This is the current situation as of Friday, September 30th.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken the step of mediation by signing a decree declaring the “independence” of the partially occupied Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia.
- The two regions will be incorporated into Russia, along with the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, in a lavish ceremony in the Kremlin.
- Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said the president will sign the accession documents and give a speech in the ornate Kremlin hall.
- The UN secretary-general said on Thursday that the annexation of regions of Ukraine would be a “dangerous escalation”.
- “Any decision to proceed with the annexation of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions of Ukraine has no legal merit and is condemnable,” Antonio Guterres told reporters.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has promised a strong response to the annexation and summoned the chief of defense and security for an emergency meeting.
- In the US, Democratic and Republican lawmakers condemned the annexation plan and said they wanted to continue the flow of money and arms to Ukraine.
- A poll released by the independent Levada Center found that more than half of Russians felt fear and anxiety after hearing that the Kremlin was mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people to fight in Ukraine.
- Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska has been charged with violating US sanctions imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine, federal prosecutors said.
- Separately, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed an eighth package of sanctions against Russia. This includes punitive measures against trade and Russian oil.
- “We propose to remove the new import ban on Russian products, which will keep them out of the European market and deprive Russia of another 7 billion euros. [$6bn] von der Leyen said:
- Finland has closed its borders to Russian tourists as arrivals surged following Moscow’s recent mobilization order. From Friday, Russian tourists holding European Union Schengen visas will not be allowed to enter Russia unless they are entering for work, study or to visit family.
- The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines under the Baltic Sea, built to carry Russian gas to Europe, have already been shut down, but the cause of the damage is still unknown. The Swedish Coast Guard said it had found a fourth leak.
- Western countries said the pipeline had been sabotaged, but did not go so far as to publicly condemn it. Russia, which denies any involvement, said it appeared to be a state-sponsored act of “terrorism” and that the United States stood to benefit. Washington denies involvement.
- Pentagon Secretary Lloyd Austin said it was too early to speculate on who was behind the burst pipeline.
- The NATO military alliance also called the pipeline leak sabotage and said it would stand firm against deliberate attempts to target members’ infrastructure.
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