Russia-Ukraine war latest: what we know on day 209 of the invasion

Proxy Russian authorities in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia intend to hold referendums this weekend; forensic experts exhume 146 bodies from mass burial site at Izium

  • The proxy Russian authorities in four occupied areas of Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – have all announced on Tuesday their intentions to hold referendums between 23-27 September on joining the Russian Federation. comes as Ukraine’s counteroffensive has reclaimed territory in the east of the country, including a small symbolic toehold in the Luhansk region, which had been totally under the control of Russian proxies.

  • According to Russian news agency RIA, in a direct appeal to Vladimir Putin, the self-proclaimed leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin said: “I ask you to consider the issue of joining the Donetsk People’s Republic into the Russian Federation as soon as possible in the event of a positive decision on the results of the referendum, which we have no doubts about.”

  • Doubts have been cast on how effectively the occupying authorities will be able to organise referendums at such short notice, although preparations were previously being carried out. The move comes on the same day that Russia’s parliament, the Duma, voted to toughen punishments for desertion and insubordination in times of military mobilisation.

  • Dmitry Medvedev, the hawkish longtime ally of Putin, on Tuesday backed calls for referendums in occupied areas, saying that bringing them into the Russian Federation would mean “the geopolitical transformation in the world will become irreversible”. “Encroachment on the territory of Russia is a crime, the commission of which allows you to use all the forces of self-defence,” he said.

  • The sudden rush to hold votes comes as Ukraine recaptured a village close to the eastern city of Lysychansk, in a small but symbolic victory that means Russia no longer has full control of the Luhansk oblast, one of Putin’s key war aims. Luhansk’s governor, Serhiy Haidai, said Ukraine’s armed forces were in “complete control” of Bilohorivka. “It’s a suburb of Lysychansk. Soon we will drive these scumbags out of there with a broom,” he said. “Step by step, centimetre by centimetre, we will liberate our entire land from the invaders.”

  • The pace of Ukrainian forces’ advance in the north-east had thrown Russian forces into a “panic”, Ukraine’s president said in his nightly address. Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was now focused on “speed” in liberated areas. “The speed at which our troops are moving. The speed in restoring normal life,” he said.

  • Ukrainian forensic experts have so far exhumed 146 bodies, mostly of civilians, at a mass burial site near Izium in the east of the country, the regional governor said on Monday. Oleh Synehubov, the governor of the Kharkiv region, said the exhumed bodies included two children. The Kremlin has denied allegations that Russian forces had committed war crimes in Ukraine’s Kharkiv province.

  • The pro-Russian separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has said 10 civilians were killed and 15 wounded overnight by shelling from Ukrainian forces on the territory that the DPR occupies. Officials of the similarly self-proclaimed separatist Luhansk People’s Republic have informed the Russian news agency Tass that seven people were killed, including three children, in the village of Krasnorichenske, which it occupies.

  • Ukraine’s armed forces have sunk a barge carrying Russian troops and equipment across the Dnieper River near Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region, the Kyiv Independent reports.

  • Security fears have almost certainly led Russia’s Black Sea fleet to relocate its kilo-class submarines from Sevastopol in Crimea to Novorossiysk in southern Russia, the UK Ministry of Defence says in its latest intelligence briefing on the war.

  • The British prime minister is expected to vow to match the UK’s spending on military support to Ukraine next year at the same level as this year when she speaks at the UN general assembly. Liz Truss told reporters as she travelled to New York: “Ukraine’s victories in recent weeks have been inspirational. My message to the people of Ukraine is this: the UK will continue to be right behind you every step of the way. Your security is our security.”

  • Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has told PBS in the US in an interview that all the land invaded by Russia should be returned to Ukraine, including Crimea, which was annexed by Putin’s forces in 2014. He said: “If a peace is going to be established in Ukraine, of course, the returning of the land that was invaded will become really important.”

  • Erdoğan also repeated Turkey’s objections to Sweden joining Nato, saying: “Sweden has been a cradle for terrorism and the terrorists have infiltrated all the way into their parliaments. And, in Stockholm, we see terrorists are demonstrating all the time. And they are attacking the innocent Turkish descendants. We have given all the evidence relevant to these developments to our Swedish interlocutors.”

  • Hungary’s foreign minister has said the EU should not consider new sanctions against Russia as that would only deepen the energy supply crisis and hurt Europe.

  • A US defence official has told CNN that the possibility of the US providing tanks to Ukraine is “absolutely on the table” but will happen immediately because of issues with training, maintenance and sustainment.

Guardian staff

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