Ukraine drives Russians from more villages; Elon Musk peace plan sparks outrage; Biden, Zelenskyy talk: Updates

Ukraine reclaimed several more villages Tuesday, and the bodies of Russian soldiers were seen lying in the streets of a crucial city liberated days ago as a Ukrainian counteroffensive drives Russian forces into retreat.

More than 450 settlements in the Kharkiv region have been liberated in the past month, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. Cities and towns in other regions have also been retaken, he said, as his troops make inroads in the southern Kherson province, one of four the Russians are trying to annex.

"Fierce fighting continues in many areas of the front," Zelenskyy said. "More and more occupiers are trying to escape, more and more losses are being inflicted on the enemy army."

That includes encounters with some of Russia's premier fighters, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, which said that "even the most elite Russian military forces are becoming increasingly degraded as the war continues.''

The Donetsk region hub of Lyman was retaken over the weekend, providing Ukraine forces with a key staging area for pressing its offensive. On Tuesday, an Associated Press team reporting from the town saw at least 18 bodies of Russian soldiers still on the ground. AP said the Ukrainian military appeared to have collected the bodies of their comrades but had not immediately removed those of the Russians.

TURNING POINT?:As Russia admits defeat in Kharkiv, Ukraine regains land, confidence

Other developments

►Ukraine's economy, devastated by a war that has displaced its population while ravaging factories and farmland, will plunge 35% this year, the World Bank forecast Tuesday.

►Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the military had recruited more than 200,000 reservists as part of a partial mobilization launched two weeks ago. Shoigu has said the goal is 300,000.

►Japan ordered the Russian consul in the northern city of Sapporo to leave the country within six days in retaliation for Moscow’s expulsion of a Japanese diplomat last month for alleged espionage.

►The city council of Kyiv says it is providing evacuation centers with potassium iodine pills in preparation for a possible nuclear strike on the capital, Ukraine’s largest city.

Recruits walk during a military training at a firing range in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.
Recruits walk during a military training at a firing range in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.

RUSSIA'S RETREAT DRAWS CRITICISM AT HOME: Russian drone attack targets Zelenskyy's hometown: Ukraine updates

Elon musk sparks outrage for suggesting Ukraine abandon Crimea

Ukraine leaders and supporters were seething on social media Tuesday after Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted his proposed peace plan, which includes Ukraine giving up its efforts to regain control of Crimea. Russian activist and former world chess champion Gary Kasparov dismissed Musk's plans as "moral idiocy, repetition of Kremlin propaganda, a betrayal of Ukrainian courage & sacrifice." The response from Ukraine's parliament was one word: “No.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, credited Musky with trying to find a peaceful solution.

Under Musk's proposal, Crimea would formally become part of Russia and Ukraine must remain neutral, suggesting that efforts to join NATO would be shelved. Musk also calls for new voting in the areas where Russia's sham referendums held last month resulted in Russia annexing four Ukraine regions. Musk says the votes would be held under U.N. supervision.

He attached a poll, and more than 2.5 million voters rejected his plan by about 60% to 40%. Zelenskyy countered with his own poll, asking Twitter users whether they preferred Musk supporting Russia or Ukraine. About 80% of more than 2 million voters selected Ukraine.

US won't recognize annexations, Biden tells Zelenskyy

President Joe Biden assured his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday that the U.S. wouldn't accept as legitimate Russia’s attempted annexation of four provinces in eastern and southern Ukraine, according to a readout of their conversation.

The two leaders spoke on the phone as the U.S. announced the latest military aid to support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion. Included in the $625 million package are four HIMARS – the advanced rocket launchers credited with helping Ukraine shift the war’s momentum – along with armored vehicles, artillery systems and ammunition.

Biden also told Zelenskyy the U.S. was ready to sanction any country or entity that backs Russia’s push for annexation.

“President Biden noted the ongoing efforts of the United States to rally the world behind Ukraine’s efforts to defend its freedom and democracy, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter,’’ the readout said.

UN body documents 6,100 civilians killed, many tortured in Ukraine

The U.N.'s Human Rights Council said Tuesday it has documented more than 6,100 cases of Ukrainian civilians being killed in the war, while acknowledging, "The real  figures are likely considerably higher."

U.N. investigators are also reporting numerous instances of Russian troops torturing Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, confirming the council's Sept. 23 report that concluded Russian forces had raped and tortured Ukrainians, including children, among other war crimes.

There have also been documented instances of Ukrainian troops torturing Russian POWs, but “on a lesser scale,” said Christian Salazar Volkmann, director of U.N. field operations.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant may be restarted in days

Ukraine may soon restart the embattled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant as a safety measure ahead of the winter, according to the head of the company that runs the Russian-occupied facility.

Energoatom President Petro Kotin told The Associated Press on Tuesday that two of the plant's reactors may be activated in the coming days. “If you have low temperature, you will just freeze everything inside. The safety equipment will be damaged,” he said.

The facility, the largest of its kind in Europe, has been damaged by shelling that Russian and Ukrainian officials blame on the other side. That raised concerns about a radiation leak and prompted the shutdown of the remaining reactors.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has called for an end to shelling near the plant and for the establishment of a nuclear safety zone.

Russia fines TikTok for allowing pro-LGBT posts

A Russian court fined TikTok $50,000 for failing to delete LGBT material in what is the country’s latest crackdown on Big Tech companies. The court in Moscow ruled against the platform following a complaint by Russian regulators. TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance Ltd., didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russian leaders approve annexations, transition period until 2026

Russia's Federation Council – the upper house of parliament – unanimously approved four federal constitutional laws rubber-stamping the annexation of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk "republics" in the hotly contested Donbas area of Ukraine, as well as the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. The lower house already signed off and Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to quickly close the deal. Residents are recognized as Russian citizens under the laws but have a month to reject that citizenship. The annexation includes a transition period until 2026 for integration into "the economic, financial, credit and legal systems."

Ukraine, the U.S. and its allies have refused to recognize the annexations.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine war live updates: Russians driven back; Elon Musk plan blasted