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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1:44 p.m. ET, September 30, 2022

Putin says annexed Ukrainian territories will be part of Russia "forever"

From CNN's Radina Gigova, Sarah Dean, Uliana Pavlova and Anna Chernova

Russian President Vladimir Putin said four occupied Ukrainian regions will become part of Russia "forever," during his Kremlin speech that announced the annexations.

"I want the Kyiv authorities and their real masters in the West to hear me. For everyone to remember. People living in Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens. Forever," the Russian leader told guests in St. George's Hall, the opulent Kremlin venue for the event.

The ceremony to assimilate four occupied regions, which make up almost a fifth of Ukraine's territory, came 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."

Putin said those taking part in what the Kremlin calls its "special operation" in Ukraine are "heroes."

"There is nothing stronger than the determination of these people to return to their true historical fatherland," he said.

He also called on Ukraine to "cease fire" immediately and "sit down at the negotiating table."

"But we will not negotiate the choice of the people. It has been made. Russia will not betray it."

Analysts have speculated that part of the reason Putin announced the annexations was to put pressure on the West to scale back its support for Kyiv.

In his speech, Putin also accused Western leaders of trying to "weaken and destroy" Russia, while giving his version of a Russian history lesson.

"The West has been looking for and continues to look for a new chance to weaken and destroy Russia, which they have always dreamed of splitting our state, pitting peoples against each other."

He added that "the collapse of Western hegemony that has begun is irreversible."

"It will no longer be like before," Putin said. "The battlefield to which fate and history have called us is the battlefield for our people, for great historical Russia."

9:16 a.m. ET, September 30, 2022

Zelensky: "Everything will be Ukraine"

From CNN’s Mick Krever and Tim Lister

President Volodymyr Zelensky has reassured Ukrainians that “everything will be Ukraine,” in a statement posted before Russian President Vladimir Putin began speaking in Moscow during a ceremony where he announced the Kremlin’s intention to annex nearly a fifth of Ukraine in blatant violation of international law.

“We have the situation under control,” Zelensky said on Telegram at the conclusion of a meeting with Ukraine’s top military and security officials. “Everything will be Ukraine.”

Zelensky said that the officials heard reports from the frontline, “considered further plan for the liberation of our territories,” analyzed “the possible actions of the enemy in the near future,” and discussed the logistics of providing troops with weapons and ammunition.

While Putin was speaking, Andriy Yermak, the head of President Zelensky's office, posted a brief comment on Telegram, saying: 

"We continue to work and liberate Ukrainian territories. We do not pay attention to those who should take pills. The army is working, Ukraine is united. Only forward."

Yermak's message came as Ukrainian forces closed in on Russian positions around Lyman in the eastern Donetsk region, one of the areas Putin said Russia would annex.

2:02 p.m. ET, September 30, 2022

Putin signs documents to formally begin process of annexing Ukrainian regions

From CNN staff

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to annex four areas of occupied Ukraine, which make up almost a fifth of Ukraine's territory.

The documents were signed by Putin on behalf of the Russian Federation, plus the heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and the leaders of the occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.

After the signing at the ceremony in the Kremlin on Friday, Putin shook hands with the Russian-backed leaders of the four regions. Later, the five men stood and listened to the Russian Federation's national anthem.

Putin then reached for the hands of the four leaders and put them in a pile as is customary before a sporting event. There were chants of "Russia" in the room.

It comes 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." The EU's chief diplomat Josep Borrell dismissed the ballots as "illegal referenda" earlier this week, while the White House has pledged not to recognize the results. 

Russia's annexation of occupied Ukrainian territories comes swiftly after Putin announced the "partial mobilization" of Russian citizens amid Moscow's faltering invasion. The strategy has been met with heated protests at home and tens of thousands of people have left the country.

8:34 a.m. ET, September 30, 2022

Putin starts speaking at annexation ceremony in the Kremlin

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech in Moscow on September 30.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech in Moscow on September 30. (VGTRK)

Russian President Vladimir Putin is delivering a speech at an annexation ceremony in Moscow.

During the ceremony he is expected to sign documents formally annexing four areas of Ukraine — up to 18% of Ukrainian territory.

It comes 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."

Addressing attendees, Putin said those taking part in what the Kremlin calls its "special operation" in Ukraine are "heroes."

"There is nothing stronger than the determination of these people to return to their true historical fatherland," Putin said.

8:24 a.m. ET, September 30, 2022

Separatist leaders join other guests in Moscow for Putin's annexation ceremony

From CNN staff

The head of the Russian-backed administration in occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia, Yevgeny Balitsky, has shared a photo of himself (far left) alongside (from left to right) Vladimir Saldo, Denis Pushilin, and Leonid Pasechnik, in Moscow on September 30.
The head of the Russian-backed administration in occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia, Yevgeny Balitsky, has shared a photo of himself (far left) alongside (from left to right) Vladimir Saldo, Denis Pushilin, and Leonid Pasechnik, in Moscow on September 30. (Yevgeny Balitsky/Telegram)

Guests have arrived in Moscow ahead of an annexation ceremony hosted by President Vladimir Putin on Friday, with attendees including Russian-backed leaders from four occupied Ukrainian territories.

Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the Russian-backed administration in occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia shared an image of himself alongside Vladimir Saldo, his counterpart in Kherson, Denis Pushilin, from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, and Leonid Pasechnik from the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic.

Russian parliament deputies and government ministers are among the other guests, according to Russian state channel Russia 24. 

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin are in attendance.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the chair of Russia's Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko, as well as Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Kremlin leader of Russia's Chechnya region have also arrived.

Tatyana Golikova, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation, and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who currently serves as deputy chair of Russia's Security Council, are also there.

Members of the Russian Orthodox Church are at the event, according to the Russia 24 video. 

The ceremony follows 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."

Putin will deliver a speech and meet with Russian-backed leaders of the four occupied regions on the sidelines of the ceremony, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

7:37 a.m. ET, September 30, 2022

Entry of Russian citizens to Finland closed only for tourist visa holders, ambassador says

From CNN's Tim Lister and Radina Gigova

Finnish border guard officers look at cars queueing at the Vaalimaa border crossing between Finland and the Russian Federation on September 30.
Finnish border guard officers look at cars queueing at the Vaalimaa border crossing between Finland and the Russian Federation on September 30. (Alessandro Rampazzo/AFP/Getty Images)

The entry of Russian citizens to Finland is closed only for tourist visa holders, but other types of trips are still possible, according to the Russian ambassador to Helsinki.

"From today, the Finns prohibit the entry of Russians for tourist purposes. Other trips are still allowed — these are visits to relatives, work, study, treatment, business trips and so on," Pavel Kuznetsov said on Russian state TV channel Russia 24 on Friday. 

Finland's government said on Thursday that the country will close its borders to Russian tourists starting Friday at midnight (local time) until further notice.

Following Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement earlier this month of "partial mobilization," the country saw nationwide protests and an exodus of citizens fleeing the country.

Some context: On Sunday, 8,314 Russians entered Finland via the Finnish-Russian land border — double that of the previous Sunday, the border guard’s head of international affairs tweeted at the time.

Including Saturday's numbers, 16,886 Russians arrived in total, with "many in transit to other countries," Matti Pitkäniitty added.

8:14 a.m. ET, September 30, 2022

Ukrainian forces take key village in Donetsk region as they encircle Russian units

From CNN's Tim Lister, Victoria Butenko, Olga Voitovych and Sarah Dean

Ukrainian troops said they have taken the village of Yampil in the eastern Donetsk region, a significant objective in their efforts to encircle Russian and pro-Russian forces in the town of Lyman.

"Yampil is ours," a soldier said in a brief video posted by Ukrainian troops. He is standing in front of a building with a sign that says: "Yampil school complex."

Pro-Russian Telegram channels have described a bleak situation for the approximately 2,000 remaining troops in the area.

One prominent channel with more than 800,000 subscribers commented on Friday that Russian Armed Forces "withdrew from Yampil to Lyman."

"The Armed Forces of Ukraine managed to break through the defensive orders of the RF (Russian Federation) Armed Forces and force the Russian troops to retreat to the city (Lyman)," the channel, which goes by the name of Rybar, wrote.

"The Lyman defensive line has narrowed to the administrative boundaries of the city itself. If emergency measures are not taken in the near future to release the Lyman and transfer a significant part of the reserves, then the city, together with its defenders, will fall, and nothing will stop Ukrainian formations from developing an offensive deep into Russian territories," Rybar added.

The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic later conceded that Yampil and the nearby village of Drobysheve "are not fully under our control."

Denis Pushilin called the news from Lyman "disturbing" in a Telegram post.

"Our guys are fighting, we are pulling up reserves, we must hold out, but the enemy has also deployed serious forces," Pushilin added.

6:56 a.m. ET, September 30, 2022

Moscow will recognize all of Donetsk and Luhansk regions as Russian territory, including areas controlled by Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister and Anna Chernova

Russia will recognize the entirety of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics within their declared borders of 2014 as part of its territory, the Kremlin told CNN on Friday.

The laws of the self-declared republics state that their borders are those of the whole Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. Ukrainian forces currently control about 40% of the eastern Donetsk region.

When asked if the territories of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) that are currently under Ukraine’s control will be considered as part of Russia as well, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "De jure yes. By joining the Russian Federation, a state that has been recognized by us within the boundaries of 2014 is joining."

The territory of the DPR that is not currently controlled by the Russian army "will have to be liberated," Peskov added.

Peskov could not immediately provide an answer about Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, the two other areas where so-called referendums were held, adding: "I need to confirm this."

The announcements come after people in four occupied areas of Ukraine supposedly voted in huge numbers in favor of joining Russia, in five-day polls that were illegal under international law and dismissed by Kyiv and the West as a sham.

Some context: Russian President Vladimir Putin will preside over the start of the process to formally annex more Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine at the Kremlin on Friday. Agreements will be signed on absorbing the four occupied territories to the Russian Federation.

On Thursday, Putin signed decrees recognizing the independence of the occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — a necessary formality before they are annexed. 

Western leaders saw Putin's decision to identify Donetsk and Luhansk in early February as an attack on Ukrainian sovereignty that served as a pretext for war. Days later, Moscow launched its military assault on Kyiv.

6:42 a.m. ET, September 30, 2022

Kremlin will consider attacks on newly annexed territories as aggression against Russia 

From CNN's Anna Chernova

The Kremlin has reiterated that any attacks on Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia will be considered as acts of aggression against the country itself.

When asked whether, after annexation documents are signed, Russia would perceive attacks by Ukrainian forces on annexed territories as an act of aggression against Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "It won't be anything else."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov waits to watch the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, on May 9.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov waits to watch the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, on May 9. (Kirill Kudryavtsey/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to sign documents formally annexing four areas of Ukraine — up to 18% of Ukrainian territory — at a ceremony in the Kremlin on Friday.

The ceremony follows so-called referendums held by Russian-backed authorities in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia on joining Russia. The votes are illegal under international law and have been dismissed by Kyiv and Western leaders as "a sham."

The four separate agreements on the admission of new territories to the Russian Federation will be signed in the Kremlin at a ceremony attended by Russian-installed heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and of occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.