Ukraine Latest: Biden Condemns Annexation Referendum as ‘Sham’

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden denounced Russian efforts to absorb occupied regions of Ukraine as “a flagrant, flagrant violation of the UN Charter and the basic principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Russia plans to sign treaties Friday to absorb four regions after annexation votes that have been condemned as illegal by the United Nations and other world leaders. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin plans to address legislators on Friday, his spokesman said.

Putin may face an early test of his annexation plans in the Donetsk town of Lyman, where Ukrainian, Western and Russian military analysts say Russian units are at risk of being enveloped.

NATO allies on Thursday said damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 natural gas pipelines appear to be “the result of deliberate, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage.” The Swedish Coast Guard’s Command Center also identified a new pipeline leak in the Baltic Sea.

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Key Developments

  • Ukraine Advance Near Key Donbas Town Tests Putin’s Land Grab

  • Russian Oligarch Deripaska, Girlfriend Indicted on US Charges

  • Putin Set to Annex Ukraine Lands Friday, Ignoring Criticism

  • Wheat Prices Buoyed by Worries Over Ukraine’s Export Corridor

  • Putin’s Draft Order Sends 200,000 Russians Fleeing to the Border

On the Ground

Russia struck the city of Dnipro with missiles overnight, including residential areas, local authorities said on Telegram. Three people, including a child, were killed. More than 60 private houses and several high-rise buildings were damaged. On Wednesday evening Russia launched five missiles toward the Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, four of which were destroyed by air-defense forces, while one hit a grain-processing facility in Kryvorizka district, the Ukrainian military’s southern command said on Facebook. More than 28 settlements, including Mykolaiv, Kryvyi Rih and Siversk, incurred Russian strikes over the past day, Ukraine’s General Staff said. Russian forces shelled the Kryvorizka district Thursday morning, hitting industrial infrastructure and wounding 13 workers, according to regional authorities.

All times CET:

Biden Says US Will “Never, Never, Never’ Recognize the Annexation (10:05 p.m.)

Biden condemned what he called the “transparent effort by Russia to annex parts of neighboring Ukraine.”

“The United States -- I want to be very clear about this -- the United States will never, never, never recognize Russia’s claim on Ukraine sovereign territory,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “This so-called referendum was a sham, an absolute sham. The results were manufactured in Moscow.”

Putin Says Mistakes Were Made in Russian Mobilization (7:40 p.m.)

Acknowledging errors in Russia’s military mobilization, Putin told a meeting of his Security Council that “it’s necessary to correct all mistakes and prevent them from happening in the future.”

The mobilization of about 300,000 reservists has been met with protests in Russian cities and thousands of military-age men fleeing the country.

While the criteria for being called up included previous service in the armed forces and relevant experience, some of the Russians told to report for duty were entitled to a delay, such as fathers with many children, those with chronic diseases and those past military age, according to Putin.

Ukraine Says Foreign Aid Declined in September (7:16 p.m.)

Ukraine received about $2 billion of financial aid in September from international partners, down from $4.7 billion in the previous month, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said.

“That is not the amount which we expected,” Marchenko said on Ukrainian TV. However “as we have leftovers from the previous periods and budget revenue rose compared with the beginning of the war, we are now more calmly looking at our needs.”

The government expects to get 8 billion euros ($7.8 billion) from the European Union by the end of the year and “thus I don’t see any problems,” Marchenko said. Ukraine has estimated that it needs $5 billion a month in foreign aid to cover budget needs.

Montenegro Declares Russian Diplomats Persona Non Grata (7:11 p.m.)

Six Russian diplomats in Montenegro have been declared persona non grata, Tass news agency reported, citing a Twitter post on the page of the Montenegrin foreign ministry’s press office. Russia will give “an appropriate response,” Tass reported, citing the nation’s foreign ministry.

Earlier on Thursday several Montenegrin citizens were detained in Podgorica on suspicion of having worked for Russian intelligence, Vijesti reported, citing unidentified people with knowledge.

UN’s Guterres Says Russian Annexation ‘Has No Place in Modern World’ (6:44 p.m.)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Russia’s annexation announcement as a violation of international law and the UN charter.

“Any decision to proceed with the annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned,” he said. “It cannot be reconciled with the international legal framework. It stands against everything the international community is meant to stand for. It flouts the purposes and principles of the United Nations. It is a dangerous escalation. It has no place in the modern world. It must not be accepted.”

Ukrainian President President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed appreciation in a tweet for the clear statement by Guterres on Russia’s “criminal intention” to annex more land.

Most Russians Alarmed by Military Call-Up, Poll Shows (5:51 p.m.)

Most Russians were alarmed at Putin’s decision to order a “partial mobilization” after major battlefield losses in Ukraine, and slightly more are concerned that their war on their neighbor is going badly, an opinion poll showed.

According to the survey by the independent Levada Center, 70% of respondents had feelings of fear, alarm or shock after Putin ordered the call-up, with many worrying that a full-scale nationwide draft will follow. A total of 66% believe that’s a possibility, compared with 28% in February.

While a wide majority of those polled said they still supported the invasion, the share of Russians saying the conflict isn’t going well increased to 31% from 17% in April. More respondents - 48% - now back peace talks, versus 44% a month earlier.

Russia Says Mobilized Troops Will Be Used for ‘Defense’ (5:20 p.m.)

Russia said mobilized troops will be for the “defense” of the territories it occupies in Ukraine, as fear of being sent to the front lines of the invasion has led hundreds of thousands of draft-aged men to flee the country.

The Defense Ministry said that the mobilized troops would receive training and then be deployed to “control and defend” territory held by Russia, Interfax reported. Ukraine has steadily pushed Russian forces back in recent weeks, but the Kremlin is moving ahead with plans to annex the areas it holds, as well as laying claim to neighboring regions that Kyiv controls. The UN has denounced Russia’s annexation plans as illegal and illegitimate.

Russia to Hide Over $110 Billion in Secret Budget Spending (3:59 p.m.)

Russia will hide the purpose of almost a quarter of its planned spending next year, as it redraws the budget for a longer war in Ukraine and prepares to annex parts of its neighbor’s territory.

A draft 2023 budget allocates approximately 6.5 trillion rubles ($112 billion) in classified or unspecified outlays, according to Bloomberg calculations based on the document.

The level of secrecy is unprecedented and reflects Russia’s increasing reluctance to open up its books to scrutiny since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The government has already stopped publishing key statistics including a detailed breakdown of trade.

Estonia Rattled by UK Troop Scale-Down Plan (3:45 p.m.)

Estonian leaders were alarmed by a report that Britain would scale down its troop presence in the Baltic nation before Christmas.

The number of British soldiers in Estonia was doubled to about 2,000 in February as an additional safeguard after Russia invaded Ukraine. The UK plans to pull out a 700-strong battalion at the end of the year, as reported by the Times on Wednesday.

Ukraine Gets Back More POWs from Mariupol (1:41 p.m.)

Ukraine negotiated the release of six more prisoners of war from Russia, including four soldiers who were captured defending the port city of Mariupol, Andriy Yermak, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, said on Telegram.

“Our goal is to get all of our people back,” Yermak said. “We are working on this non-stop.”

EU Says Ready to Make Russia Pay ‘Heavy Price’ (1:22 p.m.)

The European Commission doesn’t accept Russia’s “sham” referendums aimed at annexing Ukrainian territories, spokeswoman Dana Spinant said in Brussels.

“We will never accept any annexation of territory or any land-grabbing by Russia,” Spinant said. “We are ready to make the Kremlin pay a hefty price for this new escalation in the conflict.”

Finland to Mostly Halt Russian Tourist Arrivals (12:48 p.m.)

Finland’s government decided to heavily curtail Russian tourist arrivals into the country, including putting an end to people transiting through the Nordic nation to elsewhere in Europe.

Finland will stop issuing tourist visas to Russians and plans to invalidate their tourist visas at the border, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters. The decision will come into force on Friday.

Putin to Push Ahead With Annexing Ukraine Regions (12:02 p.m.)

Russia’s president will sign treaties on Friday to absorb four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine following annexation votes condemned as illegal by Kyiv’s government and the United Nations.

Putin will hold a ceremony and later make an address to legislators and other officials, his spokesman said. The final formalities of annexation are expected to be completed next week.

The move puts the Kremlin on a fresh collision course with the US and its allies. Putin has threatened to use “all the means at our disposal” to defend Russia, a signal he may use nuclear weapons to defend the lands he’s annexing.

Read more: Putin to Push Ahead With Annexing Ukraine Lands After Sham Votes

Regulator Says Germany Using Too Much Gas (11:43 a.m.)

Germany’s network regulator warned that households and companies used too much gas over the past week as temperatures dropped, and said savings of at least 20% are needed to avert a shortage of the fuel this winter.

Klaus Mueller, Bundesnetzagentur president, called the figures “sobering,” while cautioning that they provide only a “snapshot” and that the situation can quickly change.

Read more: Germany’s Network Regulator Sounds Alarm on Gas Consumption

Three Ships Leaves Ukraine’s Odesa-Area Ports (11:20 a.m.)

Three ships carrying Ukrainian agriculture products left the ports of Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi on the Black Sea on Thursday, the government said.

The ships are bound for Africa and Asia, with cargoes including 27,500 tons of wheat to Tunisia. Ukraine has exported almost 5.5 million tons of agriculture products from three Black Sea ports since a safe-transit deal was reached with Russia in late July.

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