September 30, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Andrew Raine, Sana Noor Haq and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 6:14 p.m. ET, September 30, 2022
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1:54 p.m. ET, September 30, 2022

US announces visa restrictions and sanctions in response to "sham" referendums and annexation

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, U.S., on September 16.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, U.S., on September 16. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a slew of visa restrictions and sanctions in response to Moscow’s “sham” referendums and annexation of four regions of Ukraine on Friday.

“United States unequivocally rejects Russia’s fraudulent attempt to change Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders," he said.

In a statement, the top US diplomat said the State Department is imposing visa restrictions “on 910 individuals, including members of the Russian Federation military, Belarusian military officials, and Russia’s proxies for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence.”

“The Department is also designating Russian national, Ochur-Suge Mongush, for his involvement in a gross violation of human rights perpetrated against a Ukrainian prisoner of war,” Blinken said. “Under this authority, Mongush and his immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.”

Blinken said the US is “issuing a clear warning supported by G7 Leaders: We will hold to account any individual, entity, or country that provides political or economic support for Russia’s illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory.”

He said the Treasury and Commerce Departments “are releasing new guidance on heightened sanctions and export control risks for entities and individuals inside or outside Russia that support Russia’s sham referenda, purported annexation, and occupation of part of Ukraine.”

Blinken added that the State Department is joining the Treasury Department “in targeting family members of Russia’s National Security Council by designating Olga Sergeevna Sobyanina and Anna Sergeevna Ershova pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 14024 for being the adult children of Moscow mayor and Russian Security Council member Sergey Sobyanin, a person whose property and interests in property are blocked under E.O. 14024.”

“We will continue the United States’ powerful, coordinated efforts to hold Russia to account, cut Russia’s military off from global commerce and severely limit its ability to sustain its aggression and project power,” Blinken said.

1:54 p.m. ET, September 30, 2022

US imposing "swift and severe costs" on Russia following annexation of Ukrainian territory

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Phil Mattingly 

The US is imposing what it describes as “swift and severe costs” on Russia after President Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of regions of Ukraine following what the West casts as “sham referenda,” including the targeting of a key figure in Russia’s economy. 

Putin signed documents on Friday to formally begin the process of annexing four regions of Ukraine during a ceremony in the Kremlin, a clear violation of international law amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began seven months ago.

In response, the US is announcing sanctions in coordination with G7 allies. 

The US, a Biden administration official said, is “targeting additional Russian government officials and leaders, their family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials, and defense procurement networks, including international suppliers supporting Russia’s military-industrial complex” through announcements from the Departments of Treasury, Commerce and State. 

That includes sanctions from the Treasury on a key player in keeping the Russian economy afloat: Elvira Sakhipzadovna Nabiullina, an economist who has been leading Russia's central bank since 2013.

More background: Putin has spent years building up his defenses, amassing hundreds of billions in foreign currency reserves, bringing much of Russia's industrial base under state control and selling Russia's vast energy resources to the world. US officials grudgingly acknowledge that Nabiullina has done an effective job managing Russia through this initial phase of the sanctions, just as she did in 2014 after Putin's Crimea annexation triggered a much less severe round of sanctions from the West. 

This time, Nabiullina has deftly raised interest rates, imposed capital controls, and sought holes and workarounds to float an economy under siege. 

"A good central banker can do things to buoy the currency," one senior US official said earlier this year. "They have a very good central banker. We knew that then; we know it now."

Among Biden administration officials, Nabiullina is seen as perhaps the most effective of all of Putin's top lieutenants. 

The US is also placing sanctions on relatives of members of Russia’s National Security Council, visa restrictions on Ochur-Suge Mongush for human rights violations, sanctions on 14 international suppliers for Russia’s military supply chains and adding 57 new entities to Commerce’s Entity List for export controls, the officials said. 

1:54 p.m. ET, September 30, 2022

Police are investigating red paint on façade of Russian Consulate in New York City

From CNN's Kiely Westhoff

Red paint sprayed on façade of Russian Consulate in New York City on September 30.
Red paint sprayed on façade of Russian Consulate in New York City on September 30. (Obtained by CNN)

Red paint sprayed on the façade of the Russian Consulate building on New York City's Upper East Side was discovered by authorities Friday in what police are investigating as a “possible bias incident.”

The discovery comes on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin signed documents to formally begin the process of annexing regions of Ukraine during a ceremony in the Kremlin.

A police spokesperson said there was no messaging or words in the red paint on the building, based on preliminary information. 

Police say they responded to a 911 call of criminal mischief just after 1 a.m. ET Friday and discovered the paint sprayed on the consulate, which is located on East 91st Street. 

CNN is reaching out to the consulate.

1:55 p.m. ET, September 30, 2022

EU recommends member states tighten tourist visa scheme for Russian citizens

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris and Eve Brennan in London

EU commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson addresses a press conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on September 6.
EU commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson addresses a press conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on September 6. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Commission presented proposals for EU member states to further tighten visa restrictions for Russian citizens on Friday.

It recommended that an EU tourist visa should not be issued to Russian citizens applying from outside of Russia, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson announced at a news conference.

She called Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory, “an escalation of the security threat towards European Union."

“In the guidelines we say that member states should not accept Schengen visa applications from citizens of the Russian Federation that are present in a third country,” Johansson said.

“When it comes to Russian citizens that just want to come to the EU because they don't want to stay in Russia anymore, this stricter approach has to be applied,” she added. 

The EU is also asking for stricter security checks at its borders for Russians trying to enter with a valid Schengen visa.

“Just having a valid visa is not enough, is not sufficient to be let into the EU,” Johansson said. 

It is up to the member states to decide on their visa policies. The proposal will now be submitted to the European Council for approval. 

More on the proposals: Johansson recommended restrictions should not apply to certain exceptions: including applicants for humanitarian reasons, family reasons, independent journalists and dissidents. 

She also emphasized this new guideline won’t impact Russians who want to apply for a long-term EU visa, such as asylum. It’s only targeting tourist visas. 

Finland, one of the few EU countries that shares a border with Russia, announced on Thursday that it would close its borders to Russians with a tourist visa.

So far the EU has yet to see a wave of Russian asylum seekers, with around 20 to 30 asylum applications per day this last week, according to Johansson. 

Johansson also vowed further actions from the EU following the “illegal annexation of the four Ukrainian regions” by Russia.

10:07 a.m. ET, September 30, 2022

EU condemns Russia's "heinous" attack on civilians in Zaporizhzhia

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

Ukrainian policemen check cars damaged by a missile strike on a road near Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on September 30.
Ukrainian policemen check cars damaged by a missile strike on a road near Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on September 30. (Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union's top diplomat has condemned Russian shelling on a civilian convoy in Zaporizhzhia early Friday, calling the bombardment a "heinous attack."

"Another heinous attack by Russia on civilians: this time a humanitarian convoy bringing vital help to people living in the non-government controlled areas of Zaporizhzhia," Josep Borrell tweeted Friday.

The EU "condemns this appalling attack in the strongest possible terms. Those responsible will be held accountable," Borrell added.

The missile attack in the southeastern Ukrainian city killed at least 25 people and left 50 more injured, including children, according to Ukrainian authorities.

1:56 p.m. ET, September 30, 2022

European security organization says annexation of Ukrainian territory will lead to escalation in war

From CNN’s Mick Krever in London

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Friday condemned Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory, calling it a “blatant violation of the fundamental rules of international law, OSCE principles, and the UN Charter.”

Russia is one of 57 participating states in the OSCE, which until earlier this year ran a monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unacceptable” action on Friday “eviscerates the principle of territorial integrity, which is at the core of the OSCE’s founding principles and the international order,” the statement read.

“This action by the Russian Federation, which includes military mobilization and irresponsible nuclear threats, will only lead to greater escalation of conflict, putting further millions of lives at risk and causing more senseless human suffering,” it said.

Friday’s OSCE statement was signed by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Margareta Cederfelt, OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Secretary General Roberto Montella.

2:25 p.m. ET, September 30, 2022

World leaders condemn Putin's annexation of Ukrainian territory

From CNN's Jorge Engels, Junko Ogura and Sana Noor Haq

Kyiv and its Western allies have vociferously condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin's annexation of four Ukrainian occupied regions, following a ceremony at the Kremlin on Friday.

Putin said the regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia will become part of Russia "forever" during his speech in Moscow, after so-called referendums held by Russian-backed officials in eastern and southern Ukraine. The votes are illegal under international law and have been dismissed by Ukraine and Western nations as "a sham."

The European Union said it "will never" recognize the Kremlin's "illegal annexation," describing the move as a "further violation of Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity." The bloc said it will also step up sanctions against Moscow and provide Ukraine with support "for as long as it takes."

EU Council President Charles Michel dismissed Moscow's annexation, while EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Putin's illegal annexation "won't change anything."

"All territories illegally occupied by Russian invaders are Ukrainian land and will always be part of this sovereign nation," she tweeted Friday.

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said the country "strongly rejects the illegal annexation by Russia," calling the move "a shameless violation of Ukrainian sovereignty."

Lithuania's President Gitanas Nausėda said in a post on Twitter that "Russia is undermining rules-based international order," describing Moscow's annexation of occupied Ukrainian regions as "null" and "void."

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo tweeted Russia is "putting global security at risk."

The Finnish government said it "strongly condemns" the Kremlin's actions, according to a statement on its official website.

Prior to the Kremlin ceremony, other top government officials leveled stinging criticism at Moscow's plans.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday that the move was a "violation of international law" and must not be allowed, according to a statement from the prime minister's office.

Kishida told Zelensky that Japan would work closely with the G7 to consider further sanctions in light of Russia's move toward annexation, according to the statement.

On Wednesday, Spain's foreign ministry said the country "categorically rejects any action or decision that may be taken by the Russian authorities aimed at the illegal annexation of those territories."

9:43 a.m. ET, September 30, 2022

Ukrainian military says troops are trying to complete encirclement of Russian units in key Donetsk town

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

The Ukrainian military said that its troops are trying to complete the encirclement of Russian forces in the Lyman area of Donetsk.

Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson of the eastern grouping of Ukrainian forces, told CNN: 

"Our troops are trying to complete the encirclement of a group of Russian troops in the Lyman direction. The Russians want to get out of there. We hit them with all kinds of weapons."

Lyman is a town east of Sloviansk that has been occupied by Russian forces for several months. In the last two weeks, Ukrainian forces have advanced from the north, south and west, gradually tightening their grip on the area. 

"In particular, almost all routes through which they supplied weapons, equipment and personnel were taken under our fire control," Cherevatyi told CNN.

"There are many videos where the Ukrainian flag is installed. Only after stabilization measures — verification of the presence of enemy forces, mines, etc. — only then can we officially confirm" their liberation, he said. 

Cherevatyi said Russian units in the area — totaling some 5,000 men, according to various estimates — included what he called "more professional, motivated servicemen," but added that "Ukrainian generals, hardened by eight years of war, Ukrainian staff officers, are much more skilled in planning such kind of operations."

Russia will have to ask Ukraine to allow a Russian retreat from the town, a top Ukrainian official said on Friday.

“RF [Russian Forces] will have to ask for an exit from Lyman,” Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the office of the Ukrainian president, said on Twitter. “Only if, of course, those in Kremlin are concerned with their soldiers.”

“8 years ago, ru-military surrounded our [forces] near Ilovaisk,” he said, referring to a deadly 2014 battle between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk region. “Our guys agreed to surrender without weapons. But Russia broke its word. The column was shot.”

1:46 p.m. ET, September 30, 2022

EU vows never to recognize Russia’s "illegal annexation" of Ukrainian territories

From CNN's Jorge Engels and Sharon Braithwaite

The European Union has strongly rejected and condemned Russia’s annexations in Ukraine, and said it "will never recognise" the Kremlin’s "illegal annexation." 

The bloc's comments came as Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday formally signed a decree to annex nearly a fifth of Ukraine's territory, in blatant violation of international law.

The ceremony at the Kremlin's St. George's Hall came following so-called referendums held by Russian-backed officials in eastern and southern Ukraine on joining Russia. The votes are illegal under international law and have been dismissed by Ukraine and Western nations as "a sham."

"We firmly reject and unequivocally condemn the illegal annexation by Russia of Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions," a statement on behalf of the members of the European Council said on Friday.

"By wilfully undermining the rules-based international order and blatantly violating the fundamental rights of Ukraine to independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, core principles as enshrined in the UN Charter and international law, Russia is putting global security at risk.

"We do not and will never recognise the illegal 'referenda' that Russia has engineered as a pretext for this further violation of Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, nor their falsified and illegal results."

The statement added: "These decisions are null and void and cannot produce any legal effect whatsoever. Crimea, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk are Ukraine. We call on all States and international organisations to unequivocally reject this illegal annexation," the statement added.

The statement said the EU will strengthen sanctions on Russia and reiterated the bloc’s support for Ukraine.