Russia-Ukraine war live: Kremlin defends retreat from occupied regions as Ukraine recaptures ‘dozens’ of towns

1 month ago

Kremlin: occupied Ukrainian regions 'will be with Russia forever' despite retreats

The Kremlin said this morning that there was no contradiction between incorporating Ukrainian territories into the Russian Federation and military retreats, saying that Moscow would press ahead with its plans to annex four Ukrainian regions.

“They will be with Russia forever and they will be returned,” Reuters reports Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told the media.

President Vladimir Putin formalised the annexation of the four Ukrainian regions – around 18% of Ukraine’s territory – this morning despite a series of major battlefield reversals in recent days shrinking the amount of seized territory Moscow can say it actually controls.

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Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was asked in his regular briefing about the borders of Russia’s claimed annexation. He said:

Read the order. There is a legal wording there. In general, of course, there we are talking about the territory in which the military-civilian administration operated at the time of admission [to Russia]. But I repeat once again: certain territories there will be returned, and we will continue to consult with the population that expresses a desire to live with Russia.

The state-owned Tass news agency reported earlier:

New regions within Russia will retain the status of republics and regions and their former names. According to the documents, the boundaries of the regions will be determined by their borders, which “existed on the day of their formation and acceptance into the Russian Federation.” The territory of the DPR and LPR is defined by the 2014 borders established in their constitutions. Zaporizhzhia is part of the Russian Federation within its administrative boundaries, and Kherson region - with two districts of the Mykolaiv region, explained the head of the State Duma Committee on State Building and Legislation Pavel Krasheninnikov.

Kremlin: occupied Ukrainian regions 'will be with Russia forever' despite retreats

The Kremlin said this morning that there was no contradiction between incorporating Ukrainian territories into the Russian Federation and military retreats, saying that Moscow would press ahead with its plans to annex four Ukrainian regions.

“They will be with Russia forever and they will be returned,” Reuters reports Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told the media.

President Vladimir Putin formalised the annexation of the four Ukrainian regions – around 18% of Ukraine’s territory – this morning despite a series of major battlefield reversals in recent days shrinking the amount of seized territory Moscow can say it actually controls.

Russian forces lost a vast numbers of tanks during the first few months of the war, prompting questions over whether they were becoming obsolete. But the tank has previously appeared to have been consigned to the ash heap of history only to rise again to reaffirm its relevance. Josh Toussaint-Strauss examines for the Guardian Russia’s early deployment during the invasion and asks: if tanks aren’t the problem, why did they fail in Ukraine?

How Russia’s strategy failed, not the tank – video

Summary of the day so far …

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed the four laws ratifying the Russian Federation’s claimed annexation of the occupied Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. Russian forces do not fully control any of the four areas, and it remains unclear where Russia is attempting to set its new external border.

Ukraine has made major and rapid advances this week, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy saying in an address on Tuesday night that “dozens” of towns have been recaptured. Ukrainian forces captured the town of Dudchany on the west bank of the Dnipro River in their major advance in Kherson region, and in the east, Ukrainian forces were advancing after capturing Lyman, the main Russian bastion in the north of Donetsk province.

Pro-Russian leaders in the occupied regions have claimed that the situation is stabilising this morning. Denis Pushilin, installed as governor in Donetsk by Russia has said “the situation on the front line in the Lyman direction is stabilising, the defence line is being strengthened”, while Kirill Stremousov, part of the occupation administration imposed on Kherson, has been quoted saying that Russian forces were “conducting a regrouping in order to gather their strength and deliver a retaliatory blow” in the region, and “the advance of the armed forces of Ukraine in the Kherson direction has stopped”.

The UK ministry of defence has said in its daily operational briefing that “Ukraine continues to make progress in offensive operations along both the north-eastern and southern fronts. In the north-east, in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine has now consolidated a substantial area of territory east of the Oskil River.”

Russia’s foreign ministry has said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) will operate under the supervision of Russian agencies after the annexation declaration. Rafael Grossi, head of the Atomic Energy Agency, is expected to visit Moscow in the coming days to discuss the situation at the plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since the earliest days of the war. Energoatom, the Ukrainian state-enterprise that owns the plant, has said it may restart it to ensure safety.

Oleksandr Starukh, Ukraine’s governor of Zaporizhzhia, said that overnight “the enemy fired rockets at the regional centre and the outskirts of the city. Infrastructure facilities were destroyed.”

Zelenskiy has posted a series of images of damaged buildings across social media from recently liberated Lyman, with the message: “Our Lyman after the occupier. All basics of life have been destroyed here. They are doing so everywhere in the territories they seize. This can be stopped in one way only: liberate Ukraine, life, humanity, law and truth as soon as possible.”

Russian TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, famous for staging an on-air protest against Russia’s war in Ukraine, confirmed she had escaped house arrest over further charges of spreading fake news, saying she had no case to answer.

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, says Washington’s decision to send more military aid to Ukraine poses a threat to Moscow’s interests and increases the risk of a military clash between Russia and the west.

This is Martin Belam in London, and I will be with you for the next few hours. You can contact me at [email protected]

The BBC’s Orla Guerin earlier published some pictures from her recent visit to areas that have been liberated from Russian occupation, saying: “The Russians are gone but there is damage that can never be undone, and the dead cannot be restored to life.”

Some images from our trip - in areas recently liberated by Ukraine. The Russians are gone but there is damage that can never be undone, and the dead cannot be restored to life. pic.twitter.com/dikvQgvmsB

— Orla Guerin (@OrlaGuerin) October 5, 2022

There are another couple of quotes on Telegram from sources within the Russian-occupied Donetsk region from Denis Pushilin, who is Russia’s acting governor in the territory it has claimed to annex there.

He has said that “the situation on the frontline in the Lyman direction is stabilising, the defence line is being strengthened”, and that “we see that Ukrainian armed forces are now seriously supplemented by brigades that were trained in Nato countries, this must be taken into account”.

Russia’s foreign ministry has said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant will operate under the supervision of Russian agencies after Russia claimed to have formally annexed the wider Zaporizhzhia region, the RIA state-owned news agency reported.

Reuters reports that another state-owned news agency, Tass, carried news that Rafael Grossi, head of the Atomic Energy Agency, will visit Moscow in the coming days to discuss the situation at the plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since the earliest days of the war.

Tass is also reporting that Yevgeny Balitsky, the Russian-imposed acting “governor” of Zaporizhzhia said that yesterday “there were about 40 strikes on the outskirts and the city of Enerhodar”, which houses the nuclear power plant. “Yesterday was pretty hot for us,” he added.

A security person standing in front of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar earlier this year.
A security person standing in front of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar earlier this year. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Sir Andrew Wood, former British ambassador to Yugoslavia and Russia, and an associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia programme at Chatham House, was interviewed in the UK on Sky News earlier about the situation in Ukraine.

He said he believed Vladimir Putin had made a “fatal error” with the partial mobilisation, which had bought the war closer to home, and was “chaotically ill-done”.

He said he expected fighting to continue well into next year but raised doubts about whether Russia would escalate the conflict to a nuclear level. He said:

Nobody in the west wants to get involved in a nuclear exchange. I don’t think anybody in the Russian Federation would want to be involved in a nuclear exchange, except possibly President Putin.

The whole trouble with Russia is everything is being decided by one man who hides from discussion, who hides from other possible views, that interferes in military undertakings by issuing direct orders to the commanders on the field and has thoroughly muddled up the whole situation.

Russian TV journalist who staged on-air war protest confirms she has escaped house arrest

Russian TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, famous for staging an on-air protest against Russia’s war in Ukraine, confirmed she had escaped house arrest over charges of spreading fake news again, saying she had no case to answer.

“I consider myself completely innocent, and since our state refuses to comply with its own laws, I refuse to comply with the measure of restraint imposed on me as of 30 September 2022 and release myself from it,” Reuters reports she said on Telegram.

Ovsyannikova, 44, was given two months’ house arrest in August over a protest in July when she stood on a river embankment opposite the Kremlin and held up a poster calling President Vladimir Putin a murderer and his soldiers fascists.

She faced a sentence of up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of the charge of spreading fake news about Russia’s armed forces.

Peter Beaumont

Peter Beaumont

If you missed it overnight, my colleague Peter Beaumont has been in the recently liberated city of Lyman, and sent this dispatch:

Occupied until last week by soldiers of the Russian 20th Combined Arms army and Bars-13 troops from the Russian Guard – some of whom had earlier retreated from Kharkiv province – when the attack came they were quickly trapped in a rapidly closing encirclement as the villages outside the city, set among rolling hills, were rapidly rolled up.

What is clear is that Ukraine’s military has found a way of fighting that is far more deft and flexible than the Russians – who are heavily reliant on their creaking supply lines – deploying quickly to cut off, encircle and destroy units piece by piece.

And those Russians who stayed to fight were obliterated by shells and missile fire. Or shot in the forests.

Ukrainian soldiers adjust a national flag atop a personnel armoured carrier on a road near Lyman.
Ukrainian soldiers adjust a national flag atop a personnel armoured carrier on a road near Lyman. Photograph: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images

At a junction of a level crossing and a road, the trees around a Russian trench have been swept down as if by a giant hand, the road littered with artillery casings, bits of uniform and human remains.

Surveying the scene, “Flagman”, a Ukrainian officer who has fought in this sector since Russia launched its invasion in February, said that while the Russians relied on the roads, the Ukrainians ambushed them from these woods.

Read more of Peter Beaumont’s report from Lyman: ‘What was it all for?’: recaptured Lyman left shattered by Russian occupation

Russia’s RIA Novosti has some further quotes from Vladimir Rogov, one of the Russian-imposed leaders in occupied Zaporizhzhia. It quotes him saying: “The situation on the line of contact remains stably tense. The counter-battery fight continues.”

Another of the Russian-imposed leaders in the regions the Russian Federation is claiming to annex in occupied Ukraine, Kirill Stremousov of Kherson, has been quoted saying that Russian forces were “conducting a regrouping in order to gather their strength and deliver a retaliatory blow” in the region.

Denis Pushilin, another Russian-imposed leader, has also been reported by RIA as saying that Ukrainian forces are in the retreat in Bakhmut, “without the ability to hold its previously occupied positions”.

None of the claims have been independently verified.

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