Macron slams planned referendums in Russia-controlled regions in Ukraine

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday dismissed planned referendums in Russian-controlled regions as a farce, saying France would not recognise their results. Meanwhile, the Russian foreign ministry accused Paris of “unacceptable” arms deliveries to Ukraine. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).


02:52am: German Chancellor at UN: Putin must recognize he cannot win in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin will only give up his “imperial ambitions” that risk destroying Ukraine and Russia if he recognizes he cannot win the war, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly.

“This is why we will not accept any peace dictated by Russia and this is why Ukraine must be able to fend off Russia’s attack,” Scholz said.

The return of imperialism, with Putin’s war on Ukraine, was not just a disaster for Europe but for the global, rules-based peace order, the chancellor said. He called on the UN to defend this from those who would prefer a world where the “strong rule the weak”.

02:24am: Japanese Prime Minister slams Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during UN address

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as destabilising the international order to its core and said the rule of law, not coercion by power, should prevail.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a conduct that tramples the philosophy and principles of the U.N. charter … It should never be tolerated,” Kishida said.

Kishida, who hails from Hiroshima, the first city to ever suffer an atomic bombing, also denounced the threat of nuclear weapons by Russia.

01:33am: US official warns of “increased consequences” if Russia were to annex parts of Ukraine

There will be increased consequences if Russia were to annex parts of Ukraine, a senior US State Department official said on Tuesday, as Moscow-installed leaders in occupied areas of four Ukrainian regions planned to hold referendums on joining Russia.

“We have made clear that there will be increased consequences. We have … a number of tools,” the official said.

00:30am: Zelensky hails Western support against Russia’s planned referendums

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed Western allies for their condemnation of plans by authorities in pro-Moscow regions of Ukraine to hold referendums on joining Russia

“I thank all the friends and partners of Ukraine for their massive and firm condemnation of Russia’s intentions to organise yet more pseudo-referendums,” he said in his daily address.

00:15am: Africa Union leader warns of pressure to choose sides in Ukraine

African Union chairperson Macky Sall said Tuesday that Africa “does not want to be the breeding ground of a new Cold War,” alluding to the pressure mounting on the continent’s leaders to choose sides over the war in Ukraine.

Many African countries depend heavily on grain imports from Russia and Ukraine. Amid market shortages, Russia’s foreign minister has sought to portray the West as the villain, blaming it for rising food prices. Western leaders, meanwhile, have accused the Kremlin of cynically using food as a weapon and waging an imperial-style war of conquest.

10:40pm: Putin praises Bosinian Serb separatist leader amid warnings that Serbia must align with the EU on Ukraine

Bosnian Serb separatist leader Milorad Dodik met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday days after he endorsed Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine, Russian and Serbian media reported.

During a rare visit to Moscow by a politician from Europe, the Russian president praised his country’s “strategic partnership” with Serbia.

The visit came amid repeated warnings from the European Union that Serbia must align its foreign policies with the bloc if it really wants to become a member. Serbia is the only nation seeking EU membership that has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine.

10:30pm: US attorney general, Ukraine’s top prosecutor to tackle war crimes prosecution

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland met with Ukraine’s top prosecutor in Washington on Tuesday and agreed to work more closely together to prosecute individuals involved in war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine, the Justice Department said.

Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin discussed efforts to hold perpetrators accountable in the wake of Russia’s invasion and signed a memorandum of understanding that will facilitate closer cooperation, the department said in a statement.

10:12pm: Coalition of EU countries asks the UN Human Rights Council to monitor Russia

Most EU countries presented a draft resolution Tuesday asking the UN to appoint an expert to monitor the rights situation inside Russia, as Moscow slammed the initiative as “politically biased”.

Following intense discussions, all European Union countries except Hungary agreed last week to ask the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a ‘special rapporteur’ on Russia.

Luxembourg, which agreed to take the lead, presented the draft resolution to countries late Tuesday, according to sources familiar with the process.

The move comes amid concerns over an intensifying crackdown in Russia as its war rages in neighbouring Ukraine.

9:47pm: EU foreign policy chief joins in condemnation of Russian referendums

The European Union strongly condemns Russia’s plans to hold referenda in parts of Ukraine and will not recognise the results of the votes, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Russia, its political leadership, and all those involved in these ‘referenda’ and other violations of international law in Ukraine will be held accountable, and additional restrictive measures against Russia would be considered,” Borrell said.

Borrell said the referenda votes cannot be considered “as the free expression of the will of the people” in these regions.

9:25pm: UK prime minister pledges billions in aid for Ukraine

Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss on Tuesday vowed billions more in financial and military aid to Ukraine as she kicked off her debut foreign trip at the UN General Assembly.

Truss earlier vowed to rally Western support at the UN over Ukraine, saying her government would match or exceed the £2.3 billion ($2.6 billion) it plans to extend this year.

“Ukraine’s victories in recent weeks have been inspirational,” she said in a statement, after Kyiv’s forces pushed the Russian invaders out of almost all of the Kharkiv region in a lightning counter-offensive.

“My message to the people of Ukraine is this: the UK will continue to be right behind you every step of the way. Your security is our security.”

9:11pm: Biden set to nominate a new US ambassador to Russia

President Joe Biden will nominate career diplomat Lynne Tracy as US ambassador to Russia, the White House said on Tuesday.

Tracy currently serves as US ambassador to Armenia. The US ambassador post in Russia has been vacant since September 4, when envoy John Sullivan concluded his tenure there amid soaring bilateral tensions due to Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

8:25pm: Macron denounces Russian ‘imperialism’ during fiery speech at the UN

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday told the United Nations General Assembly that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine harkened back to an earlier age of imperialism.

“What we have witnessed since February 24 is a return to the age of imperialism and colonies. France refuses this and will work persistently for peace,” he told the assembly.

“Together we must build peace and a contemporary international order,” Macron said during his address Tuesday.

His comments come in the wake of the announcement that four Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine will hold referendums on joining Russia, a move that Macron dismissed as a “parody” earlier today.

>> Russian invasion of Ukraine a return to ‘age of imperialism’, Macron tells UN

7:07pm: France’s Macron joins other world leaders in criticising Russian referendums

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that referendums on joining Russia planned in Russian-controlled Ukrainian regions will not be recognised by the international community.

Speaking in New York, he said the referendum proposals for eastern Ukraine were an additional provocation following Russia’s invasion of its neighbour. “If the Donbas referendum idea wasn’t so tragic it would be funny,” he told reporters.

Russian-installed leaders in occupied areas of four Ukrainian regions set out plans for referendums on joining Russia, a move Kyiv dismissed as a stunt by Moscow to try to reclaim the initiative after resounding losses on the battlefield.

6:27pm: Western leaders decry Russian referendums in Ukraine

The US denounced Russia’s planned referendums to annex parts of Ukraine as “sham” actions Tuesday and said it would not recognise the results.

“These referenda are an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that underpin the international system,” said White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

“If this does transpire, the United States will never recognise Russia’s claims to any purportedly annexed parts of Ukraine,” he said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also criticised the move in a message posted to his Twitter account.

“Sham referendums have no legitimacy and do not change the nature of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. This is a further escalation in Putin’s war,” he wrote.

6:15pm: Russia warns France about ‘unacceptable’ arms deliveries to Ukraine

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko in a Tuesday meeting with France’s ambassador to Moscow Pierre Levy warned Paris against the “unacceptable” delivery of weapons to Ukraine.

“Attention was focussed on the unacceptability of further pumping Ukraine with Western, including French, weapons that the Kyiv regime uses to shell civilian and infrastructure facilities,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

5:31pm: Four regions in Ukraine set to vote on joining Russia

Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans Tuesday to start voting this week to become integral parts of Russia. The concerted and quickening Kremlin-backed efforts to swallow up four regions could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war following Ukrainian successes on the battlefield.

The scheduling of referendums starting Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions came after a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin said the votes are needed and as Moscow is losing ground in the invasion it began nearly seven months ago, increasing pressure on the Kremlin for a stiff response. 

Former President Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by Putin, said referendums that fold regions into Russia itself would make redrawn frontiers “irreversible” and enable Moscow to use “any means” to defend them. 

The votes, in territory Russia already controls, are all but certain to go Moscow’s way but are unlikely to be recognised by Western governments who are backing Ukraine with military and other support that has helped its forces seize momentum on battlefields in the east and south. 

5:11pm: Russia will not compete in Euro 2024 qualifiers

Russia will not take part in the draw for qualifying for Euro 2024, the country’s football federation announced on Tuesday.

The Russian national team was banned by UEFA and FIFA earlier this year following the invasion of Ukraine.

“The Russian national team will not participate in the draw for the qualifying stage of Euro 2024,” the Russian Football Union said in a statement.

4:21pm: Brazil’s Bolsonaro calls for a ceasefire in Ukraine

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, while criticising sanctions against Russia over the invasion, as he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Bolsonaro said Brazil does not see unilateral sanctions as the best way to handle the conflict, adding that a solution would only be reached through dialogue and negotiations.

4:00pm: War in Ukraine is ‘very high’ on the UN General Assembly agenda

The United Nations‘ massive global summit returned Tuesday with a stark warning from the world body’s chief of an upcoming “winter of global discontent” from rising prices, a warming planet and deadly conflicts.

Day one features French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the leaders of the two largest economies of the European Union, which has mobilized to impose tough sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“This year, Ukraine will be very high on the agenda. It will be unavoidable,” top EU diplomat Josep Borrell told reporters in New York.

“There are many other problems, we know. But the war in Ukraine has been sending shock waves around the world.”

>> UN General Assembly returns amid Ukraine war and global tensions

3:10pm: McDonald’s reopens in Kyiv for delivery only

McDonald’s in Kyiv re-opened on Tuesday for the first time since Russia’s invasion, a sign that life was returning to normal in the capital after nearly seven months of war.

The US burger chain said in a statement earlier that “after talks with Ukrainian officials, security specialists and suppliers” it would re-open at first for delivery only.

A queue of delivery company employees formed outside one of restaurants waiting to collect orders on Tuesday.

“I think there will be a lot of excitement,” one of the delivery men told AFP while sitting on his motorbike. 

2:33 pm: Ukraine promises to ‘eliminate’ Russian threat in wake of referendum announcement

Ukraine on Tuesday vowed to “eliminate” Russian threats against the war-torn country, after pro-Moscow separatists said they would hold referendums on joining Russia later this week.

Ukraine will solve the Russian issue. The threat can be eliminated only by force,” said the Ukraine presidency’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak.

2:24pm: Donetsk separatists will also hold a referendum on joining Russia

The separatist leaders of the Russia-controlled areas of Luhansk and Donetsk regions in Ukraine said they were planning to hold votes starting later this week for the territories to become part of Russia. 

The announcements of referendums starting Friday came after a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin said they were needed. 

Former President Dmitry Medvedev also said that folding eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk into Russia itself would make their redrawn frontiers “irreversible” and enable Moscow to use “any means” to defend them. 

Such votes would almost certainly go Moscow’s way but not be recognized by Western governments. The votes could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the conflict as Ukrainian forces battle with growing success to take back territory.

1:23pm: Russian-backed separatists in Luhansk to hold vote on joining Russia

Russian-backed separatists in the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) will hold a referendum on joining Russia between September 23-27, the TASS news agency reported on Tuesday, citing the separatist deputy speaker of the region’s parliament.

1:14pm: France opens investigation into ‘threats’ against Russian dissident

French authorities are investigating threats against an exiled Russian dissident after he reported seeing a laser sight light in a possible assassination bid, a source close to the probe said on Tuesday.

Vladimir Osechkin, who leads the NGO that specialises in uncovering abuses in Russian prisons, is a refugee in France and is based in the resort town of Biarritz on its southwest coast.

Osechkin, an avowed opponent of President Vladimir Putin, said he was targeted on the evening of September 12 when he was at home with his wife and children and working in the dark.

“I noticed a moving red dot on the railing of one of the terraces and then moving towards me on the wall,” he told AFP by telephone. “We turned off the light, lay down on the floor, closed the shutters and called the police.” He added that police and neighbours had heard shots were fired.

Osechkin said he had been informed in February of an assassination plot against him and was subsequently put under police protection. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted a large number of activists, journalists and intellectuals who oppose the war to flee Russia for European countries such as France.

12:30pm: Russian-backed separatists in Kherson say will vote on joining Russia

Russian-installed officials in the Kherson region of Ukraine said they have decided to hold a referendum on joining Russia and have urged the Kremlin to give its permission as soon as possible, the separatist head of the region said on Tuesday.

In a post on the Telegram messaging app, Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed head of Kherson, said he hoped Kherson would become “a part of Russia, a fully-fledged subject of a united country”. Saldo did not name a date for the proposed vote.

Russian forces control around 95% of Ukraine’s Kherson territory in the south of country.

12:07pm: Putin lambasts US for trying preserve global hegemony

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday blasted what he described as US efforts to preserve its global domination, saying they are doomed to fail.

Speaking while receiving credentials from foreign ambassadors to Moscow, Putin said that “the objective development toward a multipolar world faces resistance of those who try to preserve their hegemony in global affairs and control everything – Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa.”

He added that “the hegemon has succeeded in doing so for quite a long time, but it can’t go on forever […] regardless of the developments in Ukraine.”

11:56am: ‘Clash of civilisations’

The UN General Assembly is “coming at a very grim moment when the world seems more polarised, more divided than at any time since the Cold War”, said FRANCE 24 International Affairs Commentator Douglas Herbert. “Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine […] has led to a spike in food and energy prices, food insecurity across massive chunks of the globe; […] you have a global economy in distress, not just here in Europe and the US but just about everywhere.”

We are seeing a return to the old paradigm of great power alliances competing for hegemony, Herbert continued: “China, Russia versus US, Europe – this formation of new blocs, East versus West; this Cold-War-ish feeling again,” he put. “There’s a real sense of clashes of civilisations, clashes of ideologies, going into this General Assembly.”



11:28am: Russia’s ex-president says Donbas vote would allow ‘all possible force’

Russia’s former president said Tuesday that if Ukraine’s breakaway regions vote to join Russia, it would allow Moscow to utilise its full military capability in the Donbas region.

Dmitry Medvedev said that ballots in the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk republics to integrate into Russia would help protect residents of the east Ukraine region by expanding Moscow’s military mandate.

“Encroachment into Russian territory is a crime and if it is committed, that allows you to use all possible force in self-defence,” Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s security council said on social media. He added that the votes would correct “historical justice” and be irreversible.

“That is why these referendums are so feared in Kyiv and in the West. That is why they need to be carried out,” Medvedev continued.

11:05am: ‘Sanctions work’, says Russia’s ex-deputy finance minister

Russia’s economy was on track to expand by 5%-6% in 2022 had Western sanctions not derailed growth for years and ushered in a period of technological stagnation, Russian economy veteran Oleg Vyugin told Reuters.

Vyugin said there had been no catastrophe, with the sweeping sanctions imposed against Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine being only 30%-40% effective as Russia has found ways to overcome restrictions, but he warned of serious problems should Russia’s soaring export revenues fall.

“If there were no sanctions, the Russian economy could have grown 6% this year,” Vyugin, who served as deputy finance minister and deputy central bank governor during his career before he retired from a Moscow Exchange post this year, told Reuters in an interview.

“In January-February one could see a very strong takeoff coming. It turns out that there is a negative effect. Instead of 5% growth, we got a fall of 4%, so sanctions work.”

10:49am: Germany to focus at UN on countries hardest hit by Ukraine war fallout

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock vowed to support countries hardest hit by the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as she headed to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

“The brutality of Russia’s war of aggression and its threat to the peace order in Europe have not blinded us to the fact that its dramatic effects are also clearly being felt in many other regions of the world,” Baerbock said. “We are not only responsible for Europe, but together for the whole world,” she said.

The leaders should take the opportunity to “focus on the issues and concerns of our partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab world”, Baerbock said.

The focus will also be on “how the horrific crimes committed in the name of Russia in Ukraine can be dealt with and prosecuted”, she added.

10:28am: Russia, Ukraine agree to swap 200 prisoners, Erdogan says

Russia and Ukraine have agreed to swap 200 prisoners in one of the largest exchanges of the seven-month war, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told US television.

Erdogan made the announcement after talks last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan.

Erdogan did not provide full details about the swap, calling the people being exchanged “hostages” and not saying how many there were from each side.

“Two hundred hostages will be exchanged upon agreement between the parties. I think a significant step will be taken forward,” Erdogan told PBS television late Monday.

NATO member Turkey has tried to stay neutral in the conflict, supplying combat drones to Kyiv and shying away from Western-led sanctions against Moscow.

Erdogan added that he gets the “impression” Putin is willing to end the war.

9:37am: Ukraine to call for ‘war crimes accountability’ at UN

“The world’s facing interconnected crises and arguably the global outlook has never been worse, at least not in the history of the United Nations,” FRANCE 24’s Jessica Le Masurier reports as world leaders gather for the General Assembly in New York.

“They’re going to focus on Ukraine and on food,” Le Masurier continued. “Ukraine’s [Volodomyr] Zelensky will be giving a virtual speech from Ukraine; he’s been given permission to do that. He’ll be speaking on Wednesday. Ukraine’s first lady, prime minister and foreign minister are expected to attend here.

“They will call for war crimes accountability; and there’s a high-level Security Council meeting on Thursday. Russia will be represented by longtime Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who we will expect will get a frosty reception from Western powers.”



9:35am: ‘Russia can no longer claim to be fully in control of Luhansk region’

“Ukrainian forces have actually already been fighting a counter-offensive in the northern part of Donetsk region, which is technically the Donbas,” FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reported from Derhachi in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.

But the “area they’re fighting in isn’t actually the Donbas because it’s not the mining basin. It’s the forests around Lyman, a very important target for Ukrainian forces at the moment is the town of Lyman in the north of Donetsk region. As far as I know, they haven’t taken it yet”, Cragg continued.

“But they have apparently taken the village of Bilohorivka, which is in the Luhansk region. […] That is a very significant symbolic victory for them because […] Russia can longer claim to be fully in control of Luhansk region – which means that the only Ukrainian region of which Russia is in full control now is Crimea.”



9:28am: Russia considers $50 billion increase in oil, gas taxes amid budget gap

Russia is considering raising taxes on the oil and gas sector to the tune of 3 trillion roubles ($50 billion) in 2023-2025 in order to plug the budget gap, newspaper Kommersant said on Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the discussions. The finance ministry declined to comment.

The ministry expects a budget deficit of 1.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) this year and 1.1% of GDP in 2023 amid spending for what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine and sweeping Western sanctions.

The government wants, in particular, to raise the export duty on gas to up to 50%, start levying a duty on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and raise domestic gas prices so that companies pay more in minerals extraction tax, the paper said.

9:04am: Medvedev says Moscow-backed separatists must hold referendums to join Russia

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday it is “essential” that Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine carry out referendums that would see their regions join Russia.

In a post on social media, Medvedev said making the Moscow-backed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics officially part of Russia was a vital step in protecting their interests and could further justify Russia’s use of military force to protect them.

8:05am: Hungary says EU should not consider new sanctions against Russia

Hungary’s foreign minister said on Tuesday the European Union should not consider new sanctions against Russia as that would only deepen the energy supply crisis and hurt Europe.

“The EU should … stop mentioning an 8th package of sanctions, should stop flagging measures that would only further deepen the energy supply crisis,” Peter Szijjarto said in his statement.

6:56am: Russia’s Black Sea fleet relocating some submarines away from Crimea, UK says

Russia’s Black Sea fleet has relocated some of its submarines from port of Sevastopol in Crimea to Novorossiysk in Krasnodor Krai in southern Russia, the British Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday.

The relocation is likely due to the recent change in the local security threat level in the face of increased Ukrainian long-range strike capability, the ministry said in its daily intelligence update on Twitter.

“In the last two months, the fleet headquarters and its main naval aviation airfield have been attacked,” the ministry added.

05:15am: Ukrainian soldiers cheer swift advance into Donbas

“We were ready to fight. But for them to just abandon the whole front line … We really weren’t expecting that,” said one Ukrainian soldier.

Among the items the Russian soldiers left behind were weapons, ammunition, pictures of Lenin and Playboy pinups, as FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg and Gwendoline Debono report from Izium in the video below. 



September 20, 12:18am: Ukraine troops press counter-offensive deeper into Donbas

Ukraine said its troops have marched farther east into territory recently abandoned by Russia, paving the way for a potential assault on Moscow’s occupation forces in the Donbas region as Kyiv seeks more Western arms.

In a sign of nervousness from a Moscow-backed administration in Donbas about the success of Ukraine’s recent offensive, its leader called for urgent referendums on the region becoming part of Russia.

“The occupiers are clearly in a panic,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address late on Monday, adding that he was now focused on “speed” in liberated areas.

“The speed at which our troops are moving. The speed in restoring normal life,” Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian leader also hinted he would use a video address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday to call on countries to accelerate weapons and aid deliveries.

“We are doing everything to ensure Ukraine’s needs are met at all levels – defence, financial, economic, diplomatic,” Zelensky said.

Serhiy Gaidai, Ukrainian governor of Luhansk, a province in the Donbas now under control of Russian troops, said Ukraine’s armed forces had regained complete control of the Luhansk village of Bilohorivka and were preparing to fight to retake the entire province.

“There will be fighting for every centimetre,” Gaidai wrote on Telegram. “The enemy is preparing their defence. So we will not simply march in.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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