Russian-backed officials in several parts of Ukraine have announced plans to hold referenda on joining Russia. Ukraine has slammed the upcoming votes as fake attempt to legitimize Russia's invasion and slammed the prospect of "sham" ballots.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on Russian producers of military equipment to up their production and supplies to Russian troops. Putin was also set to give a major speech to the country on Tuesday — only to later postpone it until Wednesday without explanation.
Meanwhile, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Putin needs to recognize that he can't win the war, according to a report from Reuters.
"This is why we will not accept any peace dictated by Russia, and this is why Ukraine must be able to fend off Russia's attack," the chancellor said, Reuters quoted Scholz as saying.
Germany has contributed significant assistance to Ukraine but has been criticized for not giving the country more of its advanced weaponry.
The war "isn't going too well" for Russia, U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley said from Poland, adding that this could make Moscow's reactions less certain and that U.S. forces in Europe need to maintain alertness.
Blinken calls Russian referenda attempts a 'sign of weakness' and a 'sign of Russian failure'
Secretary of State Antony Blinken slammed the Kremlin's attempt to hold a referendum in parts of Ukraine and called the move a "sign of Russian failure."
"We've seen reports that Russia is now considering proceeding with these sham referenda in Ukraine, something we said that they were going to do for many months," Blinken told reporters on the sidelines of the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
"That would then lead to them claiming the annexation of Ukrainian territory," he said, adding that if the referenda proceeds, the United States will never recognize the outcome.
"The sham referenda and the potential mobilization of additional forces isn't a sign of strength. On the contrary, it's a sign of weakness, it's a sign of Russian failure," America's top diplomat added.
— Amanda Macias
'Polluters must pay,' U.N. chief says, urging global leaders to tackle climate change
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said developed economies should impose an additional tax on the profits of fossil fuel firms and those funds should be diverted to countries affected by climate change.
"Our world is addicted to fossil fuels, it's time for an intervention," Guterres said.
"We need to hold fossil fuel companies and their enablers to account. That includes the banks, private equity, asset managers and other financial institutions that continue to invest and underwrite carbon pollution," he added.
— Amanda Macias
'The Russians can do whatever they want. It will not change anything,' Ukraine's Kuleba says
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on the sidelines of the high-level General Assembly in New York City.
The meeting between Thomas-Greenfield and Kuleba, their second since Russia's war broke out in late February, comes as the Kremlin attempts to hold referendums in Russian-controlled Ukrainian cities. The move is expected to set the groundwork for Russian troops to annex additional parts of the country.
The White House said the outcome of the votes in Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk will likely be manipulated in Russia's favor and will therefore not be acknowledged.
"The Russians can do whatever they want. It will not change anything," Kuleba said alongside Thomas-Greenfield.
— Amanda Macias
Nine more agricultural vessels approved to leave Ukraine
The organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from Ukraine said it has approved nine more vessels to leave the besieged country.
The Joint Coordination Center, an initiative of Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Turkey, said that the vessels are carrying a total of 200,701metric tons of grain and other food products.
The ships are expected to depart on Tuesday and are destined for Germany, Bangladesh, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey.
— Amanda Macias
Biden taps Lynne Tracy as next American ambassador to Russia
Tracy, who speaks Russian, currently serves as the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, a neighbor of Russia.
She previously served as the second-highest official at the American embassy in Moscow.
Tracy will replace John Sullivan as head of the embassy there.
- Dan Mangan
Putin postpones surprise speech to Russians for unknown reasons
Russian President Vladimir Putin failed for unknown reasons to deliver a nationally televised speech that would have been his first since the invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
Putin has postponed the speech, which was expected to discuss the situation in Ukraine, until Wednesday, according to a Telegram post by Sergei Markov, a former advisor to the Russian leader,
"Go to sleep," wrote Margarita Simonyan, the editor of RT, a Russian state media outlet, on her own Telegram account.
- Dan Mangan
Turkey's Erdogan offers to broker deal between Moscow and Kyiv to secure Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara is willing to help broker negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in order to restore security to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
The facility, Europe's largest nuclear power plant, was forcibly taken by Russian troops in the early days of the Kremlin's war in Ukraine. Both Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling and subsequent damage to the facility.
Erdogan said that Turkey's role in the Black Sea Initiative deal, which helped open three Ukrainian ports for agricultural exports, is an example of how Ankara can help address concerns around Zaporizhzhia.
"As a result of the intensive efforts we carried out together with the Secretary-General [Antonio Guterres], we made sure that the Ukrainian grain was able to reach the world through the Black Sea," Erdogan said before the international forum.
"A similar approach can also be displayed regarding the crisis at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station, which concerns the safety of the entire humanity," he said, without providing additional details.
— Amanda Macias
Mass graves in Izyum, Ukraine, may be ‘worse’ than in Bucha, Biden adviser says
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said his Ukranian counterparts tell him the mass graves discovered in Izyum, Ukraine, after Russian forces were pushed out, are in some ways "worse" than those discovered in Bucha.
Sullivan said he was briefed on the situation when he spoke with his counterpart, Ukrainian chief of staff Andriy Yermak.
"He gave me a report about what the Ukrainians were discovering around Izyum, and he put it quite bluntly: He said that this is in some ways worse than Bucha, and we will see more of these as we go, as Ukraine de-occupies towns that have previously been occupied by Russian forces. We are finding increasing evidence of these mass atrocities."
— Emma Kinery
Ukraine says Russian referendums will destroy possibility of negotiations to end war
Any referendums on joining Russia in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories would destroy any remaining window for talks between Kyiv and Moscow, Ukrainian publication Liga.net cited the Ukrainian president's office spokesman as saying.
"Without the referendums, there is still the smallest chance for a diplomatic solution. After the referendums - no," Liga.net quoted Serhiy Nykyforov as saying.
He made the comments in response to Russian-installed officials in four occupied Ukrainian regions announcing plans for referendums over the next week on formally joining Russia.
Blinken meets with Turkish counterpart, hails work on grain exports
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Turkish counterpart on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
Blinken thanked Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for Ankara's work in securing a sea corridor for Ukrainian agriculture products.
"I want to particularly praise the work that Turkey has done to help establish the grain port on the Black Sea that is allowing desperately needed food to get out of Ukraine and to the people who need it," Blinken said, according to a State Department readout of the meeting.
"I'm grateful for the work we're doing together as NATO allies and partners, many security challenges that we're facing together," he added.
— Amanda Macias
Russian attempts to hold a referendum in parts of Ukraine will not be acknowledged, U.S. says
The Biden administration said Russian attempts to hold a referendum in parts of Ukraine will not be acknowledged and will not deter the U.S. and its allies from supporting Kyiv.
"It's part of their playbook and it's something we saw in 2014," Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters during a daily briefing when asked about the potential referendum.
"They will use that as a basis to try and legitimize further annexation," he said, adding that the outcome will not distract the U.S. from its mission to support Ukraine.
At the White House, national security adviser Jake Sullivan called the referenda an affront to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"We know that these referenda will be manipulated," he said, adding that the "United States will never recognize Russia's claims."
— Amanda Macias
Zelenskyy talked about 'current security issues' with Turkey's Erdogan
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a tweet that he discussed "current security issues" in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The tweet followed an interview Erdoğan did Monday with PBS NewsHour, where he said Russia must return all land it has occupied, including Crimea.
Erdoğan is one of only a handful of world leaders with continued ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He told PBS in an interview outside of the United Nations in New York, that when he met with Putin in Uzbekistan last week, Putin gave him the impression he was "willing to end this as soon as possible."
'Our world is in peril,' U.N. chief says in opening General Assembly address
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave a somber assessment of global affairs in an opening address of the annual high-level gathering in New York City.
"Our world is in peril and paralyzed," Guterres told world leaders attending the 77th United Nations General Assembly, which returned in person for the first time in three years.
"We are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction," he said, adding that the international community "is not ready or willing to tackle" these challenges.
In addition to Russia's war in Ukraine, the U.N. chief urged global leaders to address the looming climate crisis, gender inequality and extreme poverty. He also pushed them to invest in policies that promote peace around the world.
— Amanda Macias
WNBA players skip Russia in the offseason with Griner in jail
Brittney Griner's highly publicized legal woes in Russia and the country's invasion of Ukraine has the top WNBA players opting to take their talents elsewhere this offseason.
For the past few decades, Russia has been the preferred offseason destination for WNBA players to compete because of the high salaries that can exceed $1 million – nearly quadruple the base salary of top WNBA players -- and the resources and amenities teams offered them.
That all has come to an abrupt end.
"Honestly my time in Russia has been wonderful, but especially with BG still wrongfully detained there, nobody's going to go there until she's home," said Breanna Stewart, a Griner teammate on the Russian team that paid the duo millions. "I think that, you know, now, people want to go overseas and if the money is not much different, they want to be in a better place."
Griner was arrested in February, then detained and later convicted on drug possession charges amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Griner was sentenced last month to nine years in prison.
Now, Stewart and other WNBA All-Stars, including Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot — who also have made millions of dollars playing in Russia — are going elsewhere this winter. All three played for Ekaterinburg, the same Russian team as Griner. That club won five EuroLeague titles in the past eight seasons and has been dominant for nearly two decades with former greats DeLisha Milton Jones and Diana Taurasi playing there.
— Associated Press
McDonald's reopens in Ukraine this week for first time since war began
McDonald's will begin to reopen its closed restaurants in Ukraine this week, which have been shuttered since the start of Russia's invasion in February.
Three locations in Kyiv opened for delivery only, Alesya Mudzhyri, McDonald's spokeswoman for Ukraine, said in a Facebook post. The company plans to reopen restaurants across Kyiv and western Ukraine in the coming weeks. By October, it plans to be able to let customers enter in person and resume drive-through service in the reopened locations.
McDonald's has 109 restaurants in Ukraine. The reopened locations will service from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. but temporarily close during air raid alerts.
The company closed all 840 of its locations in Russia when the war began and sold franchises there. The former McDonald's locations reopened in June under a different name and ownership.
— Emma Kinery
Biden set to rally allies in providing more support for Ukraine in U.N. General Assembly speech
President Joe Biden is expected to urge allies to continue supplying Ukrainian forces with Western arms in an era-defining conflict against Russia.
Biden's address to the 77th United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday comes as Russia's war in Ukraine marches past its 200th day, while governments continue to grapple with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and as climate change uncertainties mount.
While the Biden administration is expected to hold several bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the United Nations, there are no plans to meet with counterparts from Russia or Iran.
— Amanda Macias
Putin calls for boost to Russian weapon production
President Vladimir Putin called for a boost to weapons production in the country, signaling Russia could be looking to continue its invasion of Ukraine over the long term.
Speaking Tuesday at a meeting on the development of the defense industry, Putin said "organizations of the defense industrial complex need to ensure the delivery of the required weapons and equipment to the troops, weapons of destruction as soon as possible" and then added:
"It is necessary to increase production capabilities in the shortest possible time, maximize the load on equipment, optimize technological cycles and, without compromising quality, reduce production time," according to a translation by NBC News.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russian-occupied territories push for votes on joining Russian Federation
Russian-backed officials in occupied parts of Ukraine announced Tuesday that they plan to hold referenda on officially becoming a part of the Russian Federation.
Officials in occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine have flagged an intention to hold a referendum on joining Russia — a move seen widely by analysts as an attempt for Russia to justify "defending its citizens" in such territories — as well as officials in Luhansk and Donetsk, which are where two breakaway self-proclaimed "republics" are located, known as the LPR and DPR.
These regions said Tuesday that they would hold referenda between Sept. 23 -27, according to Russian state news agency Interfax. Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia is also reported to be preparing to hold a similar vote in the coming days.
Mosco has already begun a move to "Russify" areas it occupies, or where it supports separatists, by handing out Russian passports and promoting Russian culture. The moves to hold votes on joining Russia come as Ukraine continues counteroffensives to reclaim lost territory.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba responded to the reports on Twitter by saying "sham 'referendums' will not change anything."
"Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian land. Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say," he added.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russia's Lavrov says separatist votes on joining Russia are a matter for residents
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday it was up to the people living in separatist-controlled areas of Ukraine if they wanted to hold referendums on joining Russia, Reuters reported.
"From the very beginning ... we've been saying that the peoples of the respective territories should decide their fate," Lavrov said on state TV when asked about several coordinated moves by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine on Tuesday to stage votes on joining Russia.
Moscow-backed separatists in Kherson say they'll hold referendum on joining Russia
Moscow-backed officials in occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine say they'll hold a referendum on joining Russia.
Volodymyr Saldo, the head of the Russian-backed administration of the Kherson region, said on Telegram Tuesday that " the leadership of the Administration of the Kherson region decided to hold a referendum on the entry of the Kherson region into the Russian Federation."
Pre-empting the result, Saldo said "I am sure that the leadership of the Russian Federation will accept the results of the referendum and the Kherson region will become a part of Russia, becoming a full-fledged subject of a united state."
Saldo's comments come as Ukraine's counteroffensives in the northeast and south of the country prompt Russian-installed officials to try to organize referenda, with the aim of legitimizing Russia's "defense" of such territory in the likely result of the majority of people voting to join Russia. Referenda in occupied parts of Ukraine are widely seen as illegitimate by the international community. Russia has already tried to "Russify" occupied parts of the country, such as by handing out Russian passports, as in the image above.
There was no mention of when such a vote in Kherson could take place.
Saldo said he was "sure that the entry of the Kherson region into the Russian Federation will secure our region, as well as open up new opportunities on the path to returning to peaceful life and become a triumph of historical justice."
The Russian proxy leaders of two breakaway republics in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine also look likely to try to hold similar votes in Luhansk and Donetsk.
— Holly Ellyatt
Top Russian official says breakaway regions must hold votes to join Russia
Russia's former president, Dmitry Medvedev, has said that it is "essential" for Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine to hold referenda on becoming a part of Russia.
Medvedev, now deputy chair of the Security Council of Russia, claimed that the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR) would have their interests protected if they became a part of Russia.
"Referendums in the Donbas are essential, not only for the systematic protection of residents of the LPR, DPR and other liberated territories, but also for the restoration of historic justice," Medvedev said in a message on Telegram.
"After their implementation and the acceptance of new territories into Russia, the geopolitical transformation in the world will become irreversible," he added, implying that becoming a part of Russia would enable Moscow to justify defending such territories, which are already seen as under Moscow's control.
"Encroachment on the territory of Russia is a crime, the commission of which allows you to use all the forces of self-defense," he said, adding "that is why these referendums are so feared in Kyiv and in the West. That is why they need to be carried out."
Medvedev's comments come after the separatist leaders of the DPR and LHR stepped up calls to hold immediate votes on joining Russia, calls that come as Ukraine's counteroffensive in the northeast of the country starts to spread, putting pressure on the Luhansk, a region Russia claimed to have fully occupied in July.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russia likely to have relocated submarines away from Crimea
Russia has almost certainly relocated its Kilo-class submarines from their home port in Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea to southern Russia, according to the latest intelligence update from Britain's Ministry of Defense.
"The command of Russia's Black Sea Fleet has almost certainly relocated its KILO-class submarines from their home port of Sevastopol in Crimea to Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai, southern Russia," the ministry said on Tuesday.
This is highly likely due to a heightened security threat level following an increased Ukrainian long-range strike capability, the ministry added, and following recent attacks on the fleet headquarters and its main naval aviation airfield.
"Guaranteeing the Black Sea Fleet's Crimea basing was likely one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's motivations for annexing the peninsula in 2014. Base security has now been directly undermined by Russia's continued aggression against Ukraine," the ministry said.
— Holly Ellyatt
Battle to liberate occupied Luhansk proceeds as Russian proxies look worried
Ukraine's counteroffensive in the northeast of the country continues, with the region of Luhansk believed to be no longer under the full control of Russian forces.
One Ukrainian official stated on Monday that Kyiv's forces had retaken control of the village of Bilohorivka in Luhansk. Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said on Telegram on Mondat that Bilohorivka "has been cleared and is completely under the control of the Armed Forces."
"We should all be patient in anticipation of the large-scale deoccupation of Luhansk region. This process will be much more difficult than in Kharkiv region. There will be a hard fight for every centimeter of Luhansk land. The enemy is preparing for defense," he said.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities and their proxies appear to be worried about Ukraine's gains in an area of the country where there are two self-proclaimed "republics" in Luhansk and Donetsk.
Denis Pushilin, head of the Russia-backed separatist Donetsk region, called on his fellow separatist leader in Luhansk on Monday to combine efforts aimed at preparing a speedy referendum on joining Russia.
In a video posted on his telegram channel, he told Luhansk People's Republic leader Leonid Pasechnik in a phone call that "our actions should be synchronized."
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said the desire to hold a rapid referendum "suggests that Ukraine's ongoing northern counter-offensive is panicking proxy forces and some Kremlin decision-makers."
The ISW's analysts said referenda would be "incoherent" as "Russian forces do not control all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts."
"Partial annexation at this stage would ... place the Kremlin in the strange position of demanding that Ukrainian forces un-occupy 'Russian' territory, and the humiliating position of being unable to enforce that demand. It remains very unclear that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be willing to place himself in such a bind for the dubious benefit of making it easier to threaten NATO or Ukraine with escalation he remains highly unlikely to conduct at this stage," they said.
— Holly Ellyatt
UK says it will match current support for Ukraine in 2023
The U.K. has announced that in 2023 it will meet or exceed the amount of military aid spent on Ukraine this year.
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss is expected to announce during a visit to the United Nations in New York this week that leaders "must put an end to Putin's economic blackmail by removing all energy dependence on Russia," acording to a pre-released statement by the government.
Truss will use her visit to New York this week to solidify the U.K.'s "commitment to Ukraine's security and territorial integrity, with the announcement that the UK will match or exceed our record 2022 military support to Ukraine next year," the government said.
The U.K. said Ukraine's gains in the conflict in the last couple of weeks amounted to "a significant moment in the war" and said this success is evidence of what the Ukrainian people can do with the backing of fellow democracies.
Missile strikes near Ukraine nuclear plant, IAEA says
An explosion near a Ukraine power plant damaged windows and power lines but did not impact the operation of the three reactors there, Kyiv told the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday.
The blast from the shelling occurred about 300 meters, or 984 feet, from the industrial site of the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant in Mykolaiv Province, the IAEA said in a press release.
No staff were injured by the missile, which impacted three power lines that were swiftly reconnected, Ukraine's nuclear operator Energoatom told the IAEA.
Ukrainian authorities reportedly called the shelling an act of "nuclear terrorism" by Russia.
The IAEA also said its experts discovered that a power line used to supply electricity to another nuclear plant, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, had been disconnected Sunday.
Zaporizhzia, located in southeastern Ukraine, is Europe's largest power plant, and has six reactors that are currently in a "cold shutdown state," the IAEA said. The plant still receives the electricity it needs for essential safety functions, but it now does not have access to back-up power from the Ukrainian grid, the IAEA experts said.
The disconnected power line transferred electricity from the Ukrainian grid through the switchyard of a nearby thermal power station, the IAEA said. It was not immediately clear how the line was disconnected.
"The situation at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant remains fragile and precarious," IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in the press release.
"Last week, we saw some improvements regarding its power supplies, but today we were informed about a new setback in this regard. The plant is located in the middle of a war zone, and its power status is far from safe and secure. Therefore, a nuclear safety and security protection zone must urgently be established there," Grossi said.
— Kevin Breuninger
Putin relying increasingly on volunteer and proxy forces for Ukraine combat: ISW
Russia is relying more and more on volunteer and proxy forces for its combat operations in Ukraine, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
"(Russian President) Putin's souring relationship with the military command and the Russian (MoD) may explain in part the Kremlin's increasing focus on recruiting ill-prepared volunteers into ad-hoc irregular units rather than attempting to draw them into reserve or replacement pools for regular Russian combat units," the ISW said.
Part of this, it said, is due to Putin "bypassing the Russian higher military command and Ministry of Defense (MoD) leadership throughout the summer and especially following the defeat around #Kharkiv Oblast."
— Natasha Turak
Russian troops strike nuclear power plant; reactors still intact
Russian forces struck a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine in Monday's early hours, but its three reactors are unharmed, Ukraine's state nuclear energy company said.
The Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant in Ukraine's southern Mykolaiv region is still functioning normally, Ukraine's Energoatom said.
The attack, which cause a blast about 300 meters away from the reactors and caused damage to buildings at the plant, also reportedly hit a nearby hydroelectric power plant and transmission lines.
— Natasha Turak
War 'not going too well' for Russia, Gen. Milley says
Things are not going so well for Russia in Ukraine at the moment, U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Warsaw, Poland. That could make Putin unpredictable and Western forces need to be vigilant, he added.
"The war is not going too well for Russia right now. So it's incumbent upon all of us to maintain high states of readiness, alert," Milley said. "In the conduct of war, you just don't know with a high degree of certainty what will happen next."
The general added that he wasn't suggesting there was any increased threat to American troops stationed in Europe, but that readiness is paramount.
Russia's operations in Ukraine have faced significant setbacks with the rapid counteroffensives in recent weeks that saw Ukrainian forces retake swathes of territory in the country's northeast.
— Natasha Turak