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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5:42 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Our live coverage has ended for the day. You can read more on Russia's war in Ukraine here, or scroll through the updates below.

5:38 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

It's nighttime in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

If you're just joining us, here's what you need to know about Thursday's developments in the war in Ukraine.

  • More scrutiny on leaking pipelines: Western leaders have stopped short of accusing Russia — US President Joe Biden declined to comment today — but they agree the Nord Stream pipelines leaking in the Baltic Sea were likely a result of sabotage. Sweden's coast guard confirmed a fourth leak today and Danish seismologists said they may have registered a third blast on the day the pipelines were damaged.
  • Russia's annexation ploy: What's the endgame for the Russian-backed referendums held in occupied parts of Ukraine? The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin will annex the four territories in a ceremony tomorrow — a move the US and NATO have vowed never to recognize. For a deeper look at the implications, check out this analysis.
  • A mass exodus from Russia: Moscow's "partial mobilization" order sparked tens of thousands of Russian citizens to flee the country, leaving neighboring countries with an influx of newcomers. Finland announced it will close its borders to Russian tourists Friday and a Georgian official said the nation may need to rethink its immigration policy. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded in a statement Thursday that "the mistakes" made during the current mobilization order be rectified. He said there were a lot of questions from the population on this issue, and that "if a mistake is made, then I repeat, it needs to be corrected. Return home those who were called up without a proper reason."
  • Ukrainian forces press the advantage in Donetsk: Video and images obtained by CNN show Ukraine's military in control of rural areas in the eastern Donetsk region. Troops have surrounded the contested town of Lyman, a railroad hub that's been held by pro-Russian forces since May.
  • Concerns surrounding the Zaporizhzhia plant: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Rafael Grossi reiterated Thursday his "deep concern" about the repeated occurrence of landmine explosions near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. It comes after the area experienced frequent shelling in the past few months. IAEA experts present at the plant were informed Thursday "about two more landmine explosions outside the plant perimeter fence, bringing the total to five this week," IAEA said in a statement.
4:47 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Zelensky urges Russians to stop Putin, saying he's "the one person in Russia who wants war more than life"

From CNN's Tim Lister and Denis Lapin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to the Russian people Thursday to stop President Vladimir Putin from waging war.

"The cost of one person in Russia wanting to continue this war will be that all Russian society will be left without a normal economy, without a decent life, and without respect for any human values," Zelensky said in his daily address.

"This can still be stopped. But to stop it, you have to stop the one person in Russia who wants war more than life. Your life, citizens of Russia."

Zelensky again dismissed the attempted annexation of four Russian-occupied regions of the country. "Russia will not get new territory in Ukraine," he said.

And the Ukrainian president shared a message specifically for Russia's indigenous peoples.

"During the first week of criminal mobilization, more men fled from Russia than the Russian authorities were officially going to send to war," Zelensky said.

"Dagestanis do not have to die in Ukraine. Chechens, Ingush, Ossetians, Circassians and any other peoples who came under the Russian flag. In total, almost 200 different peoples. ... You know who sends them to Ukraine."

Some context: Zelensky's appeal to indigenous groups comes after warnings from activists in Russia that ethnic minorities are being disproportionately mobilized.

CNN has geolocated videos of men leaving for war in Russia’s Far East regions.

5:17 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Putin demands that "the mistakes" made during the mobilization be rectified

From CNN's Tim Lister, Uliana Pavlova and Josh Pennington 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that "the mistakes" made during the current partial mobilization be rectified.

The decree declaring partial mobilization —signed by Putin on Sept. 21 — stipulated that reserve servicemen with previous military experience and men with professional experience required by the military, would be called up. A total of 300,000 men are eligible to be called up, according to the decree.

Putin said there were a lot of questions from the population on this issue and it was necessary to investigate every single case of wrongful mobilization and to return people to their places of origin in case of errors.

The process has been criticized by commentators on Russian state television and prompted an exodus of citizens fleeing the country and protests in several parts of Russia, especially in Dagestan and the Russian Far East. Protestors have accused the Russian military of drafting students, fathers and men whose age should exempt them from service.

In a recorded statement Putin said: “In the course of this mobilization, many questions arise and it is necessary to correct all the mistakes and prevent them from happening in the future for those citizens who need an exemption."

"For example, fathers of multiple children or people suffering from chronic diseases or those who are already beyond the age of military service. It is necessary to consider each such case separately. And if a mistake is made, then I repeat, it needs to be corrected. Return home those who were called up without a proper reason," he continued.

4:18 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Video obtained by CNN shows Ukrainian forces closing in on pro-Russian forces in a pocket of Donetsk

From Victoria Butenko and Tim Lister

Video and images obtained by CNN show Ukrainian forces in control of rural areas of Donetsk around the contested town of Lyman, which is still held by a variety of pro-Russian militia. 

Ukrainian tanks are seen advancing in the area amid the ruins of heavily damaged villages. The roads are littered with what appear to have been hastily abandoned Russian dugouts, with rockets and ammunition left behind. There's also evidence of Russian and militia tanks and military vehicles destroyed or damaged.

Some of the abandoned equipment is around the villages of Zelena Dolyna, north of Lyman — which CNN reported Wednesday was in the hands of Ukrainian forces — and the neighboring village of Lypnove. 

In several of the videos, a loudspeaker announcement can be heard, which CNN has translated as saying:

"The Ukrainian Armed Forces have captured Lyman; further resistance is pointless. Tomorrow, the cleanup will begin, you will have no chance of surviving. Today you have a chance to surrender. The Ukrainian side guarantees your life and treatment in accordance with the Geneva Convention. In order to surrender, you need to go out on the road or in a populated area, lay down your arms. With your hands up, wait for the representatives of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Remember, your authorities do not need you, you are cannon fodder for them. Your relatives need you."

Earlier Thursday, it was clear that resistance was continuing from pro-Russian units in Lyman, although they now appear to be surrounded on three sides. One pro-Russian official described the situation in Lyman as "difficult." 

The collapse of Russian defenses in and around Lyman would enable the Ukrainians to focus on targets further east, inside Luhansk region. 

Luhansk is one of four areas that are expected to be claimed as annexed by Russia in the next few days after referendums about whether the regions should join the Russian Federation. The referendums and the annexation plans have been widely condemned by the international community.

4:15 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Italy's embassy in Moscow advises Italian nationals to consider whether to leave Russia

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

The Italian embassy in Moscow has advised Italian nationals to consider whether to leave Russia, in a statement issued Thursday.

The advice comes in light of "the most recent developments in the international environment and the increasing difficulty in air and road connections out of Russia."

"It is becoming progressively more difficult to travel by air from the Russian Federation to Italy and other third countries," the embassy said.

"In particular, there is a dramatic increase in the already high cost of tickets sold by airlines these days, and there are reports of long queues at some border crossings connecting the Russian Federation with some neighboring countries," it said.

"In view of the continued closure of airspace to flights from the Russian Federation ordered by the European Union last Feb. 27, all compatriots present in Russia are strongly advised to plan as far in advance as possible for travel abroad. Those who need to leave the Russian Federation are urged to obtain tickets available from commercial airlines as soon as possible," it continued.

The embassy also recommended to postpone all travel to the Russian Federation.

Earlier this week, the US Embassy in Moscow issued a security alert that again urged US citizens to leave Russia immediately while there are still options for departing the country.

3:54 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Turkish president urges Putin to give negotiations with Ukraine another chance

From CNN's Tim Lister, Josh Pennington and Hande Atay Alam 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin have spoken by phone, with Erdogan appealing to the Russian leader to give negotiations another chance to end the conflict, according to the Turkish presidency.

Erdogan said that in order to de-escalate tensions, "steps — particularly as regards the incorporation of various Ukrainian areas into Russia —are expected of Moscow in a bid to facilitate the process," according the presidency.

The Turkish statement did not criticize the annexation of the four Ukrainian regions into Russia, which is expected to be formalized on Friday in Moscow. Western governments dismiss the process as a "sham."

In an interview Wednesday, Erdogan said: "Of course Zelensky wants our support on these four regions, and he wants us to meet with Mr. Putin and discuss the issue. Let's see what happens."

Here's how Russia described the meeting: The Kremlin said Putin briefed the Turkish President on "the results of the referendums on the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Regions on joining the Russian Federation."

According to the Kremlin, "it was stressed that the voting took place in a transparent manner, in full compliance with the norms and principles of international law."

That characterization stands in direct contrast to the international outcry meeting the referendums, which NATO, the EU and US officials have all dismissed as illegitimate.

The Kremlin said Putin also mentioned what it called the "unprecedented sabotage" of the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines.

3:48 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Official: Georgia faces a moral dilemma as tens of thousands of Russians cross the border

From CNN's Elizabeth Wells

Georgia may have to reconsider its policy of allowing Russian citizens to enter the country on humanitarian grounds if the number of people increases drastically, a Georgian official told CNN Thursday.

Speaking to CNN’s Becky Anderson, Georgia’s Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Nikoloz Samkharadze said the border issue poses “a moral dilemma for us.”

Upwards of 60,000 Russian citizens have entered the country over the past week, according to Samkharadze, who said that “at least 40% of them” are ethnic Georgians who had Russian citizenship, and “now are coming back and they are rejoining their families or relatives.”

“We cannot close the border because that would be in favor of Putin, because he wants to mobilize these people and send them to fight in Ukraine,” Samkharadze said. “It will be a heavy burden for the social fabric of the country and also for the budget of our small country.”

He said his country of 3.7 million people was already dealing with the strain of displaced people from elsewhere in the world, including 250,000 from the occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, 30,000 Ukrainians and 15,000 Belarusians.

Why Russians are leaving home: President Vladimir Putin's mobilization announcement for the war in Ukraine sparked protests and an exodus of Russian citizens as the Kremlin tightened rules around evading military orders.

The number of Russians fleeing the country to avoid call-up “likely exceeds” the number of troops that invaded Ukraine in February, the UK Ministry of Defense said Thursday.

3:11 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Blinken reiterates US will never recognize Ukrainian land annexed by Russia

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaks to the press at the State Department in Washington DC, on Tuesday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaks to the press at the State Department in Washington DC, on Tuesday. (Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement on Thursday called Russia’s so-called referendums in occupied-parts of Ukraine “a futile effort to mask what amounts to a further attempt at a land grab.”

He reiterated that “the United States does not, and will never, recognize the legitimacy or outcome of these sham referenda or Russia’s purported annexation of Ukrainian territory."

“This spectacle conducted by Russia’s proxies is illegitimate and violates international law,” Blinken said in the statement. “It is an affront to the principles of international peace and security.”

“The United States and our allies and partners will continue to assist Ukraine in its fight to defend its territory against Russian aggression,” Blinken added.

“We wholeheartedly support Ukraine’s unity, sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,” he said.

On Tuesday, Blinken made clear that Ukraine would be able to use weapons provided by the United States to regain its territory, including in the regions that are expected to annexed by Russia Friday.

“I've also been equally clear that Ukraine has the absolute right to defend itself throughout its territory, including to take back the territory that has been illegally seized in one way or another by Russia,” he said in response to a question from CNN’s Kylie Atwood at a news conference Tuesday.

“Because there is no change at all in the territory that is being annexed by the Russians as a matter for us or for the Ukrainians, the Ukrainians will continue to do what they need to do to get back the land that has been taken from them. We will continue to support them in that effort,” Blinken said at the news conference.