September 29, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Andrew Raine, Melissa Macaya and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT) September 30, 2022
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3:40 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Pro-Russian separatist leaders involved in illegal referendums across Ukraine arrive in Moscow 

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Separatist leaders from Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics visit Moscow, Russia, on September 29.
Separatist leaders from Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics visit Moscow, Russia, on September 29. (Kirill Stremousov)

Some of the separatist leaders involved in carrying out sham referendums to secede from Ukraine and join Russia landed in Moscow Thursday, according to a photograph posted by Kirill Stremousov, the Russia-appointed deputy head of the Kherson regional military administration. 

The votes – which are illegal under international law – were carried out in the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.  

“The historic plane with the leaders of the liberated territories landed in Moscow. We will become new subjects of the Russian Federation very soon,” the statement read, alongside a photograph of Stremousov with Denis Pushilin, Yevgeniy Balitskiy and Vladimir Saldo, some of the other Russian-backed officials involved in the so-called “referendums.”

The votes mirror the playbook used during Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, sparking fears they could become a false pretext for the Kremlin to illegally claim more territory in Ukraine and escalate its war effort. 

Some context: On Wednesday, with all “votes” counted, Kremlin-backed authorities in the four Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine predictably claimed that residents had overwhelmingly agreed to become part of Russia.

The UK Ministry of Defense has said that “there is a realistic possibility” that Putin will use his address to Russia’s parliament on Friday to “formally announce the accession of the occupied regions of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov previously indicated that if the regions announced majorities in favor of joining Russia, the ratification process would be fast and they could become part of the Russian Federation “quite soon.” 

Asked if that would mean any attempt by Ukraine to regain the territories would be regarded as an attack on Russian territory, Peskov said: “Of course.”

8:26 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Fourth leak in Nord Stream found, "strong indication" of sabotage: Germany’s ambassador to UK

From Jorge Engels

Unused pipes for the Nord Stream 2 Baltic gas pipeline are stored on the site of the Port of Mukran, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany, on September 27.
Unused pipes for the Nord Stream 2 Baltic gas pipeline are stored on the site of the Port of Mukran, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany, on September 27. (Stefan Sauer/picture alliance/Getty Images)

Germany’s ambassador to the United Kingdom on Thursday said a fourth leak had been discovered in the Nord Stream pipelines connecting Russia to Germany and that there was a “very strong indication” these were acts of sabotage.

“It didn’t happen just like that. We think that there is a very, very strong indication these were acts of sabotage,” Miguel Berger, Germany’s ambassador to the UK, told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday.

“We have two gas leakages in Danish and two in Swedish economic exclusive zones,” Berger added.

CNN has reached out to Sweden’s coast guard but did not immediately receive a reply.

Berger said Sweden and Denmark would lead the investigation into the leaks but that results were likely to take up to 10 days because gas is still escaping from the pipelines.

Currently, it’s too dangerous to investigate,” Berger said.

Berger said that in Germany’s view, “everything indicated” the leaks were not the product of natural causes and that a non-state actor could not have caused this damage.

He did not blame Russia for the leaks but said it was too early to rule anything out.

Some context: 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.

2:31 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

One child and at least two others dead, five injured in Russian missile strikes on Dnipro: Ukrainian official

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych

At least three people died – including a child – in missile strikes on the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine early Thursday, according to the head of the regional military administration Valentyn Reznichenko. 

“The Russians hit Dnipro with missiles at night. They hit residential areas. As of now, it’s known three are dead, including one child... Five more people are injured, including a 12-year-old girl. The rescuers got her out of the destroyed house, where she was sleeping when a Russian missile hit,” Reznichenko said. 

The strikes damaged “60 houses and several high-rise buildings,” leaving a handful of residences “completely destroyed,” he added. 

CNN cannot independently verify the claims. 

8:26 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

European security officials observed Russian Navy ships near Nord Stream pipelines leaks

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis, Kylie Atwood and Natasha Bertrand

A large disturbance in the sea observed off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm on September 27.
A large disturbance in the sea observed off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm on September 27. (Danish Defence Command/AP)

European security officials on Monday and Tuesday observed Russian Navy ships in the vicinity of leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines likely caused by underwater explosions, according to Western intelligence officials and one other source.

It's unclear whether the ships had anything to do with those explosions, these sources and others said -- but it's one of the many factors that investigators will be looking into.

Russian submarines were also observed not far from those areas last week, one of the intelligence officials said.

Three US officials said that the United States has no thorough explanation yet for what happened, days after the explosions that caused three separate and simultaneous leaks in the two pipelines on Monday.

Russian ships routinely operate in the area, according to one Danish military official, who emphasized that the presence of the ships doesn't necessarily indicate that Russia caused the damage.

"We see them every week," this person said. "Russian activities in the Baltic Sea have increased in recent years. They're quite often testing our awareness – both at sea and in the air."

But the sightings still cast further suspicion on Russia, which has drawn the most attention from both European and US officials as the only actor in the region believed to have both the capability and motivation to deliberately damage the pipelines.

US officials declined to comment on the intelligence about the ships on Wednesday.

The prime ministers of both Denmark and Sweden said on Tuesday that the leaks were likely the result of deliberate actions, not accidents, and Sweden's security service said in a statement Wednesday that it cannot be ruled out "that a foreign power is behind it."

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday evening also called the leaks "apparent sabotage" in a tweet.

But senior Western officials have so far stopped short of attributing the attack to Russia or any other nation.

The Kremlin has publicly denied striking the pipelines. A spokesman called the allegation "predictably stupid and absurd."

CNN has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment on the presence of the ships.

Read the full report.

CNN's Oren Liebermann and Alex Marquardt contributed reporting.

8:27 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Russia is the leading suspect in Nord Stream leaks investigation, US officials say

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis, Kylie Atwood and Natasha Bertrand

Denmark and Sweden are investigating the leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines, but a site inspection has yet to be done and details on exactly what caused the explosions remain sketchy.

One European official said that there is a Danish government assessment underway and it could take up to two weeks for an investigation to properly begin because the pressure in the pipes makes it difficult to approach the site of the leaks. However, another source said the probe could begin as soon as Sunday.

The Danish government is taking the lead on the investigation and has put in place an exclusion area of five nautical miles and a one kilometer no-fly-zone, according to European sources familiar with the matter.

US officials have been far more circumspect than their European counterparts in drawing conclusions about the leaks.

But a senior US official and a US military official both said Russia is still the leading suspect – assuming that the European assessment of deliberate sabotage is borne out – because there are no other plausible suspects with the ability and will to carry out the operation. 

It’s hard to imagine any other actor in the region with the capabilities and interest to carry out such an operation,” one Danish military official said. 

Russia has requested a UN Security Council meeting on the damaged pipeline this week – something the senior US official said is also suspicious. Typically, the official said, Russia isn’t organized enough to move so quickly, suggesting that the maneuver was pre-planned.

If Russia did deliberately cause the explosions, it would be effectively sabotaging its own pipelines: Russian state company Gazprom is the majority shareholder in Nord Stream 1 and the sole owner of Nord Stream 2.

But officials familiar with the latest intelligence say that Moscow would likely view such a step as worth the price if it helped raise the costs of supporting Ukraine for Europe.

US and Western intelligence officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is gambling that as electricity costs rise and winter approaches, European publics could turn against the Western strategy of isolating Russia economically.

Sabotaging the pipelines could “show what Russia is capable of,” one US official said.

CNN's Oren Liebermann and Alex Marquardt contributed reporting.

1:54 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Former Premier League soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov summoned to fight for Russian military

From CNN's Homero DeLaFuente

Everton's Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, center, celebrates after scoring a goal on April 9, 2011.
Everton's Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, center, celebrates after scoring a goal on April 9, 2011. (Rui Vieira/PA Images/Getty Images)

Former Premier League soccer star Diniyar Bilyaletdinov has received a summons from Russia’s military registration and enlistment office, his father, Rinat Bilyaletdinov, told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. 

Bilyaletdinov, who made 59 appearances for English club Everton, is a Russian national and member of the country's Tatar ethnic minority group.

“Diniyar really received a summons. It’s hard to talk about emotions, because he didn’t serve, although he did military service, but it was specific, with a sports bias. That was 19 years ago,” the player’s father said. 

Rinat Bilyaletdinov argued that his son was incorrectly summoned as he is older than the cutoff age.

“The law still says – to call people up to 35 years old, and he is 37, so there is some kind of inconsistency. Now it will be found out whether this agenda is correct or it was sent early. Anything can happen. If there was a general mobilization, then ask questions. In the meantime, the president has established a partial one, everything should be in accordance with the law," he said.  

Some background: Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the immediate “partial mobilization” of Russian citizens, in an effort to bolster the Kremlin’s faltering invasion, following Ukraine’s gains in an ongoing counteroffensive. 

As part of the mobilization efforts, Russia will call up 300,000 reservists, according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. 

Putin moved to amend the country’s Criminal Code over the weekend and strengthen punishments relating to military service during times of mobilization, martial law or wartime, with Russians who fail to report for duty now facing up to 10 years in prison under the new regulations.

Diniyar Bilyaletdinov joined Everton in 2009 and played with the English Premier League side for three seasons. He played 46 matches for the Russian national team, scoring six goals and helping them win the bronze medal in the Euro championship in 2008.

2:06 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Pentagon announces extra $1.1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

A Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) is seen at Fort Drum, N.Y., on Aug. 29.
A Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) is seen at Fort Drum, N.Y., on Aug. 29. (Pvt. Mason S. Nichols/U.S. Army)

The US Department of Defense has announced an additional $1.1 billion in security assistance for Ukraine.

The extra funds will come under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, meaning the money will be spent on manufacturing and providing new weapons to Ukraine. These weapons will not come directly from current US stocks of weapons.

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

The package also includes 150 Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, 40 trucks and 80 trailers to “transport heavy equipment,” and 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.

12:52 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Ukraine claims Russian mobilization in some regions is sweeping up all men "of a certain age"

From CNN's Tim Lister and Denis Lapin

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 several 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.

1:20 a.m. ET, September 29, 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

Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is seen during a meeting at the Kremlin on December 11, 2019. 
Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is seen during a meeting at the Kremlin on December 11, 2019.  (Pavel Golovkin/Pool/Reuters)

A 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 conference in Brussels.

According to Borell, the new sanctions will target "those involved in Russia's 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 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 military 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 said.

 

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."