Kyiv has condemned reports that Ukrainian prisoners of war have been forced to vote in the referendums in four regions of eastern Ukraine on joining Russia.
The Ukrainian government’s Centre for Countering Disinformation said the prisoners' part in the stage-managed votes was “another manipulation aimed at promoting the Kremlin’s narrative in the occupied territory”.
Meanwhile, Britain announced a new package of sanctions targeting individuals linked to the referendums.
"Sham referendums held at the barrel of a gun cannot be free or fair and we will never recognise their results," Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.
Today’s top stories
Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin has admitted he founded the Wagner group - despite suing journalists who had already linked him to the notorious mercenary force.
Police in Dagestan fired into the air to disperse demonstrators protesting against Putin’s mobilisation.
Britain has announced a package of sanctions targeting Russians involved in the referendums in eastern Ukraine.
A man opened fire and wounded a recruitment officer at an enlistment centre in Siberia, amid high tensions over the mobilisation.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres renewed his call for the abolition of nuclear weapons, as concerns grow over Russia's threat to use them in the Ukraine war.
Strategy, logistics and morale: Why the fundamentals of war haven’t changed
Every time there is a war, commentators and pundits love to tell us that this war is different to all other wars, writes Dr Mike Martin.
This conflict, they tell us, heralds a shift in warfare, and it will never be the same again. You might expect this from the punditry, who often know little about fighting.
But a surprising number of generals and politicians also make this mistake as they seek to explain the battles that they are involved in, or instigated.
Read Dr Martin's analysis in full here.
Putin's chef admits to being the founder of military contractor Wagner
The Russian businessman known as “Putin’s chef” has admitted to creating the infamous private military contractor Wagner despite previously suing journalists who linked him to it, writes Nataliya Vasilyeva.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, who gained his nickname for organising banquets for the Russian president, said he founded Wagner in May 2014 as a patriotic gesture to ward off Ukrainian troops seeking to regain control of separatist-held eastern Ukraine.
Mr Prigozhin who owns a catering business in Vladimir Putin’s hometown of St Petersburg said he took interest in military contractors just before the annexation of Crimea.
Read Nataliya's full report here.
'Ukraine: The Latest' - listen to our daily podcast on the Russian invasion
Today, we report on brutal fighting across Ukraine, discuss the fallout from Italy’s election & and analyse Russia’s faltering attempts to mobilise hundreds of thousands of its people to send to Ukraine.
Watch: Russian police 'fire guns into the air' to disperse protesters in Dagestan
Netherlands to increase military support for Ukraine
The Netherlands will increase its support to Ukraine and will back new sanctions against Russia, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said.
📞: We are stepping up our support for Ukraine. More weapons, more sanctions, and more isolation for Russia. I stressed this once again when speaking to @ZelenskyyUa, in response to Russia’s mobilisation and illegitimate referenda. Protecting Europe is crucial for our security. pic.twitter.com/3tyQLpCDDQ
— Mark Rutte (@MinPres) September 26, 2022
Ukraine investigating suspected mass grave near the Russian border
Ukrainian forces are investigating a suspected mass burial site feared to hold up to 100 bodies at an abandoned former Russian position near the border.
The site is an industrial chicken farm outside Kozacha Lopan around two kilometres from the international border, once used by Russian troops to shelter their tanks before it was recaptured by Ukraine.
But the suspected grave site is still within range of Russian artillery and soldiers protecting the plant said de-mining teams had yet to sweep the area for mines or unexploded shells, meaning forensic teams are unable to investigate.
Lyudmyla Vakulenko, head of the Kozacha Lopan local administration, said: "I was told by the soldiers who came to our village that they saw a burial place of soldiers, but they didn't specify the number," she said. "They said a specialised unit would look into it."
Ms Vakulenko said the Ukrainian army suspects missing troops were buried in the derelict chicken plant, and soldiers at the site believe the grave could also hold dead Russian soldiers and Ukrainian civilians.
Russia detains Japanese diplomat over alleged espionage
Russia's FSB federal security agency said on Monday it had detained a Japanese consul in Russia's Pacific port city of Vladivostok for alleged espionage and declared him persona non grata.
The FSB said the consul was caught receiving secret information on the effect of Western sanctions on the economic situation in Russia's far east, Russian news agencies reported.
UN chief urges end to 'era of nuclear blackmail'
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has renewed his call for the global abolition of nuclear weapons, as concerns grow over Russia's threat to use them in the Ukraine war.
"Decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we can hear once again the rattling of nuclear sabers," Mr Guterres told a special General Assembly session on nuclear disarmament. "Let me be clear - the era of nuclear blackmail must end."
"The idea that any country could fight and win a nuclear war is deranged. Any use of a nuclear weapon would incite a humanitarian Armageddon," he said. "Without eliminating nuclear weapons, there can be no peace."
Denmark reports gas leak near Nord Stream 2 route
Denmark's maritime traffic agency has reported a gas leak in the Baltic Sea near the route of the defunct, Russian-owned Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The gas leak, south-east of the Danish island of Bornholm, "is dangerous for maritime traffic" and "navigation is prohibited within a five nautical mile radius of the reported position", the authority said in a notice to ships.
Moldova says it can no longer rely only on neutral status
Moldova can no longer rely only on its neutral status and must ramp up its defensive military power, a security aide to pro-Western President Maia Sandu said on Monday.
The ex-Soviet nation, one of Europe's poorest countries, allocated just over 1 billion leu - or 0.45 per cent of GDP - for defence spending this year. It applied for European Union membership this year and strongly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"Moldova can no longer rely exclusively on foreign policy instruments, one of which is its neutral status, to ensure state stability," said Dorin Recean, the security aide.
"Moldova must start work on increasing its defence potential... The authorities need to obtain the conscious support of citizens who should understand it is critical to the state's survival," he said, calling for funds to be allocated for this task.
Ukrainian prisoners forced to vote in referendums on joining Russia
Ukrainian prisoners of war were forced to vote to join Russia, according to the government in Kyiv.
The government's Centre for Countering Disinformation said 57 prisoners of war in Donetsk were forced to vote.
The centre said the forced votes were "another manipulation aimed at promoting the Kremlin's narrative in the occupied territories – that among the captured Ukrainain soldiers, many want to join the Russian Federation".
UK sanctions Russians linked to Ukraine referendums
The British government on Monday announced a new package of sanctions linked to what it described as Moscow's "sham" referendums on four regions of eastern Ukraine joining Russia.
Britain said among those sanctioned were top Russian officials involved in enforcing the votes.
"Sham referendums held at the barrel of a gun cannot be free or fair and we will never recognise their results," British foreign secretary James Cleverly said.
"Today’s sanctions will target those behind these sham votes, as well as the individuals that continue to prop up the Russian regime’s war of aggression."
Britain said those sanctioned included 55 board members and directors from organisations the government said "continue to bankroll the Russian war machine". These included Gazprombank, Sberbank and Sovcombank.
Orthodox Church leader says Russian soldiers dying in Ukraine will be cleansed of sin
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has said that Russian soldiers who die in the war against Ukraine will be cleansed of all their sins.
Patriarch Kirill is a key Putin ally and backer of the invasion. He has previously criticised those who oppose the war and called on Russians to rally round the Kremlin.
"Many are dying on the fields of internecine warfare," Mr Kirill, 75, said in his first Sunday address since the mobilisation order. "The Church prays that this battle will end as soon as possible, so that as few brothers as possible will kill each other in this fratricidal war."
"But at the same time, the Church realises that if somebody, driven by a sense of duty and the need to fulfil their oath ... goes to do what their duty calls of them, and if a person dies in the performance of this duty, then they have undoubtedly committed an act equivalent to sacrifice. They will have sacrificed themselves for others. And therefore, we believe that this sacrifice washes away all the sins that a person has committed."
Ukrainians in Melitopol fear they will be forced to fight for Russia
Ukrainians in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol fear they will be called up by Moscow following a referendum on joining Russia in which some residents were forced to vote at gunpoint, its exiled mayor has said.
Mayor Ivan Fedorov said the last official route out of Melitopol to territory controlled by Ukraine had been closed, and that residents' concerns had risen since voting began in the four-day referendum on Friday.
"Our residents are frightened, they are panicking, they don't know what will happen tomorrow, and when people will start being called up [to Russia's army]," he told a news briefing.
Melitopol, in southeastern Ukraine, was one of the first cities to fall after Russia's invasion in February.
Mr Fedorov said he believed the main reason for holding the referendums was to enable Moscow to conscript Ukrainians following Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement of a partial mobilization last week.
Kremlin open to 'constructive' ties with Italy's Meloni
The Kremlin has said Moscow was open to developing "constructive" ties with Rome after the victory of far-right leader Giorgia Meloni in Italy's general election.
"We are ready to welcome any political forces that are able to go beyond the established mainstream, which is filled with hate for our country ... and show willingness to be constructive in relations with our country," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, when asked about Meloni's victory.
Zelensky and security officials looks for way counter Iranian drones
Ukraine's president and security chiefs met today to plan ways to counteract Russia's use of "new types of weapons" after Moscow stepped up attacks using Iranian combat drones.
"During the meeting, the participants separately focused on the issue of the enemy's use of new types of weapons and outlined plans to counter such means," the president’s office said in a statement, without giving details of the plans.
Russia carried out at least five attacks on targets in the region using unmanned Shahed-136 drones in the last few days, Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesperson for Odesa's regional administration, told reporters.
"The enemy is trying to save on missiles... these Shaheds are much cheaper, they can be used much more frequently and in pairs. We are seeing that the enemy can even launch several of these kamikaze drones for one attack," he said.
Nord Stream 2 pipeline suffers mysterious pressure loss
The German government does not know what caused a sudden drop in pressure in the defunct Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, the economy ministry said on Monday.
Nord Stream 2's operator reported a sudden drop in pressure overnight, with a spokesperson suggesting there could have been a leak.
The pipeline, which was intended to double the volume of gas flowing from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, had just been completed and was filled with 300 million cubic metres of gas when Chancellor Olaf Scholz cancelled it shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Watch: Gunman opens fire at draft office amid mobilisation backlash
A man opened fire and wounded a recruitment officer at an enlistment centre in Siberia on Monday, the local governor said, as tensions mount over Russia's military mobilisation.
The incident occurred in the town of Ust-Ilimsk in Irkutsk, a vast and thinly populated region of south-eastern Siberia.
In a video published on social media, the gunman is seen identifying himself to police officers as Ruslan Zinin, 25, and firing at least one shot inside the draft office.
Read the full report here.
US announces $457.5 million in aid for Ukraine
The United States will provide $457.5 million in new civilian security aid for Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Monday.
The aid is designed to help Ukrainian law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, the statement said.
Hungary's Orban says EU sanctions on Russia have 'backfired'
Hungary should prepare for a prolonged war in neighbouring Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told parliament on Monday, sharply criticising European Union sanctions imposed on Russia which he said were driving up energy prices.
EU sanctions have "backfired" and it was no surprise that governments were falling in Europe, he said, referring to the Italian election on Sunday where Giorgia Meloni looks set to become Italy's first woman prime minister at the head of its most right-wing government since World War Two.
Mr Orban announced a national consultation to ask Hungarians what they think of sanctions on Russia, saying the punitive measures introduced in the wake of the invasion were damaging Europe.
Russia arrests 100 in Dagestan call-up protest
Russian police arrested more than 100 people at the weekend in the southern region of Dagestan at a protest against Moscow's troop mobilisation, according to human rights monitor OVD-Info.
A poor, Muslim-majority republic in the North Caucasus, Dagestan has seen more men killed in the Kremlin's military offensive in Ukraine than any other part of Russia, according to independent Russian media.
OVD-Info said that police had arrested at least 101 people in Makhatchkala, the capital of Dagestan in southwestern Russia.
Russian media showed videos of women arguing with police during the protest.
"Why are you taking our children?" one shouts.
Critics say Moscow focuses its military call-up drives on Russia's poorest, most remote regions.
Putin denounces 'inhuman terrorist attack' at school
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday denounced an "inhuman terrorist attack" at a school in central Russia's Izhevsk, where a gunman opened fire leaving at least 13 people dead, including children.
"President Putin deeply mourns the deaths of people, children at a school where there was a terrorist attack by a person, who apparently belongs to a neo-fascist group," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
"The president wishes for the recovery of those injured as a result of this inhuman terrorist attack," Mr Peskov added.
Kremlin says Russia not planning to close its borders
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "no decisions" had been taken on whether to close Russia's borders, as thousands sought to flee the country to escape the draft.
There have been rumours of a plan to block eligible men from leaving Russia.
Mr Peskov also admitted that mistakes had been made during the mobilisation effort.
"Indeed, there are cases when the [mobilisation] decree was violated. In some regions, governors are actively working to correct the situation. We hope ... all errors will be corrected," he said.
Kremlin: Russia and US in 'sporadic' contact over nuclear weapons
The Kremlin said on Monday it was in "sporadic" contact with the United States on issues related to nuclear weapons, in exchanges that allow the world's two largest nuclear powers to outline their positions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week he was "not bluffing" when he said Russia would be prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend its territorial integrity, prompting the US to warn of the "catastrophic" consequences that would follow if Russia did so.
Moldova mulls sanctions for citizens who fight for Russia in Ukraine
Moldova may revoke the citizenship of its nationals who go to fight for Russia in Ukraine after being called up because they also hold Russian passports, pro-Western President Maia Sandu has said.
There are 200,000 people with dual Moldovan-Russian citizenship who live in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria. Ms Sandu said there was a risk that some of those people could be called up by Russia to fight.
"To prevent that happening, we are analysing the possibility of applying the process of revoking Moldovan citizenship for those people [with Russian passports] who fight on the side of the aggressor," Ms Sandu said.
"We are also looking at the possibility of making punishment harsher for Moldovan citizens [without Russian passports] ... who are in the ranks of the aggressor's armed forces," she said, adding that Moldova was holding consultations with Moscow to prevent cases of its citizens being called up.
Death toll in Russia school shooting rises to 13
At least 13 people were dead, including seven children, in a shooting at a school in the city of Izhevsk in central Russia, investigators have said, as the toll climbed from nine victims reported previously.
"Thirteen people, including six adults and seven minors, were killed because of this crime," Russia's Investigative Committee said in a statement, adding that 14 children and seven adults were injured.
IAEA chief ready for Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant talks this week
UN atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi has said he is ready to hold talks in Ukraine and Russia this week on setting up a protection zone at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine that he says is needed urgently.
"There is a plan on the table to do it. Last week I had an opportunity to start consultations with Ukraine and with the Russian Federation ... and I am ready to continue these consultations in both countries this week," Mr Grossi told a meeting of IAEA member states.
School shooting death toll rises to nine
At least nine people were killed, including five children, in a shooting at a school in the city of Izhevsk in central Russia, investigators have said.
"Nine people were killed because of this crime, including two security guards of the educational institution and two teachers, as well as five minors," Russia's Investigative Committee said in a statement on Telegram, adding that the attacker "committed suicide".
OECD cuts world GDP growth forecast over Ukraine war
The world economy will take a bigger hit next year than previously forecast due to the impact of Russia's war in Ukraine, the OECD said Monday.
The organisation slashed its 2023 global growth forecast to 2.2 per cent, down from 2.8 per cent in its previous estimate in June, with Europe's economic powerhouse Germany falling into recession.
At least six dead in Russia school shooting
A gunman killed six people a school in the Russian city of Izhevsk, Russia's interior ministry said in a statement on Telegram.
The Udmurtia branch of the interior ministry said the gunman had killed himself and that 20 people were wounded.
News agency RIA cited Governor Alexander Brechalov of the Udmurtia region, of which Izhevsk is the capital, as saying that an unidentified man had entered the school and killed a security guard. He said that there were dead and wounded among the school students.
Thousands of Russians have fled to Finland to escape mobilisation
Almost 17,000 Russians crossed the border into Finland during the weekend, an 80 per cent rise from a week earlier, Finnish authorities have said.
Captain Taneli Repo at Finland's southeastern border authority said: "The queues continue to be a bit longer than they've usually been since the pandemic."
Young Russian men who spoke to Reuters after crossing into Finland via the Vaalimaa border station last week, some three hours by car from Russia's second-largest city St Petersburg, said they left out of fear of being drafted for the war.
The Finnish government, wary of becoming a major transit nation, on Friday said it will stop all Russians from entering on tourist visas within the coming days, although exceptions may still apply on humanitarian grounds.
Zelensky: Ukraine discovers two more mass grave in Izyum
Ukraine has discovered two more mass burial sites containing the bodies of hundreds of people in the northeastern town of Izyum, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.
"Today I received more information ... They found two more mass graves, big graves with hundreds of people ... We're talking about [the] little town of Izyum," Mr Zelensky said in an interview with US Broadcaster CBS.
After the months-long Russian occupation, Ukrainian authorities uncovered a large burial site next to a cemetery in a wooded area in Izyum earlier this month, and launched an investigation into the circumstances of the deaths.
Last week, they finished exhuming the bodies of 436 people. The majority of them appeared to have died violent deaths and there were preliminary indications that 30 of them had been tortured, the regional governor said.
Prigozhin confirms he is behind Wagner mercenary group
Pro-Kremlin businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin has admitted that he founded Russia's notorious Wagner mercenary group in 2014.
Mr Prigozhin, a key ally of President Vladimir Putin, had previously taken legal action against people who accused him of being behind the group.
“Then I flew to one of the training grounds and did it myself. I cleaned the old weapons myself, figured out the bulletproof vests myself and found specialists who could help me with this. From that moment, on May 1 2014, and a group of patriots was born, which later acquired the name BTG 'Wagner'," he was quoted as saying by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.
"Exclusively thanks to their courage and courage, the liberation of the Lugansk airport and many other territories became possible, and the fate of the LPR and the DPR changed radically," he said, referring to battles the group was involved in between 2014 and 2015.
Ukrainians vote in Russia's 'sham' referendums, in pictures
Russian troops go door to door as annexation voting continues
Voting in referendums aimed at annexing territory to Russia has entered a fourth day.
Russian-backed officials have carried ballot boxes from door to door, accompanied by security officials, said Luhansk's regional governor Serhiy Gaidai, with residents' names being taken down if they failed to vote correctly or refused to cast a ballot.
"A woman walks down the street with what looks like a karaoke microphone telling everyone to take part in the referendum," the governor said. "Representatives of the occupation forces are going from apartment to apartment with ballot boxes. This is a secret ballot, right?"
Russian forces control territory in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia that is roughly the same size as Portugal.
Russia's parliament could move to formalise the annexations within days.
Dozens of Ukrainian towns hit by Russian shelling
Heavy fighting saw more than 40 towns hit by Russian shelling, according to the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces.
In the 24 hours to Monday morning, Russian forces launched five missile and 12 air strikes, as well as more than 83 attacks from multiple rocket-propelled grenades, the general staff said.
More than 40 settlements in all were affected by enemy fire, mostly in southern and southeast Ukraine.
Countering Russian attacks, Ukraine’s air forces launched 33 strikes, hitting 25 "enemy" areas, the general staff added.
US will take ‘catastrophic’ action if Vladimir Putin uses nuclear weapons
Russia will face “catastrophic consequences” if it deploys nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the US has warned Kremlin officials, writes Joe Barnes.
Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said on Sunday night that the US had “communicated directly, privately to the Russians at very high levels” how it would respond if Vladimir Putin carried out the nuclear strike threat he made during an address last week.
“If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia. The United States will respond decisively,” Mr Sullivan told NBC’s Meet the Press programme.
First mobilised men begin arriving at military bases
Tranches of men called up under Russia’s partial mobilisation have started arriving at military bases, the UK's Ministry of Defence has said.
Tens of thousands of call-up papers have already been issued and Russia now faces an an administrative and logistical challenge to provide training for the troops.
"Unlike most Western armies, the Russian military provides low-level, initial training to soldiers within their designated operational units, rather than in dedicated training establishments," the Ministry of Defence said on Twitter on Monday.
"The lack of military trainers, and the haste with which Russia has started the mobilisation, suggests that many of the drafted troops will deploy to the front line with minimal relevant preparation. They are likely to suffer a high attrition rate."
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 26 September 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/qJ9KOiz3lB
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/a84C4tDfep
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) September 26, 2022
Russian drones strike Odesa
Two drones launched by Russian forces in the Odesa region in Ukraine hit military objects and caused a fire and the detonation of ammunition, the South command of Ukraine's forces said on Monday.
"As a result of a large-scale fire and the detonation of ammunition, the evacuation of the civilian population was organised," the command said in statement on Telegram.
"Preliminarily, there have been no casualties."
Japan 'deeply concerned' about nuclear use
Japan has banned exports of chemical weapons-related goods to Russia in an additional sanction against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
Japan is "deeply concerned" about the possible use of nuclear weapons, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Monday.
It also added 21 Russian organisations such as science labs as the target of existing export bans, according to a government statement released after Monday's cabinet meeting, which formally approved the new sanction measures announced by the foreign minister at a Group of Seven meeting last week.
"Japan is deeply concerned about the possibility of nuclear weapons used during Russia's invasion of Ukraine," Mr Matsuno said, adding Japan would continue to work with the international society in supporting Ukraine and sanctioning Russia.
Putin's nuclear threat 'could be a reality'
Vladimir Putin's veiled nuclear threat "could be a reality", Volodymyr Zelensky has said.
The Ukrainian President said Russian military activity at nuclear power plants in Ukraine were "the first steps of his nuclear blackmail".
"He wants to scare the whole world," the Ukrainian leader said of Putin on Face the Nation.
"I don't think he's bluffing. I think the world is deterring it and containing this threat. We need to keep putting pressure on him and not allow him to continue."
No country has used nuclear weapons on the battlefield except the United States in 1945, when it destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 200,000 people. Imperial Japan surrendered days later, ending the Second World War.
Today's top stories
Russia will face “catastrophic consequences” if it deploys nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the US has warned Kremlin officials
Vladimir Putin's allies have criticised the way in which civilians are being conscripted to fight in Ukraine as villagers blocked off a motorway to stop men being taken to the front lines
One of the British prisoners who was captured whilst fighting in Ukraine has revealed how he was forced by the Russians to listen to ABBA and Cher on repeat