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Putin blames invasion on collapse of the Soviet Union

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 29/09/2022 India McTaggart, Josh White, Chanel Zagon, Berny Torre
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting via video link in Sochi - via REUTERS/SPUTNIK © via REUTERS/SPUTNIK Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting via video link in Sochi - via REUTERS/SPUTNIK

Vladimir Putin has blamed the war in Ukraine on the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Russian President made the comments to intelligence chiefs of countries of the former USSR, also known as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). 

He told the televised meeting: "It is enough to look at what is happening now between Russia and Ukraine and what is happening on the borders of some other CIS countries.

"All this, of course, is the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union."

The nine members states that make up the CIS are Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Putin also claimed the West stood ready to provoke "colour revolutions" and a "bloodbath" in any country, without naming a specific country.

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06:53 PM

That's all for today

Today's top stories included: 

  • Putin will tomorrow officially annex Ukrainian territories after 'sham' referendums
  • Ukraine drives Russians out of Kupiansk
  • Six Russian diplomats expelled as Montenegro investigates spy ring
  • UN chief tells Russia annexing Ukrainian territories would be a 'dangerous escalation'
  • Nord Stream 1 gas leaks to be halted on Monday
  • Putin blames the invasion on the collapse of the Soviet union
  • Finland to close its border to Russia tourists
  • Kremlin suggests major leaks in gas pipelines to Europe were a terror attack by a foreign state

06:49 PM

Ukraine completely takes transport hub of Kupiansk

Ukrainian forces have driven Russian troops from their remaining positions on the east bank of the river that divides the important transport hub of Kupiansk.

Most of the city was recaptured earlier this month as Ukraine's counteroffensive smashed the Russian frontline in the north east of the country.

06:45 PM

Putin says mobilisation mistakes should be corrected

 President Vladimir Putin has said all mistakes made during a partial military mobilisation to reinforce Russia's military operation in Ukraine should be corrected, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Speaking at a meeting of Russia's Security Council on Thursday, he also said that those who had military experience and training in required specialities should be called up first.

Tens of thousands of men have fled Russia to avoid the draft announced last week.

Complaints about enlistment officers sending call-up papers to ineligible men are among widespread public expressions of discontent from officials and citizens over the way the mobilisation has been handled.

06:41 PM

Ex-US Army major and wife charged after 'handing data to FBI agent posing as Russian official'

A former US Army major and his wife have been charged with plotting to leak sensitive healthcare data after being handed a book on "The Making of a Top Soviet Spy" by an undercover FBI agent posing a Russian official, the US Justice Department has revealed.

Jamie Lee Henry, the former major and doctor at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and his anesthesiologist wife, Dr Anna Gabrielian, are accused of conspiracy and the wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information about patients at the Army base.

Gabrielian told the undercover agent "she was motivated by patriotism toward Russia to provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail," at a hotel in Baltimore on August 17, the indictment in a federal court in Maryland says.

It was alleged that Henry later that day told the agent: "The way I am viewing what is going on in Ukraine now, is that the United States is using Ukrainians as a proxy for their own hatred toward Russia."

The agent in turn urged them to read a book called "Inside the Aquarium: The Making of a Top Soviet Spy," telling the pair it would help them understand what they were about to do.

A week later it was alleged that Gabrielian called her husband a "coward" for having reservations about violating  violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) by providing healthcare data.

She said she violated the law "all the time" and by the end of the month  had handed over information on current and former military officials and their spouses, the indictment said.

06:26 PM

EU countries split over gas price cap ahead of meeting tomorrow

EU countries are split over whether to cap gas prices ahead of a meeting of the bloc's energy ministers on Friday, a senior EU diplomat said.

"On the price caps at this moment there is nothing near like a consensus," the diplomat said.

The diplomat added it was "difficult" to predict if consensus could be reached among countries on imposing a price cap on Russian gas alone.

06:17 PM

Six Russian diplomats expelled as Montenegro investigates spy ring

Six Russian diplomats have been expelled from Montenegro amid reports 38 people were arrested on suspicion of espionage.

Montenegro's Foreign Ministry tweeted that it ordered the diplomats to leave "due to activities in contravention of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and mutual respect and appreciation of the two countries."

Earlier in the day, the Podgorica-based daily Pobjeda reported that Montenegro's Agency for National Security (ANB) and the Special State Prosecutor's Office (SDT) had detained six Russian diplomats, 30 Russian nationals with temporary residence permits, and two Montenegrins on suspicion of espionage.

Vukas Radonjic, an SDT spokesman, told Reuters police raided several apartments seeking evidence of conspiracy and espionage.

"Following the request of the SDT and the court order, police are searching a number of apartments and other premises due to reasonable suspicion of conspiring to make a criminal enterprise and espionage," he said by phone.

Radonjic said that after the completion of the searches "it will be determined who will be charged and arrested". He did not specify how many suspects had been taken for questioning.

Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic said in a live broadcast of a cabinet session that an "international operation," with foreign partners and the state prosecutor's office, was underway to preserve the country's interests.

06:02 PM

Civilians killed in Mykolaiv bombing - local media

 Kyiv Post's correspondent Jason Smart shared footage of a man crying over a dead body covered in foil in a street in Mykolaiv, south Ukraine.

05:34 PM

'Unauthorised drone activity' near North Sea oil field

French energy giant TotalEnergies has reported "unauthorised drone activity" near one of its offshore oil and gas installations in the North Sea.

Denmark, has like other countries in the region, raised its safety level for its power and gas sector after several countries said two Russian pipelines to Europe spewing gas into the Baltic Sea had been attacked.

"There have been observations of unauthorized drone activity at the Halfdan B oil and gas field in the North Sea," a spokesperson said in a written comment, adding the activity had been observed on Wednesday.

"We have taken the necessary steps in accordance with our security procedures and are in close dialogue with the authorities."

05:25 PM

Annexing Ukrainian territories would be a 'dangerous escalation', UN sec-gen warns

The United Nations Secretary-General has warned Russia that annexing four Ukrainian regions tomorrow would mark a "dangerous escalation" that would jeopardize the prospects for peace in the region.

"Any decision to proceed with the annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned," Antonio Guterres told reporters. 

05:11 PM

Holding Lyman has grown 'difficult' for Russia, Moscow-installed chief says

Holding the city of Lyman in the eastern region of Donetsk has grown "difficult" for Russian forces, its Moscow-installed leader has said.

Alexander Petrikin, the pro-Russian head of the city administration, said in a video update: "Today, September 29. The situation in the city is difficult. Ukrainian militants keep shelling Krasny Liman [Lyman in Ukrainian] and Krasny Liman district."

05:05 PM

Russia could use annexed territories as a bargaining chip for peace

Russia could offer newly annexed regions of Ukraine as a bargaining chip for peace, a former British ambassador to Moscow has said.

Sir Tony Brenton added Russia was not particularly wedded to the four regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson that Vladimir Putin is due to officially add to Russia tomorrow.

He told Sky News: "If we come to a peace negotiation, as I suspect we eventually will,  the Russians will say to whoever they are negotiating with - the Ukrainians and probably the West as well - these places are part of Russia, you're going to have to pay a real price in order for us to surrender them back to Ukraine.

"They might be willing to do that. They are not very closely attached to the Russians. What the Russians really care about is Crimea and a land bridge to Crimea, but this may well give them extra negotiating capital come the moment.

"They have had a bad couple of weeks, but things seem now to have settled back into stagnation. That could easily change very abruptly.  We are heading towards winter when everything bogs down anyway so I suspect we are looking at the war running into spring next year.

"That slow down may give everyone a chance to reflect... 'we really need a way of settling that' and for peace moves to begin."

04:08 PM

Putin claims West is ready to provoke 'colour revolutions' and a 'bloodbath'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of standing ready to provoke "colour revolutions" and a "bloodbath" in any country.

Putin, who did not provide any evidence or name a country, was speaking via a video link with the heads of the intelligent services of the ex-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States.

The term colour revolution has been used to describe anti-regime protest movements.

03:27 PM

Drone drops on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant - Russian media

A drone started a fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in occupied Ukraine, Russian media has said.

Ria Novosti news agency said it was dropped on the plant by Ukrainian forces.

It quoted Yevhen Balitsky, head of the Russian-imposed authority in occupied Zaporizhzhia, as saying: "The hit is not in the reactor itself, nothing threatens the reactor. We are talking about auxiliary infrastructure.

"The firefighters have left, they are now finishing the extinguishing. I was informed that the issue does not pose a great danger in terms of nuclear threat."

02:56 PM

Zelensky calls for emergency meeting with top security and defence officials

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called an emergency meeting of top security and defence officials for Friday, his spokesperson has said.

Serhiy Nykyforov announced the meeting on Facebook after the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin would sign formal documents on Friday proclaiming Moscow's annexation of four Ukrainian regions following what Kyiv called sham referendums organised by Russia at gunpoint.

"President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called an urgent meeting of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine for tomorrow. The agenda and other details will be announced later," Nykyforov said. 

02:36 PM

Zelensky vows 'very harsh' response if Moscow annexes Ukrainian territories tomorrow

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to launch a "very harsh" response if Moscow annexes four occupied regions following what Kyiv and the West say were sham referendums held by Russia at gunpoint.

A statement issued by his office after a telephone call with Italy's prime minister did not refer to a ceremony on Friday in which President Vladimir Putin will sign documents proclaiming Russia's annexation of four Ukrainian regions.

"They (the votes) are worthless and do not change reality. The territorial integrity of Ukraine will be restored. And our reaction to recognition of the results by Russia will be very harsh," Zelensky said.

It was not immediately clear whether Zelensky spoke to Prime Minister Mario Draghi before or after the Kremlin announced Friday's ceremony. 

02:25 PM

Nord Stream 1 gas leaks to be halted on Monday

Gas leaks from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline are likely to be halted on Monday, the pipeline's operator has said.

A spokesperson for Nord Stream AG told Reuters that it was not possible to provide any forecasts for the pipeline's future operation until the damage had been assessed.

The company also said it would only be able to carry out such an assessment once it had been able to reach the area.

01:47 PM

Germany is fighting 'energy war' with Russia

Germany is fighting an "energy war" with Russia and will launch an "economic defence shield" of  up to €200 billion in new loans.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the measure  to combat soaring energy prices was necessary "to get us through this difficult time".

Finance Minister Christian Lindner said "we find ourselves in an energy war," and that Germany would respond with its full economic might.

Warning German businesses and households must reduce their gas usage further, Economy Minister Robert Habeck added: "The energy crisis that we are experiencing in Europe threatens to grow into an economic and also a social crisis."

It comes as the EU has said it suspects major leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines linking Russia to Europe were sabotage.

01:18 PM

Russian spy probe launched in Montenegro

Montenegrin police have confirmed a number of people have been arrested on suspicion of espionage following a series of dawn raids.

The Podgorica-based daily Pobjeda had reported six Russian diplomats, 30 Russian nationals with temporary residence permits, and two Montenegrins had been detained on suspicion of espionage by Montenegro's Agency for National Security (ANB) and the Special State Prosecutor's office (SDT).

Vukas Radonjic, an SDT spokesman, has confirmed that police raided several apartments seeking evidence of conspiracy and espionage.

"Following the request of the SDT and the court order, police are searching a number of apartments and other premises due to reasonable suspicion of conspiring to make a criminal enterprise and espionage," he told Reuters by phone.

Radonjic said that after the completion of the searches "it will be determined who will be charged and arrested".

He did not specify how many suspects have been taken for questioning.

01:07 PM

Soldiers guard Red Square ahead of Putin's land grab

Russian soldiers stand on Red Square in central Moscow as the square is sealed prior to a ceremony of the incorporation of the new territories into Russia - ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP © ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP Russian soldiers stand on Red Square in central Moscow as the square is sealed prior to a ceremony of the incorporation of the new territories into Russia - ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP

 Russian soldiers stand on Moscow's Red Square which has been sealed off ahead of a grand ceremony to incorporate Ukrainian territories into Russia.

Vladimir Putin is expected to give a major speech on Friday and meet with Moscow-appointed administrators of the Ukrainian regions after the signing ceremony at the Kremlin's St George's Hall.

12:40 PM

Hungary warns it will veto EU sanctions against Russia

Hungary has said it will veto EU plans for an eighth round of sanctions against Russia if they contain energy penalties.

The EU executive has proposed fresh sanctions against Russia, including tighter trade restrictions, more individual blacklistings and an oil price cap for third countries.

They fall short of harder-hitting measures sought by Russia hawks Poland and the three Baltic countries, including a ban on importing Russian diamonds.

Gergely Gulyas, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff, told a briefing: "Hungary has done a lot already to maintain European unity but if there are energy sanctions in the package, then we cannot and will not support it.

"We are waiting for a final, full list of sanctions and then we can negotiate about it. Hungary cannot support energy sanctions."

Hungary's government is also in talks with the European Commission to secure billions of euros in EU funds blocked over rule-of-law concerns.

Gulyas said he expected a deal would be signed as Budapest was ready to meet all its commitments made to the Commission. 

12:21 PM

Italy will not recognise 'illegal' annexation of occupied Ukrainian territories

Italy will not recognise the results of "illegal" annexation referendums organised by Moscow in the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said.

The Italian leader's office said Draghi had spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to assure him of Rome's "continued support" for Kyiv.

Draghi and Zelensky discussed the "illegal 'referendums'" which "Italy will not recognise", his office said.

Kremlin-installed authorities in the four Ukrainian regions under Russian control on Tuesday claimed victory in the votes, saying that preliminary results show a majority in favour of being annexed by Moscow.

12:20 PM

More Russians have fled mobilisation than invaded Ukraine, MoD says

More Russians have fled Putin's mobilisation orders than invaded Ukraine, according to the Ministry of Defence.

In a daily intelligence briefing, it said: "In the seven days since President Putin announced the ‘partial mobilisation’ there has been a considerable exodus of Russians seeking to evade call-up.

"Whilst exact numbers are unclear, it likely exceeds the size of the total invasion force Russia fielded in February 2022."

Russia had amassed up to 190,000 troops and their equipment near Ukraine's borders at the time of its invasion in February.

The MoD added: "The better off and well educated are over-represented amongst those attempting to leave Russia.

"When combined with those reservists who are being mobilised, the domestic economic impact of reduced availability of labour and the acceleration of ‘brain drain’ is likely to become increasingly significant."

12:02 PM

Russian spy group arrested in Montenegro, sources say

A 38-strong group of mostly Russian nationals has been arrested on suspicion of espionage in Montenegro.

Sources told the Montenegrin daily Pobjeda that operatives of Montenegro's Agency for National Security (ANB) and the Special State Prosecutor's office (SDT) had detained six Russian diplomats, 30 Russian nationals with temporary residence permits, and two Montenegrins on suspicion of espionage.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic said on a live broadcast of a cabinet session that an "international operation" with foreign partners and the state prosecutor's office was underway to preserve the country's interests, but he did not elaborate.

Montenegro, a NATO member and an candidate for membership in the European Union, has joined international sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. It has expelled Russian diplomats in the past.

In 2016, Montenegro accused Russian agents of involvement in a plot to bring the pro-Russian opposition to power, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and halt the integration of the former Yugoslav republic into NATO.

Moscow has repeatedly dismissed such accusations as absurd. Montenegro joined the Western military alliance in 2017. 

11:58 AM

Freight trucks from 'unfriendly' states to be banned from crossing Russian territory

Vladimir Putin has signed a decree authorising the Russian government to ban trucks carrying freight registered in "unfriendly" states from transiting across Russian territory.

The decree allows ban on trucks carrying freight that are registered in countries that have applied similar restrictions against Russia. 

It says the measures had been introduced in response to "unfriendly" restrictions by foreign states against Russian citizens and entities.

The EU has closed its borders to some freight vehicles registered in Russia and Belarus due to sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.

11:54 AM

Finland to close its border to Russia tourists

Finland will close its border to Russian tourists from midnight local time, after Putin's mobilisation orders led to an influx of draft age men fleeing to neighbouring countries.

Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told a news conference that the move is expected to lead to a significant drop in cross-border traffic.

Entry for family visits, as well as for work and studies, would still be permitted.

11:39 AM

Moscow blames 'foreign state' for gas pipeline leaks

The Kremlin claimed a foreign state was likely responsible for an incident that resulted in the leaks at the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines linking Russia to Europe.

"It's very difficult to imagine that such a terrorist act could happen without the involvement of a state," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in his daily press briefing, renewing calls for an "urgent investigation."

11:28 AM

Gas pipeline leaks were 'act of terrorism', Moscow suggests

The Kremlin has said major leaks in the Gazprom-led Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines look like an "act of terrorism".

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said an investigation in cooperation with a number of countries into the incidents under the Baltic Sea the EU has said it suspects were sabotage.

CNN reported that European security officials had observed Russian navy support ships and submarines not far from the sites of the Nord Stream leaks.

Asked for a comment on the CNN report, Peskov said there had been a much larger NATO presence in the area.

10:50 AM

Lithuania boosts security at gas terminal after Nord Stream damage

Lithuania is taking additional steps to boost security at its liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal following the recent news of damage to the Nord Stream pipelines, President Gitanas Nauseda said on Thursday.

10:31 AM

US candidate beats Russian to head UN telecoms agency

The US candidate Doreen Bogdan-Martin  decisively beat a Russian candidate to be the next Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union in an election seen as a test of how many countries are still siding with Russia.

Bogdan-Martin won the election to be the next head the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on Thursday with 139 votes out of 172 cast, defeating Russia's Rashid Ismailov, the UN agency said in a statement.

The election that took place in Bucharest, Romania is seen as a key indicator of Western efforts to isolate Russia diplomatically at the UN amid signs that international resolve is fading more than seven months after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"I've worked for this moment for more than three decades," Bogdan-Martin, an ITU veteran, said in a victory speech where she pledged unity and to work to improve digital connectivity.

She is the first woman to head the Geneva-based agency that was set up in 1865 to overcome interruptions in the telegraph system at borders.

09:48 AM

Pro-Kremlin heads of occupied Ukraine regions arrive in Moscow

The Kremlin-backed leaders of four Russian occupied regions of Ukraine were in Moscow on Thursday after calling for President Vladimir Putin to formally annex the territories into Russia.

The Moscow-installed heads of Ukraine's Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions claimed residents backed the move in hastily organised votes that the West says were a sham.

"I am already in Moscow," Leonid Pasechnik, leader of the breakaway Lugansk region, told state news agency TASS on Thursday.

Moscow-backed separatists have controlled large portions of Lugansk and neighbouring Donetsk since 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.

A Moscow-appointed official from Kherson region said that a meeting is planned between Putin and the heads of the occupied territories.

"A meeting with the president is, of course, scheduled. I don't have this information now, I can't say where, what, when," Kirill Stremousov told a pro-Kremlin radio programme.

Russian troops took control of Kherson in southern Ukraine shortly after Moscow sent troops into the country on February 24.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu - Pool Sputnik Kremlin © Pool Sputnik Kremlin Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu - Pool Sputnik Kremlin

09:45 AM

Dutch and British wholesale gas prices fall

Dutch and British wholesale gas prices fell on Thursday morning after steep rises this week, amid higher wind output and robust liquefied natural gas tanker supply, though concerns remain about Europe's remaining pipeline security.

Prices rose earlier this week after leaks were found on the Nord Stream pipeline system and Russia threatened sanctions against Ukraine's Naftogaz if it continues with an arbitration claim.

Such sanctions would prohibit Gazprom from paying Ukraine transit fees, which analysts say could end Russian gas flows to Europe via the country.

Traders said there was likely some correction to recent price rises this morning and traditional market drivers pointed towards lower demand over the next few days.

08:50 AM

Nord Stream 1 pipeline may use repair equipment pool

Russia's Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline may make use of the Pipeline Repair and Subsea Intervention (PRSI) Pool that provides repair equipment to member companies.

The Europe Union was investigating leaks in the Gazprom-led Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea this week and said it suspected sabotage.

The PRSI Pool provides pipeline repair equipment to its members as part of a cooperative of operating companies and includes Norway's Equinor and Nord Stream 1 operator Nord Stream AG, among others.

"Nord Stream AG is a member of the PRSI Pool and may engage PRSI at a later stage, when the repair strategy and solution have been developed," Nord Stream AG said in an emailed statement.

The Gazprom-led Nord Stream 1, which has an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic metres, was halted on Aug 31 for what Gazprom said would be three days of repair work. Gazprom failed to restart flows, however, saying it was unable to carry out the required work due to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow.

Aerial photo showing the Nord Stream gas pipeline leak site - Xinhua/Shutterstock/Denmark Defense Ministry © Xinhua/Shutterstock/Denmark Defense Ministry Aerial photo showing the Nord Stream gas pipeline leak site - Xinhua/Shutterstock/Denmark Defense Ministry

08:35 AM

Agreement on EU sanctions against Russia expected before summit

An agreement on the next sanctions package against Russia is expected before next week's EU summit, or at least major parts of the package, an EU official has said.

The official said they expected the summit to focus on the referendums in Ukraine, possible annexations of areas by Russia, Russia's nuclear threats and the disruption to the Nord Stream pipelines.

EU leaders are also expected to discuss different ideas for energy price caps at the summit, which the EU official expects to be a tense one "as we are in difficult times".

08:07 AM

Pictured: Destruction and devastation continues in Ukraine

A local resident carries her cart by a destroyed building in Izyum, Kharkiv region, on September 28 - SERGEY BOBOK/AFP

A local resident carries her cart by a destroyed building in Izyum, Kharkiv region, on September 28 - SERGEY BOBOK/AFP
© SERGEY BOBOK/AFP

08:02 AM

Europe braces for mobile network blackouts

Mobile phones could go dark around Europe this winter if power cuts or energy rationing knocks out parts of the mobile networks across the region.

Russia's decision to halt gas supplies via Europe's key supply route has increased the chances of power shortages. In France, the situation is made worse by several nuclear power plants shutting down for maintenance.

Telecoms industry officials say they fear a severe winter will put Europe's telecoms infrastructure to the test, forcing companies and governments to try to mitigate the impact.

Currently there are not enough back-up systems in many European countries to handle widespread power cuts, four telecoms executives said, raising the prospect of mobile phone outages.

European Union countries, including France, Sweden and Germany, are trying to ensure communications can continue even if power cuts end up exhausting back-up batteries installed on the thousands of cellular antennas spread across their territory.

06:40 AM

Britain is dangerously exposed to Putin's hybrid war-machine

If anything illustrates the absolute necessity of Britain making substantial improvements to its military strength, it is the alarming sabotage attack that has taken place on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, one of Europe’s main energy arteries, writes Defence Editor Con Coughlin.

For a decade or more, our military chiefs have been warning that we need to improve our ability to protect the nation’s vital infrastructure, from undersea communications cables to energy supplies.

By targeting our critical infrastructure, a hostile state can bring the nation to a standstill, cutting its energy supplies just as easily as it can by launching a conventional strike.

Read the piece here

05:29 AM

Fleeing Russians fear border will 'close forever'

Russians are rushing to flee across Finland's Vaalimaa crossing amid fears the border may close "forever" after President Vladimir Putin's mobilisation order for the war in Ukraine.

Dozens of cars and buses with Russian licence plates were on Thursday morning lined up at the border, with their passengers hoping to make it into Finland before it's too late.

"Many people are afraid," said Oleg, a bar owner from Moscow who has just crossed over to the Finnish side.

"The mobilisation is a first sign that something worse might happen."

He fears the border might "close forever" and Russians "will live in a totalitarian state where they can't do anything at all".

"I live in a country which sinks a little more every day," he said.

Vehicles coming from Russia wait in lines at the Vaalimaa border check point between Finland and Russia - Reuters © Reuters Vehicles coming from Russia wait in lines at the Vaalimaa border check point between Finland and Russia - Reuters

04:41 AM

'It's unlikely to be stopped': Russia set to annex parts of Ukraine within days

Moscow is poised to annex four Russian-held regions of Ukraine within days, releasing what it called vote tallies showing overwhelming support for the provinces to become part of Russia, after what Ukraine and the West denounced as illegal sham referendums held at gunpoint.

On Moscow's Red Square, a stage with giant video screens has been set up, with billboards proclaiming "Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson - Russia!"

The head of the upper house of the Russian parliament said it could consider the incorporation of the four partially occupied regions on October 4, three days before President Vladimir Putin's 70th birthday.

"This should happen within a week," Rodion Miroshnik, the Russia-installed ambassador to Moscow of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, told the RIA state news agency.

"The main thing has already happened – the referendum has taken place. Therefore, let’s say: the locomotive has already started and it’s unlikely to be stopped."

04:27 AM

Why Himars missiles are so effective 

03:43 AM

US announces $1.1bn package of military aid to Ukraine

Washington has stepped up military aid to Ukraine, announcing a $1.1 billion package of military hardware to boost Kyiv’s forces, writes David Millward.

Support was intensified the day after Moscow released the results of sham referendums it conducted in occupied Ukrainian territories which the Kremlin claimed showed overwhelming support for joining the Russian Federation.

The package includes 18 more Himars (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) which, thanks to their accuracy, are credited with destroying at least 400 Russian ammunition dumps and command posts over the summer.

Read the full story here

Servicemen of a territorial defence unit train during an exercise in Kryvyi Rih - AFP © AFP Servicemen of a territorial defence unit train during an exercise in Kryvyi Rih - AFP

02:45 AM

Today's top stories

  • Washington has stepped up military aid to Ukraine, announcing a $1.1 billion package of military hardware to boost Kyiv’s forces
  • Volodymyr Zelensky said he had called on Canada on Wednesday to lead an unprecedented drive to rid his country of landmines linked to Russia's seven-month-old invasion
  • Russian forces in the Donetsk region town of Lyman are on the brink of encirclement following Ukrainian gains to their north and east, pro-Russian military bloggers have said
  • Russian men have only themselves to blame if they are drafted to Ukraine by mistake, a regional military recruitment chief has claimed
  • Russia is attempting to revive its accident-prone Cold War-era aviation industry after being pummelled by Western sanctions
  • Kremlin-backed officials in Ukraine appealed to President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to annex the regions under their control
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