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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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.

10:59 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Gazprom dispute with Ukrainian transit company deepens, raising the risk to pipeline operation

From CNN's Tim Lister and Clare Sebastian 

A dispute over payments between Russian gas company Gazprom and Ukrainian pipeline operator Naftogaz has deepened, potentially putting at risk one of the few gas pipelines from Russia to Europe still in operation.

The dispute concerns transit fees for gas carried across Ukrainian territory to central Europe. In the wake of the latest exchanges between the two companies, wholesale gas prices in Europe rose Wednesday. 

In a statement Wednesday, Gazprom said it rejected all legal claims by Naftogaz, saying that "services that have not been provided by the Ukrainian party should not and will not be paid for." 

Gazprom said Naftogaz had refused to fulfill its transit obligations.

It also said the agreement from 2019 stipulated that all disputes should be settled in Zurich, Switzerland — but because of anti-Russian sanctions, "Gazprom has been deprived of its fundamental right to a fair and impartial hearing."

Gazprom said it considered the claims by Naftogaz as an "unfriendly step in continuation of the Ukrainian company's bad faith behavior," which may lead the Russian state to impose sanctions on Naftogaz. "In practice, this will mean a ban restricting Gazprom from fulfilling its obligations to the sanctioned entities."

Yuriy Vitrenko, chief executive officer of NJSC Naftogaz Ukrainy, in his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 14.
Yuriy Vitrenko, chief executive officer of NJSC Naftogaz Ukrainy, in his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 14. (Andrew Kravchenko/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The CEO of Naftogaz, Yuriy Vitrenko, retorted on Twitter: "Gazprom's statement is another example of Gazprom's disregard for the rule of law and its association with the Russian Federation's war of aggression against Ukraine."

Vitrenko said "Naftogaz has invoked Force Majeure in respect of transit through entry point Sokhanovka because it is controlled by Russian armed forces, and instead offered transit through entry point Sudzha at no additional cost."

"Gazprom has accepted the right of Naftogaz to refer disputes to arbitration. When Naftogaz exercises this right, it is simply a regular exercise of a contractual right, and not an "unfriendly act."

10:48 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

EU Commission’s new Russia sanction package proposal includes an oil price cap

From CNN's Chris Liakos

The new package of “biting sanctions” proposed by the European Commission against Russia would also “lay the legal basis” for an oil price cap, the EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a news statement in Brussels Wednesday.

She said that the oil price cap which was already agreed upon on a G7 country level, “will help reduce Russia's revenues on one hand and it will keep the global market for energy stable on the other hand.”

“So today in this package here, we are laying the legal basis for this oil price cap,” the EU Commission chief said.

The EU has already agreed to ban seaborne Russian crude oil starting Dec. 5.

More on the package: The new package also proposes a ban on providing European services to Russia and the prohibition of EU nationals to sit on governing bodies of Russian state-owned enterprises.

“Russia should not benefit from European knowledge and expertise,” von der Leyen said.

Finally, the package will propose ways to toughen the bloc’s crackdown on the circumvention of sanctions.

The EU Commission’s new sanctions package is a proposal at this stage and can only be officially adopted at an EU Council level with the approval of all the 27 member states.

9:44 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Unexplained leaks were found in 2 Russian undersea gas pipelines to Europe. Here's what you need to know

From CNN's Chris Liakos

European countries on Tuesday raced to investigate unexplained leaks in two Russian gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea near Sweden and Denmark, infrastructure at the heart of an energy crisis since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Several European officials said sabotage appeared to be the likely cause, while Russia — which built the network — did not rule it out.

Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy Terje Aasland said Tuesday that the initial information received about the leaks indicated “acts of sabotage.” Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and her Danish counterpart, Mette Frederiksen, both said the incident was likely “deliberate” but played down the possibility of a military threat.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters,” “No option can be ruled out right now.”

Why this matters: Both pipelines have been flashpoints in an escalating energy war between European capitals and Moscow that has pummeled major Western economies, sent gas prices soaring and sparked a hunt for alternative energy supplies.

According to pipeline operator Nord Stream AG, it is not currently possible to estimate “a timeframe for restoring the gas transport infrastructure.”

In a statement on Tuesday evening, it added that pressure drops in the pipeline suggested there had been physical damage.

German, Danish and Scandinavian security authorities were closely looking at the leaks in the Baltic Sea and investigating their cause, according to German Economy Minister Robert Habeck, who also said German energy supply had not been affected.

Earlier in the day, Sweden’s Maritime Authority had issued a warning about two leaks in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, shortly after a leak on the nearby Nord Stream 2 pipeline was discovered.

11:47 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

EU Commission is proposing a new package of "biting sanctions" against Russia, president says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite, Sarah Diab and Chris Liakos

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on September 28.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on September 28. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Commission is proposing a new package of "biting sanctions" against Russia, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday in a news statement in Brussels. 

“Last week, Russia has escalated the invasion of Ukraine to a new level. The sham referenda organized in the territories that Russia occupied are an illegal attempt to grab land or to change international borders by force. The mobilization and Putin threat to use nuclear weapons are further steps on the escalation path,” von der Leyen said.


“We do not accept the sham referenda and any kind of annexation in Ukraine and we’re determined to make the Kremlin pay for this further escalation,” she added.

This eighth package would see new individuals and entities targeted by sanctions, and would further restrict trade, von der Leyen said. 

The new package also proposes sweeping new import bans on Russian products.

“This will keep Russian products out of the European market and deprive Russia of an additional 7 billion euros in revenues,” the European Commission chief said.