EU ministers agree to prepare ‘new restrictive measures’ against Russia
From CNN’s Mick Krever
European Union foreign ministers agreed in New York to push forward with a new round of sanctions against Russia, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell told reporters late Wednesday night.
“We will continue and increase our military support, continue providing arms to Ukraine, and we will study, we will adopt, new restrictive measures – both personal and sectorial,” Borrell said.
The exact details on those new sanctions must still be determined, he said. The agreement reached in New York, which he said was unanimous, was a “political” one.
“Some hours after Putin’s speech, it was a matter of sending a powerful political message,” he said. “They will not shake our determination. They will not shake our resolve, our unity, to stand by Ukraine.”
He said that he was confident that “unanimous agreement” would be possible for the new sanctions package.
“It’s clear that Putin is trying to destroy Ukraine,” he said.
“In line with the United Nations charter, and international law, Ukraine is exercising its legitimate right to defend itself against Russian aggression, to regain full control of its territory, and has the right to liberate occupied territories within its internationally recognized borders. And for that, we will continue supporting Ukraine’s efforts, the provision of military equipment, as long as it takes.”
3:57 a.m. ET, September 22, 2022
Chinese and Russian Foreign Ministers meet on sidelines of United Nations General Assembly
From CNN's Simone McCarthy and Wayne Chang
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, according to statements from both sides.
On the issue of Ukraine, Wang stressed that China would continue to “maintain its objective and impartial position” and “push for peace negotiations,” according to a readout from the Chinese Foreign Ministry released Thursday.
It is hoped that all parties will not give up on dialogue and commit to resolving security concerns through peace negotiations,” Wang said.
A summary of the meeting from Russian state media agency TASS noted that the two sides discussed subjects including Ukraine, but did not provide details on what was said about the issue, which looms large at the opening of this year's assembly.
It was unclear whether the two discussed the “partial mobilization” of Russian citizens announced by Russian leader Vladimir Putin in an address Wednesday morning Moscow time, or his endorsement of referendums on joining Russia that Russian-appointed leaders in four occupied regions of Ukraine announced they would hold this week. Both actions were decried by Ukraine and its allies.
When asked about the referendums in a regular scheduled press briefing on Wednesday, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry in Beijing said China’s position on Ukraine had been “consistent and clear.”
“We believe that all countries deserve respect for their sovereignty and territorial integrity, that the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be observed, that the legitimate security concerns of any country should be taken seriously,” said spokesperson Wang Wenbin.
“China stands ready to work with members of the international community to continue to play a constructive part in de-escalation efforts,” he said, before declining to respond further when asked specifically about the mobilization.
Some context: China has refused to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine and has decried Western sanctions on Moscow, while boosting its own purchases of Russian energy. During a face-to-face meeting between Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan last week, Putin praised China’s “balanced position” on the Ukraine war, though conceded Beijing had “questions and concerns” over the invasion.
4:01 a.m. ET, September 22, 2022
Russia’s partial mobilization unlikely to ‘dramatically shift tide of the war,’ says Institute for the Study of War
From CNN's Mick Krever
An analysis by researchers from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) concludes that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization is unlikely to “dramatically shift the tide of the war.”
The analysis says that it will take weeks or months to bring reservists up to combat readiness, that Russian reservists are “poorly trained to begin with,” and that the “deliberate phases” of deployment outlined by Russia’s Defense Minister are likely to preclude “any sudden influx of Russian forces that could dramatically shift the tide of the war.”
“Putin’s order to mobilize part of Russia’s ‘trained’ reserve, that is, individuals who have completed their mandatory conscript service, will not generate significant usable Russian combat power for months,” the analysis reads. “It may suffice to sustain the current levels of Russian military manpower in 2023 by offsetting Russian casualties, although even that is not yet clear.”
“Russian mandatory military service is only one year, which gives conscripts little time to learn how to be soldiers, to begin with. The absence of refresher training after that initial period accelerates the degradation of learned soldier skills over time.”
The analysis downplays any “explicit threat” of the use of nuclear weapons by President Putin.
“Putin emphatically did not say that the Russian nuclear umbrella would cover annexed areas of Ukraine nor did he tie mobilization to the annexation,” the analysis reads.
“He addressed partial mobilization, annexation referenda in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, and the possibility of nuclear war in his speech – but as separate topics rather than a coherent whole. The fact that he mentioned all three topics in a single speech was clearly meant to suggest a linkage, but he went out of his way to avoid making any such linkage explicit.”
The ISW researchers say that they do not believe that the speech should be read “as an explicit threat that Russia would use nuclear weapons against Ukraine if Ukraine continues counter-offensives against occupied territories after annexation.”
2:21 a.m. ET, September 22, 2022
Zaporizhzhia shelled early Thursday, city official says
From CNN's Josh Pennington and Irene Nasser
The Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia was shelled early Thursday, a city council official has reported.
Zaporizhzhia City Council Secretary Anatoliy Kurtiev said on his Telegram Channel that "civil infrastructure has been destroyed" and that "there are casualties."
There have been claims of five explosions from both pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian media, but CNN cannot independently verify the claims.
The shelling comes on the heels of a turbulent 24 hours for the region, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would back a referendum for Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia to join the Russian Federation.
1:28 a.m. ET, September 22, 2022
More than 1,300 people detained across Russia in crackdown on anti-war protests: monitoring group
From CNN's Clare Sebastian and Idris Muktar
More than 1,300 people have been detained in dozens of cities across Russia in a crackdown on anti-war protests, according to the independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info.
The group said the figure includes at least 502 people in Moscow and 524 people in St Petersburg.
1:18 a.m. ET, September 22, 2022
Analysis: Putin can call up all the troops he wants, but Russia can't train or support them
From CNN's Brad Lendon
Vladimir Putin can call up all the troops he wants, but Russia has no way of getting those new troops the training and weapons they need to fight in Ukraine any time soon.
With his invasion of Ukraine faltering badly, the Russian President on Wednesday announced the immediate "partial mobilization" of Russian citizens. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Russian television that the country will call up 300,000 reservists.
If they end up facing Ukrainian guns on the front lines, they are likely to become the newest casualties in the invasion Putin started more than seven months ago and that has seen the Russian military fail at almost every aspect of modern war.
"The Russian military is not currently equipped to rapidly and effectively deploy 300,000 reservists," said Alex Lord, Europe and Eurasia specialist at the Sibylline strategic analysis firm in London.
"Russia is already struggling to effectively equip its professional forces in Ukraine, following significant equipment losses during the war," Lord said.
The Institute for the Study of War earlier this week said analysis from Western experts and Ukrainian intelligence found Russia had lost 50% to 90% of its strength in some units due to that offensive, and vast amounts of armor.
And that comes on top of staggering equipment losses over the course of the war.
The open source intelligence website Oryx, using only losses confirmed by photographic or video evidence, has found Russian forces have lost more than 6,300 vehicles, including 1,168 tanks, since the fighting began.
In practice, they don't have enough modern equipment ... for that many new troops," said Jakub Janovsky, a military analyst who contributes to the Oryx blog.
But even if they did have all the equipment, weapons and motivation they need, getting 300,000 troops quickly trained for battle would be impossible, experts said.
Reforms in 2008, aimed at modernizing and professionalizing the Russian military, removed many of the logistical and command and control structures that had once enabled the forces of the old Soviet Union to rapidly train and equip vast numbers of mobilized conscripts.
Two Britons sentenced to death among those released in prisoner exchange
From CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jen Deaton
Shaun Pinner is among five British nationals to be released in a Ukraine-Russia prisoner exchange on Wednesday, after being held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine for months, according to Ukraine’s Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War.
Fellow Briton Aiden Aslin was also released as part of a prison swap deal, said the Ukrainian government institution.
Both men were sentenced to death by courts in the pro-Russian, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in June.
in what appears to be a cell-phone video, the pair are seen seated side-by-side in an airplane, discussing their release and thanking “everyone that’s been supporting us.”
"We want to let everyone know we’re now out of the danger zone and we’re on our way home to our families,” Aslin said. “By the skin of our teeth,” Pinner then interjected.
12:15 a.m. ET, September 22, 2022
Analysis: Biden's new mission is heading off any possibility of a nuclear crisis with Russia
From CNN's Stephen Collinson
US President Joe Biden's historic mission is now clear — shepherding the world through the most alarming nuclear brinkmanship since the darkest days of the Cold War.
Putin's implied threat that he could use nuclear weapons, delivered in a speech on Wednesday -- and his warning that he was not bluffing -- made Biden's own speech at the UN General Assembly seem all the more grave.
"This war is about extinguishing Ukraine's right to exist as a state and Ukrainians' right to exist as a people," Biden said, branding the invasion as a direct assault on the rule-based order epitomized by the UN.
"That should make your blood run cold," he added.
Putin's announcement of a partial national mobilization is being seen outside Russia as an admission of failure for his Ukraine operation so far, and of rising domestic political pressure. But forthcoming referendums in captured Ukrainian territory on joining Russia, that are described by the West as a sham, take the war to a tense new stage.
If these areas do join Russia, Ukrainian attacks on them using Western arms could in theory be interpreted as an assault on the Russian motherland itself.
This potentially makes Putin's threat to use nuclear arms to defend Russian territory a significant escalation.
The Russian leader is clearly seeking to scare Western publics and to make Washington and allied capitals think again about their support for Ukraine, which has helped turn his invasion into such a disaster.
Putin could well be bluffing about the possible use of Russia's nuclear arsenal. But then again, maybe he's not.
"We exchanged one fan of Russia for 200 warriors," Ukrainian President Zelensky says
From CNN's Victoria Butenko, Yulia Kesaieva, and Mohammed Tawfeeq
Pro-Kremlin Ukrainian opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who was captured back in April, is being exchanged with Russia as part of a prisoner swap, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Zelensky said 200 Ukrainian prisoners had returned home in exchange for Medvedchuk.
"At first, we were offered to return 50 of our people in exchange for one of those in the detention center of the Security Service of Ukraine. We talked. We insisted. The number of 50 increased to 200," Zelensky said during his nightly address.
Vasyl Maliuk, the acting head of the Ukrainian security service, said Medvedchuk "is not just a godfather to Putin's child, but also a documented by us as a traitor."
"Moreover, while working on the Medvedchuk case, we have neutralized multiple agent networks, detained multiple traitors, and received a lot of valuable information that we are using for counterintelligence and will bring us closer to our victory," Maliuk added.
Five Ukrainian commanders were included in the prisoner swap, as were 55 prisoners to be sent to Russia, according to Zelensky.
It's unclear whether the 55 prisoners are all Russians or pro-Russians, but Zelensky described them as people "who fought against Ukraine, and those who betrayed Ukraine."
According to Andrii Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, a total of 215 prisoners of war have been released as part of an exchange of POWs between Russia and Ukraine, including ten foreign prisoners.
Among those freed today from captivity, there are 108 Azov fighters and other formations," Yermak said. Those fighters from the controversial Azov Battalion, part of the National Guard of Ukraine, which Russia has previously called neo-Nazis.
Yermak also said 10 foreigners were among those swapped.
"Based on the requests of our international partners, we have also returned 10 foreign defenders of Ukraine. These are the representatives of those countries, who assist us the most – the United States, Great Britain, Croatia, Sweden and Morocco," Yermak said.
The head of the State Property Fund, Rustem Umerov, said, "They are safe and liberated from captivity. We are currently in the Saudi Arabia capital – Riyadh. The further safe transfer is planned from here to their countries with our partners." Yermak added.
The Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War (CHTPW), a government institution under the Defense Intelligence, said five British and two Americans are among the ten foreign prisoners.
"It should be noted that the release of foreign soldiers from captivity took place as part of the largest exchange since the full-scale invasion of Russia," CHTPW said Thursday. "The liberated heroes are waiting for rehabilitation and adaptation; they will receive the necessary treatment," CHTPW added.