September 28, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Tara Subramaniam, Sana Noor Haq, Hannah Strange and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0235 GMT (1035 HKT) September 29, 2022
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2:38 p.m. ET, September 28, 2022

US State Department calls the results of pro-Russia referenda in Ukraine "completely fabricated"

From CNN's Michael Conte and Haroon Saba

The US State Department called the announcements of pro-Russia forces in Ukraine of the referenda in favor of joining Russia “completely fabricated” and “concocted in Moscow.”

“This is the will of Moscow, not the free will of Ukraine or its people,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price at a briefing with reporters.

Price said that the US expects Russia to attempt to annex Ukrainian territory based on the “sham referenda.”

“But no matter what President Putin and his enablers try to claim, these areas are and will remain part of Ukraine,” said Price. “Ukraine has every right to continue to defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity.”


Price also said the State Department will be announcing “additional measures” in response.

“The United States will never recognize Russia's attempts to annex parts of Ukraine,” Price said.


1:36 p.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Pentagon announces an additional $1.1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

The Pentagon is seen from the air in Arlington, VA on March 3, 2022.
The Pentagon is seen from the air in Arlington, VA on March 3, 2022. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The US Department of Defense announced an additional $1.1 billion in security assistance for Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, meaning the money will be spent to manufacture and provide new weapons to Ukraine. These weapons will not come directly from pre-existing US stocks of weapons.

Eighteen High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and “associated ammunitions,” are included in the package, the release states.

The package also includes 150 Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, 40 trucks and 80 trailers to “transport heavy equipment,” additional radars for Unmanned Aerial Systems, among other items.

The US has committed “more than $16.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine,” since the Russian invasion began in February, the release adds.

1:13 p.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Polish foreign ministry strongly condemns Russian-organized "illegal referenda"

From CNN's Tim Lister

The Foreign Ministry of Poland said it “unequivocally and strongly condemns” the Russia-organized “illegal referenda,” in a statement Wednesday.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs unequivocally and strongly condemns Russia's organization of illegal "referenda" aimed at the annexation of parts of the Ukrainian oblasts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, temporarily occupied by Russia,” the statement said.

The ministry is urging members of the international community “not to recognize the legality of these pseudo-referenda and their "results," which in no way reflect the will of the people of these regions, often forced to vote.”

“We call for the prosecution of all those involved in the holding of the fictitious referenda as well as of the Russian people and institutions operating in the illegally occupied territory of Ukraine,” the ministry added, saying that Poland is “determined” to continue cooperation with partners in this area.

“We will continue to support Ukraine's efforts to liberate Russia's temporarily occupied territories for as long as necessary,” the Polish Foreign Ministry also said.

1:26 p.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Ukraine claims Russian mobilization in some regions is sweeping up entire male population in certain age range

From CNN's Tim Lister and Denis Lapin

Russian reservists drafted during the partial mobilization attend a departure ceremony in Sevastopol, Crimea, on September 27.
Russian reservists drafted during the partial mobilization attend a departure ceremony in Sevastopol, Crimea, on September 27. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian military claims that in some parts of Russia, the entire male population within a certain age range is being included in the partial mobilization ordered by President Vladimir Putin last week.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said Wednesday that the "so-called partial mobilization measures are ongoing in the Russian Federation and parts of the regions of Ukraine temporarily occupied by Russia."

"In remote settlements of the Russian Federation, the entire male population of a certain age category is subject to mobilization, despite a lack of experience of military service and combat experience," it said.

The General Staff claimed that there are some cases of parents with many children and men over age 60 being mobilized for military service.

CNN cannot verify the claims, but Russian commentators and some regional officials in Russia have complained that the mobilization is poorly organized and has included the drafting of men specifically exempted from the decree.

The General Staff also said that "the lack of readiness to implement mobilization measures was noted at assembly points in the Belgorod and Rostov regions," both of which are close to the Ukrainian border. 

"Thus, newly arrived personnel must purchase winter uniforms and protective equipment at their own expense," it claimed.

CNN has reviewed a number of videos in the past few days showing Russian soldiers complaining about their lack of equipment.

12:58 p.m. ET, September 28, 2022

New EU package of sanctions against Russia will target more than 1,300 people and entities

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and Sarah Diab in London

The new package of sanctions against Russia proposed Wednesday by the European Commission will target more than 1,300 people and entities, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

"This list targets key decision makers, oligarchs, senior military officials and propagandists, responsible for undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity," Borrell said during a news statement in Brussels.

According to Borell, the new sanctions will target "those involved in Russia occupation and illegal annexation of areas of Ukraine,” including “the proxy Russian authorities in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia and other Russian individuals who organized and facilitated the sham referenda in these four occupied territories of Ukraine." 

Borrell also said sanctions would include high ranking officials in the Russian Ministry of Defense — including Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu — and those supporting the Russian Armed Forces by providing army equipment and weapons.

"We also continue to target actors who spread disinformation about the war. In particular, those spreading false information and donating funds to the Russian occupied areas," Borrell confirmed.


The EU foreign policy chief added that "a lot has been done already" in terms of economic actors but that other non-Russian entities that may be “participating in the circumvention of sanctions” might be targeted too.

Borrell finished by noting that the EU will "extend the geographical scope of the restrictions applying to Crimea, to the Donetsk and Luhansk, that were approved at the beginning of the year. And this will cover all non-governmental control areas of Ukraine, including the oblast of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson which are not part of Donbas and were not part of the previous decisions."


12:34 p.m. ET, September 28, 2022

US officials believe it's unlikely Putin will use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine — but the threat has "elevated"

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis and Natasha Bertrand

US officials believe that the likelihood Russian President Vladimir Putin will use a tactical nuclear weapon in his struggling war in Ukraine is perhaps the highest it has been since Russia invaded in February — but is still not probable, multiple officials familiar with the latest intelligence tell CNN.

The intelligence community is closely watching for any signs that Putin's calculus has changed after the Russian President was widely perceived last week to be escalating his past threats to use nuclear weapons.

The threat is certainly "elevated" compared to earlier in the year, according to multiple sources. The US in recent months has been privately warning Russia not to take such a catastrophic step.

But so far, there are no signs that Russia is imminently planning their use and the "general assessment hasn't changed," one source familiar with the intelligence said.

Several US defense officials, who also said they see no indication at this time of Russia moving nuclear weapons around, said they believe it's likely the US could detect movement even of smaller tactical warheads.

More background: Officials have long believed that Putin would only turn to a nuclear weapon if there was a threat to his own position, or if he perceived an existential threat to Russia itself — which he may consider a loss in Ukraine to be.

Some Russian military analysts believe that Putin's mobilization order may in fact decrease the short-term risk he will turn to a battlefield nuke because it will prolong his ability to sustain the conventional war.

The general sense inside the US government is that the threat is higher than before is based primarily on Putin's rhetoric and analysis of his mindset amid Russian losses in Ukraine, rather than any hard intelligence that Russia is more seriously weighing the nuclear option, according to two sources familiar with the intelligence.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed reporting to this post.


12:17 p.m. ET, September 28, 2022

UK would never recognize Russian attempts at annexing Ukraine, prime minister says

From CNN’s Lauren Kent and Arnaud Siad

Photographed here on January 25, 10 Downing Street.
Photographed here on January 25, 10 Downing Street. (Rob Pinney/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom “would never recognize Russian attempts to annex sovereign territory,” British Prime Minister Liz Truss told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said Truss underlined the UK’s “steadfast support in light of Russia’s sham referendums in Ukraine.”

“The [British] Prime Minister made clear that the UK would never recognize Russian attempts to annex sovereign territory,” the spokesperson said.

“[Truss] reiterated that Ukraine could depend on the UK’s support until President Putin was defeated,” they added. 

During the call, President Zelensky welcomed Truss’ “strong backing” while the Prime Minister thanked Zelensky for his work in securing the release of five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine, the spokesperson also said.

Four Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine staged votes on joining Russia, according to their separatist leaders from Friday to Tuesday. The polls, which are contrary to international law, could pave the way for Russian annexation of the areas.

The votes are illegal and have been universally dismissed as “a sham” by Ukraine and Western nations.

CNN's Rob Picheta contributed reporting to this post. 

11:57 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Swedish intelligence launches "gross sabotage" investigation into Nord Stream incident

From CNN's Chris Liakos and Livvy Doherty

Sweden’s security service has opened a “gross sabotage” investigation regarding the incident at the Nord Stream pipelines, the agency said in a statement Wednesday, adding that it cannot be ruled out “that a foreign power is behind it.”

The unit has taken over the preliminary investigation from the Swedish Police Agency, according to the statement. “The crime classification is currently gross sabotage,” Sweden’s security service said.

“The security service takes over the investigation because it may be a serious crime that may at least partially be directed against Swedish interests. Nor can it be ruled out that a foreign power is behind it,” it added.

More context: Leaders of several Western countries have said leaks in two Russian gas pipelines are likely the result of sabotage, vowing a strong response as investigations continue.

Swedish authorities sounded the alarm on Tuesday about leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines – both of which run under the Baltic Sea near Sweden and Denmark, and have been major flashpoints in the energy war between Europe and Russia.

Neither pipeline was in operation at the time the leaks were found, but both still contained gas under pressure.

CNN's Jessie Yeung and Chris Liakos contributed reporting to this post. 

11:21 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

"Sham referenda" organized by Russia are a "pure violation of international law," EU foreign policy chief says

From CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and European Commission Vice-President, Josep Borrell speaks to the press at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, on September 28.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and European Commission Vice-President, Josep Borrell speaks to the press at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, on September 28. (Stephanie Lecocq/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

EU member states condemn in the "strongest possible term" the "illegal referenda" organized by Russia in Ukraine, EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said Wednesday.

Borrell urged the international community not to recognize the "sham" referenda.

Speaking alongside EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels, Borrell said that with illegal referenda organized by Russia, the "Kremlin is following the same playbook that we have already seen in Georgia in 2008. And in Crimea in 2014."

"We condemn in the strongest possible term, and I am sure I can speak on behalf of the member states of the European Union, that none of them will recognize this falsified outcome," Borrell said, calling the international community to do the same.