Finnish government says it will significantly limit passenger traffic on the border with Russia by banning Russian citizens from travelling with tourist visas.

The new measures will take effect at midnight on Friday, foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said on Thursday.

“The decision in principle aims to completely prevent Russian tourism to Finland and the related transit through Finland,” he told reporters. Almost 17,000 Russians crossed the border into Finland over the weekend -- an 80% rise from a week earlier.


Finnish authorities say the continued arrival of Russian tourists is endangering the country’s international relations, following Russia's “illegal” referendums and recent leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines.

Russian citizens can still enter Finland via the 1,340-kilometre land border for family reasons, or for study or work purposes. Russian political dissidents may also still seek to enter the country for humanitarian purposes.

Finland had already slashed the number of Russian tourist visas earlier this month in a show of solidarity with Ukraine.

Until now, Russians have been crossing into Finland before flying to other European nations as a way of circumventing flight bans imposed after the invasion.

Meanwhile, the UK Ministry of Defence has claimed that more Russian men have now likely fled conscription than were initially used in the invasion.


In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry said Putin's "partial military mobilisation" had resulted in a "considerable exodus".

The chair of the Russian State Duma has posted a reminder on Telegram that people should not be fleeing Russia to avoid enlisting.

AP Photo/Leo Correa
A man walks past a damaged building after a Russian attack in Kramatorsk, Ukraine.AP Photo/Leo Correa

5. Ukraine will 'act to protect our people,' says Zelenskyy

Heavy fighting has continued on the ground in Ukraine, notably in the "key" eastern region of Donetsk.

The Ukrainian governor there has reported that six civilians were killed in Russian attacks on Wednesday.

Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, said three people -- including a 12-year-old girl -- were also killed and more than 60 buildings were damaged.


Ukraine's military claimed that Russia had carried out more than 82 attacks from rocket salvo systems on military and civilian sites over the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Kyiv said its air force carried out 16 strikes on Wednesday, damaging or destroying a number of Russian positions.

President Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that Ukraine will “act to protect our people” in Russian-occupied regions after “an imitation of referendums”.

A report drawn up by an international working group on sanctions has concluded that Russia should now be declared a “state sponsor of terrorism” under US and Canadian law.

6. Ukrainian activist among winners of ‘Alternative Nobel’ prize

A Ukrainian civil rights activist is among the recipients of the annual Right Livelihood Award — colloquially known as the “Alternative Nobel”.


Oleksandra Matviichuk, the head of the Centre for Civil Liberties, was honoured “for building sustainable democratic institutions in Ukraine and modelling a path to international accountability for war crimes.”

In a statement released by the award committee, Matviichuk said that “now we are going through a very dramatic time of Ukrainian history ... this award is a gesture of support for our struggle in general, and for my work, in particular.”

The other winners of the Right Livelihood Award include Somalia human rights activists Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman and the Africa Institute for Energy Governance.

Created in 1980, the award honours efforts that the prize founder, Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, felt were being ignored by the Nobel Prizes.

Each winner will receive 1 million kronor (€91,000) in cash during a ceremony in Stockholm on November 30.

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