Live: Putin sees ‘no need’ for talks with Biden, ‘still thinking’ about attendance at G20 summit

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he sees “no need” to hold talks with US President Joe Biden, who said earlier this week that the possibility of meeting with the Russian leader on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali in November “would depend” on what Putin wanted to discuss. Putin, speaking in the Kazakh capital, also said that his attendance at the summit was “not finalised”. Follow FRANCE 24’s live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).  


4:45pm: Minsk says Russian troops to arrive in Belarus ‘in the next few days’

Belarus said on Friday that Russian troops would soon be arriving to take part in a “regional grouping” of forces to protect its borders.

“Troops from the Russian component of the Regional Grouping of Forces will start arriving in Belarus in the next few days,” the defence ministry said.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said earlier this week that his troops would deploy with Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, citing what he said were threats from Ukraine and the West.

>> Read more: ‘Russian pressure is too strong’: Is Putin pulling Belarus into the war in Ukraine?

4:26pm: Swedish coast guard says Nord Stream pipeline leaks no longer visible

Sweden‘s coast guard said Friday there were no longer any visible leaks from the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, which are suspected to have been damaged by sabotage.

“During their latest flights over the Baltic Sea, coast guard aircraft have not been able to see any roiling on the sea’s surface,” the coast guard said in a statement, citing two flights on Thursday and Friday.

Bubbling underwater gas plumes appeared on the water’s surface after four leaks were discovered in Sweden’s and Denmark’s economic zones north of Poland starting on September 26. Initially, they measured between 200 and 1,000 metres in diameter.

Preliminary underwater inspections back up suspicions of probable sabotage, according to Sweden.

The pipelines, which connect Russia to Germany, have been at the centre of geopolitical tensions as Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Although the pipelines were not in operation, they contained gas before the apparent sabotage.

3:30pm: Putin sees ‘no need’ for talks with Biden, attendance at G20 summit not ‘finalised’

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he saw “no need” for talks with US President Joe Biden as tensions with Washington soar over a litany of issues including Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We should ask him if he’s ready to hold such talks with me or not. I don’t see the need, to be honest,” Putin said, asked about a potential meeting with Biden on the sidelines of a G20 summit in November.

He added that his participation in the summit hosted by Indonesia is not yet decided.

“The question of my trip there has not been finalised. Russia will certainly take part. As for the format, we’re still thinking about it,” Putin told reporters following a summit in Kazakhstan.

Speaking earlier this week, Biden said he had “no intention” of meeting with Putin but did not rule out talking, saying it “would depend”.

3:20pm: US warns of sanctions against those supporting Russia militarily

The United States on Friday warned it can impose sanctions on people, countries and companies that provide ammunition to Russia or support its military-industrial complex, as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, at a gathering of officials from 32 countries to discuss sanctions on Russia, said the department will issue guidance on Friday making clear that Washington is willing and able to impose such a crackdown.

“This morning, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control is issuing guidance making clear that we are willing and able to sanction people, companies, or countries that provide ammunition to Russia or support Russia’s military-industrial complex,” Adeyemo said in remarks ahead of the meeting, the first such gathering on sanctions on Russia.

2:53pm: Putin says no plans for further mobilisation in Russia, current draft ending

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday there were no plans for a further military mobilisation in Russia.

Speaking at a press conference in the Kazakh capital Astana, Putin said that the “partial mobilisation” he announced last month, which the defence minister said aimed to recruit 300,000 soldiers, was finishing and would be over within two weeks.

2:40pm: Red Cross demands immediate access to PoWs in Ukraine conflict

The Red Cross called Friday for “immediate and unimpeded access” to thousands of prisoners of war is has so far been unable to visit in the Ukraine conflict.

 “We share the frustration regarding our lack of access to all prisoners of war held in the international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” Ewan Watson, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told reporters in Geneva.

He did not say how many PoWs have been taken since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, but lamented that his organisation so far had been unable to access thousands of them.

Under the Geneva Conventions, all parties to international armed conflicts are required to grant the ICRC “immediate access to all PoWs, and the right to visit them wherever they are held,” Watson pointed out.

He refused to go into details about whether one side or the other in the conflict was being more cooperative in terms of granting access.

1:59pm: Rape used as part of Russian ‘military strategy’: UN envoy

Rapes and sexual assaults attributed to Moscow’s forces in Ukraine are part of a Russian “military strategy” and a “deliberate tactic to dehumanise the victims”, UN envoy Pramila Patten has told AFP in an interview.

“All the indications are there,” the UN special representative on sexual violence told AFP on Thursday, when asked if rape was being used as a weapon of war in Ukraine.

“When women are held for days and raped, when you start to rape little boys and men, when you see a series of genital mutilations, when you hear women testify about Russian soldiers equipped with Viagra, it’s clearly a military strategy,” she said.

“And when the victims report what was said during the rapes, it is clearly a deliberate tactic to dehumanise the victims.”

The UN has verified “more than a hundred cases” of rape or sexual assaults in Ukraine since Russia invaded in February, Patten said, referring to a UN report released in late September.

1:32pm: Call to flee Kherson to Russia is ‘deportation’: Ukrainian official

Calls by a Russian-installed official for residents to flee the Kherson region of southern Ukraine and go to Russia amount to “deportation”, said a Ukrainian official.

Vladimir Saldo, who was appointed head of the region by Moscow after Russian forces seized it early in the war in Ukraine, publicly asked for government help on Thursday in moving civilians out.

Saldo made his appeal following advances by Ukrainian forces.

“We understand that there can be no evacuation, this is nothing more than deportation that Saldo calls for,” Serhiy Khlan, a member of Kherson’s regional council, told a briefing.

“This ‘evacuation’ announced by Saldo is an evacuation for collaborators and traitors in the region… they want to take these collaborators to Russia,” Khlan said.

Most of the Kherson region was seized in the first days of Russia’s invasion as it sent in troops from adjoining Crimea.

It is one of four partly occupied Ukrainian regions that Russia proclaimed as its own last month in a move overwhelmingly condemned by the UN General Assembly.

11:38am: Erdogan tells government to start work on Russian gas hub

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan backs the Kremlin’s idea of creating an international gas hub in Turkey and wants his government to quickly present implementation plans, Turkish media reported Friday.

“This will be an international distribution centre,” Erdogan told reporters on board his return flight from talks Thursday with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Kazakhstan. “There will be no waiting on this issue.”

Erdogan said Russian and Turkish energy authorities would work together to designate the best location for a gas distribution centre, adding that Turkey’s Thrace region, bordering Greece and Bulgaria appeared to be the best spot.

“Together with Mr. Putin, we have instructed our Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the relevant institution on the Russian side to work together,” Erdogan said. “They will conduct this study. Wherever the most appropriate place is, we will hopefully establish this distribution centre there.”

11:16am: Musk says SpaceX cannot fund Ukraine’s Starlink internet indefinitely

Elon Musk said on Friday SpaceX cannot “indefinitely” fund the Starlink internet service in Ukraine and send it several thousands more terminals after a report suggested that his rocket company had asked the Pentagon to pay for the donations.

Musk’s comment on the question of support for the internet service in Ukraine comes after he angered many Ukrainians with a proposal to end Russia’s war in their country that included ceding some territory last week.

“SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households. This is unreasonable,” Musk said on Twitter.

CNN reported on Thursday that SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon last month saying it could not continue to fund the Starlink service in Ukraine and it may have to stop funding it unless the US military helped with tens of millions of dollars a month.

11:05am: Zelensky promises victory as Ukraine marks Defenders Day

President Volodymyr Zelensky marked Ukraine’s Defenders Day holiday on Friday by promising victory over Russia and freedom for Ukraine.

In a video address delivered on hills outside the capital Kyiv, Zelensky thanked Ukraine’s armed forces for defending their country. He said everything that had been taken away from Ukraine would be returned, and no soldier would be left in captivity.

“It seems that the current enemy in its evil unites all the enemies of our statehood that we faced before,” Zelensky said on the wooded hills outside the village of Vitachyv, site of an historic military outpost overlooking the Dnipro River.

“The world sees that Ukrainians do not lose their humanity under any circumstances. The enemy can strike at our cities, but never at our dignity,” he added.

10:48am: Russia says investigation opened into alleged Ukrainian shelling in Belgorod region

Russia said on Friday it had opened a criminal investigation into alleged Ukrainian shelling of a Russian border region in which it said people had been killed and wounded.

The state Investigative Committee did not specify the number of casualties in Thursday’s incident, in which it said shells fired from Ukraine had destroyed an ammunition depot in the Belgorod region.

Russian officials also accused Ukraine on Thursday of strikes on border regions that hit a school, an apartment block and an electricity substation.

A Ukrainian official said the damage to the apartment block was caused by a stray Russian missile launched towards Ukraine.

10:06am: Crimea bridge repairs to be finished by July 2023: Russian document

Repairs to the bridge between the annexed Crimean peninsula and southern Russia, which was damaged in an explosion last Saturday, are to be finished by July 2023, a document published  on the Russian government’s website said.

>> Crimean bridge attack highlights Russian setbacks in Ukraine

The Crimea bridge, a showcase project of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rule, was damaged in a blast that Russia has blamed on Ukraine. Some Ukrainian officials celebrated the incident but Kyiv has not claimed reponsibility for that attack.

9:37am: ‘Any sign’ that Kherson evacuations are not voluntary could constitute a war crime

Moscow-installed authorities have urged civilians in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson to flee for their safety to Russia. Reporting from Lviv in western Ukraine, FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg explains that the Ukrainian government disapproves of Moscow evacuating people to Russia. “Any sign that these evacuations are not voluntary would be taken by Ukraine as forced deportations to Russia, which is considered a war crime,” says Cragg.



9:06am: Russian-backed forces make advances towards Bakhmut: UK

Russian-backed forces have made tactical advances over the past three days towards the centre of Bakhmut, a strategically important town in the eastern Donetsk region, and have likely advanced into villages south of the town, according to the UK military intelligence daily briefing.

Bakhmut sits on a main road leading to the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

Private military company Wagner Group “likely remains” heavily involved in the Bakhmut fighting, said the briefing.

In Ukraine’s Donbas region, the ministry said that Russia continued with offensive operations in central part of the state and was “very slowly” making progress.

8:51am: French firm Danone to withdraw from most of its business in Russia

French agribusiness Danone has said it planned to transfer control of its essential dairy and plant-based business in Russia. Danone will however retain the activities of its “specialised nutrition” arm, which includes infant milk.

One of the few multinationals to have remained in Russia since the Ukraine war, Danone said the move to “transfer the effective control” of the dairy business could result in a write-off of up to one billion euros ($980 million).

The arm represented five percent of Danone’s net sales in 2022 so far.

“Danone considers that this is the best option to ensure long-term local business continuity, for its employees, consumers and partners,” the group said in a statement.

The transaction will be subject to the approval of authorities, the group added.

7:10am: Trains suspended in parts of Russia’s Belgorod after defences shoot down missile, says governor

Train operations were suspended early Friday near Novyi Oskol, a town in Russia’s Belgorod region that borders Ukraine, after remains of a missile fell near the railway, said regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.

Gladkov said on the Telegram messaging app that anti-craft defences shot down missiles near Novyi Oskol, a town of about 18,000 people which lies about 90 kilometres (56 miles) north of the border with Ukraine.

“Power lines are damaged. Trains are temporarily suspended,” Gladkov said, adding that there were no casualties.

6:48am: Civilians fleeing annexed Kherson head to Russia

Evacuees from Ukraine’s southern Kherson region were expected to begin arriving in Russia on Friday after the Moscow-installed local authorities suggested they leave for safety.

“We suggested that all residents of the Kherson region, if they wish to protect themselves from the consequences of missile strikes… go to other regions,” Russian-installed Kherson administration chief Vladimir Saldo said in a video message. People should “leave with their children”.

The offer applied foremost to residents on the west bank of the Dnipro River, he said. That includes the regional capital, the only major Ukrainian city Russia has captured intact since invading in February.

The first civilians fleeing from Kherson were due to arrive in Russia’s Rostov region on Friday, TASS news agency reported.

Kherson is one of four partially occupied Ukrainian provinces that Russia claims to have annexed in recent weeks, and arguably the most strategically important. It controls both the only land route to the Crimea peninsula Russia seized in 2014, and the mouth of the Dnipro, the river that bisects Ukraine.

6:39am: Ukraine says more than 600 settlements liberated in past month

Ukraine‘s armed forces have liberated more than 600 settlements from the Russian occupation in the past month, including 75 in the highly strategic Kherson region, Ukraine’s Ministry for Reintegration of the Temporary Occupied Territories said.

Some 502 settlements have been liberated in the northeast Kharkiv region where Ukrainian forces last month advanced deep into Russian lines, the ministry said late Thursday.

The ministry said 43 settlements were liberated in the Donetsk region and seven in the Luhansk region.

“The area of ​​liberated Ukrainian territories has increased significantly,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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