Separatist leaders call on Putin to annex regions after sham referendums

A salvo of russian missiles knocked out powere to more than 18,000 households in Kharkiv - Sergey Bobok/AFP
A salvo of russian missiles knocked out powere to more than 18,000 households in Kharkiv - Sergey Bobok/AFP

The Russian-installed leaders of four Ukrainian provinces have called on Vladimir Putin to formally incorporate them into Russia, after holding what Kyiv and the West denounced as sham referendums held at gunpoint.

Moscow is poised to annex swathes of Ukrainian territory after releasing the results of the staged votes, which it said showed overwhelming support for joining Russia.

"The results are clear. Welcome home, to Russia!," Dmitry Medvedev, a former president, said on Telegram after the release of the results.

Volodomyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, denounced the votes as a “farce” which “cannot even be called an imitation of a referendum”.

07:00 PM

Today’s top stories

  • World leaders including Liz Truss said they would never recognise the results of Russia’s stage-managed referendums in eastern Ukraine.

  • Separatist leaders in the four occupied Ukrainian regions urged Vladimir Putin to formally incorporate them into the Russian Federation.

  • Investigations continued into the possible attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, with several countries blaming Russia for the leaks.

  • German security services say the pipelines may be so damaged that they will never be used again.

  • A Russian synchronised swimming champion who carried the flag at the London Olympics has become the most prominent athlete to flee the country since the start of the war.

06:46 PM

David Nott: ‘I don’t think Putin will ever stop trying to get Ukraine’

In January of this year, the world’s most experienced war surgeon was working at St Mary’s, Paddington when he heard about Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border, writes Jessamy Calkin.

That surgeon, David Nott, knew exactly what he had to do. Within 10 days of the war starting, he had put together a 12-hour Zoom course, with renowned neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, to teach surgeons essential techniques about how to deal with war injuries – fragmentation wounds, burns, mass casualty events.

The course has so far been viewed by 1,000 surgeons in Ukraine and saved many lives.

Read the full story from Jessamy here.

David’s Zoom course has now been viewed by more than 1,300 surgical professionals in Ukraine - Emre Caylak
David’s Zoom course has now been viewed by more than 1,300 surgical professionals in Ukraine - Emre Caylak

06:24 PM

EU warns Russian gas price cap would come with risks

The European Commission has warned EU countries that a broad cap on gas prices could be complex to launch and pose risks to energy security, amid calls from countries for Brussels to step in to tame high fuel prices.

"Establishing the appropriate level for the cap would be a challenging exercise due to internal and global market dynamics and entailing risks from the point of view of security of supply," the Commission said in a document analysing various options the EU could consider to curb gas prices, which was shared with EU countries on Wednesday.

06:12 PM

Moscow says occupied Ukraine regions made 'free choice in favour of Russia'

Occupied regions in Ukraine made a "conscious and free choice" to join Russia in the so-called referendums, Moscow's foreign ministry has said.

"The results of the plebiscites speak for themselves: the people of the Donbas, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions do not want to go back to their old lives and have made a conscious and free choice in favour of Russia," the ministry said.

05:56 PM

More Himars systems for Ukraine as US announces $1.1 billion in new military aid

The United States has announced a new package of arms and supplies for Ukraine worth $1.1 billion for reinforcing Kyiv's forces over the medium and long  term.

The package of orders for US military suppliers includes Himars missile systems and ammunition, systems to counter drones, radars and armored vehicles, according to the Defence Department.

05:42 PM

Nord Stream pipelines may be so damaged ‘they can never be used again’

The Baltic Sea pipelines hit by suspected Russian sabotage are thought by German secret services to have been destroyed forever, writes James Crisp, our Europe Editor.

Security authorities in Berlin believe the three parts of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines will never be usable again after the three underwater explosions caused huge leaks of dangerous methane because of large amounts of corrosive saltwater getting into the pipes.

The BND, the foreign arm of the German secret services believe the suspected sabotage could only have been carried out by a state actor and is taking the lead role in analysing satellite photographs of ship movements for clues to the explosions.

Read James's full report here.

A photo taken from a Swedish Coast Guard aircraft shows the release of gas emanating from a leak on a Nord Stream gas pipeline - AFP PHOTO / SWEDISH COAST GUARD
A photo taken from a Swedish Coast Guard aircraft shows the release of gas emanating from a leak on a Nord Stream gas pipeline - AFP PHOTO / SWEDISH COAST GUARD

05:23 PM

Poland condemns Russia's Ukraine referendums

Poland's Foreign Ministry has condemned the referendums in Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.

"We call on members of the international community not to recognise the legitimacy of these pseudo-referendums and their 'results', which cannot in any way reflect the will of the people of these regions, who were often forcibly coerced into voting," the ministry said.

05:05 PM

Truss says Britain will never recognise Russia's annexation attempts

Liz Truss, the Prime Minister, has told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Britain will never recognise Russian attempts to annex its territory.

"The prime minister made clear that the UK would never recognise Russian attempts to annex sovereign territory. She reiterated that Ukraine could depend on the UK’s support until President Putin was defeated," a Downing Street spokesperson said.

The two leaders also discussed how to work together to secure gas supplies in the long term, the spokesperson added.

04:56 PM

Russian Olympic swimming champion flees Russia

A Russian synchronised swimming champion who carried the flag at the London Olympics has become the most prominent athlete to flee the country since the start of the war, writes Nataliya Vasilyeva, our Russia correspondent.

Anastasia Davydova, a 13-times world champion who won Olympic gold in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 who was feted by Vladimir Putin, said in a letter that she had left the country for good as hundreds of thousands fled military draft.

The departure of the 39-year old athlete, who also serves as secretary general of Russia’s Olympic Committee, was reported on Tuesday by state-controlled Match TV.  Several Russian lawmakers condemned her as a traitor.

Russia’s Synchronised Swimming Federation said it was unaware of the Ms Davydova’s whereabouts, while Russia’s Olympic Committee said it did not get a letter of resignation from the athlete, who only three years ago hosted President Putin at her own synchronised swimming school in Moscow.

Several prominent athletes have publicly spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine and cut their ties with the Kremlin, but Ms Davydova who was decorated with an Order of Merit by Mr Putin is by far the biggest Russian sporting star to have broken with the regime.

Vladimir Putin presents a medal to synchronised swimmer Anastasia Davydova in 2012. - AFP
Vladimir Putin presents a medal to synchronised swimmer Anastasia Davydova in 2012. - AFP

04:29 PM

US to keep up pace of sanctions on Russia

The United States is working with allies and partners to quickly impose severe economic costs on Moscow over "sham" referendums held by Russia in occupied regions of Ukraine, the US State Department's head of sanctions coordination has said.

Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, James O'Brien said he expects that the Biden administration's pace of announcing sanctions on Russia on average every six weeks will continue, as Washington continues to focus on chokepoints in the Russian economy and its military supply chains.

04:13 PM

EU's Borrell urges world not to recognise referendums

Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, urged the international community not to recognise the "sham" referendums held by Russia in occupied Ukraine as the bloc proposed further sanctions against Moscow.

"With the illegal referenda organised by Russia, the Kremlin is following the same playbook that we have already seen in Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014," Mr Borrell said, adding they were violations of international law and the principles of the United Nations charter.

Mr Borrell said the European Union was increasing its list of persons and entities facing sanctions.

03:52 PM

Why Putin would want to blow up Nord Stream 2

The suspected sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines could be a page ripped straight from Vladimir Putin’s playbook of panic, escalation and misdirection, writes James Crisp, our Europe Editor.

The former KGB agent’s illegal war on Ukraine resulted in unprecedented Western sanctions against Moscow.

But the Russian president is confident that his people can endure economic pain longer and better than Europeans.

Read James's analysis in full here.

03:34 PM

Fresh EU sanctions will punish the Kremlin for escalation

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a new package of sanctions designed "to make the Kremlin pay" for escalating the conflict in Ukraine with what she called "sham" referendums in occupied territory.

"We do not accept the sham referenda and any kind of annexation in Ukraine, and we are determined to make the Kremlin pay for this further escalation," she told reporters in Brussels.

The proposed eighth sanctions package includes further import bans on Russian products, expected to deprive Moscow of an additional €7 billion in revenues, and more export bans on key technology used for the military such as aviation items, electronic components and specific chemical substances, Ms von der Leyen announced.

Beyond this, the sanctions package will lay the legal basis for an oil price cap and ban EU citizens from sitting on governing bodies of Russian state-owned companies, she said.

03:14 PM

Russia to call UN Security Council meeting over pipeline damage

Russia will ask for the United Nations Security Council to convene after Moscow denied allegations it was behind leaks at the Nord Stream pipelines between Russia and Germany.

"Russia intends to convene an official meeting of the UN Security Council in connection with provocations regarding Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on social media.

02:50 PM

Germany does not accept 'sham' referendums, Scholz tells Zelensky

Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Germany would never accept the results of "sham" referendums on joining Russia in occupied regions of Ukraine.

Mr Scholz also said Germany's financial, political and humanitarian support for Ukraine would not waver and it would continue to back Ukraine in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity, including weapons deliveries, a government spokesperson said on Wednesday.

02:27 PM

Russia restricts access to border region with Georgia

Authorities in the Russian region of North Ossetia that borders Georgia have ordered a restriction of car travel to the republic, after tens of thousands fled to Georgia to escape the Kremlin's mobilisation drive.

The head of the region, Sergei Menyalo, wrote on Telegram that he had placed the small mountainous region on "high alert" and ordered to "restrict the entry of cars into North Ossetia".

02:09 PM

Russian missiles strike Kharkiv, in pictures

A freight railway station was partly destroyed when Russia launched a salvo of missiles at Kharkiv. - SERGEY BOBOK/AFP
A freight railway station was partly destroyed when Russia launched a salvo of missiles at Kharkiv. - SERGEY BOBOK/AFP
More than 18,000 homes in Ukraine's second city were left without power. - SERGEY BOBOK/AFP
More than 18,000 homes in Ukraine's second city were left without power. - SERGEY BOBOK/AFP
Ukrainian firefighters battled a blaze at the railway yard after the missile struck. - SERGEY BOBOK/AFP
Ukrainian firefighters battled a blaze at the railway yard after the missile struck. - SERGEY BOBOK/AFP

01:51 PM

Separatist head of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia asks Putin to incorporate region into Russia

Pro-Kremlin head of the occupied part of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region, Yevgeny Balitsky, has appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to incorporate the region into Russia, state news agency TASS reported.

01:36 PM

Russia will not give out passports to mobilised men

Moscow will not give out passports to Russians mobilised by the army, according to a government information portal updated on Wednesday.

"If a citizen is summoned for army service or received a summons [for mobilisation], he will be refused a passport," the website said. Those who are not issued a passport will be notified how long the hold will be in place.

Since the mobilisation effort began, tens of thousands have crossed into neighbouring countries to evade the draft.

Only a minority of Russians hold a passport that allows them to leave the country.

01:17 PM

Russia: Biden must say if US behind Nord Stream leaks

US President Joe Biden must answer if Washington is behind three gas leaks on the Nord Stream pipelines from Russia to Europe, Moscow's foreign ministry has said.

"On February 7, 2022, Joe Biden said that Nord Stream would be finished if Russia invaded Ukraine ... Biden is obliged to answer the question of whether the US carried out its threat," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on social media, posting a video of Mr Biden saying "we will bring an end" to Nord Stream 2 if Russian tanks cross Ukraine's border.

Russia has already been accused of sabotaging the pipelines.

12:52 PM

Joining war would be 'political suicide' for Lukashenko, says opposition leader

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has said President Alexander Lukashenko would be committing "political suicide" if he involved Belarus's military in the war in neighbouring Ukraine.

Ms Tikhanovskaya claimed victory in Belarus's contested 2020 presidential election but now lives in exile in Lithuania after Lukashenko launched a brutal crackdown on the opposition.

"If he will make our army participate [in Ukraine] it will be political suicide for him," she said ahead of a speech to the Labour party conference in Liverpool.

"Even those people who are for this regime [and] allies of Lukashenko, they are against the war in Ukraine."

President Lukashenko met Vladimir Putin in Sochi this week. - AFP
President Lukashenko met Vladimir Putin in Sochi this week. - AFP

12:31 PM

German navy investigating Nord Stream leaks

Germany's navy is contributing to the investigation into the Nord Stream pipeline leaks, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht has said.

"The presumed sabotage of the Baltic Sea pipelines is yet another reminder that we are dependent on critical infrastructure, also underwater," she said in a statement, adding that the situation must be clarified and those responsible must be identified quickly.

12:12 PM

Russia claims Ukrainian offensive on Lyman in Donetsk failed

Russia's Defence Ministry has claimed that a Ukrainian offensive on the Russian-held town of Lyman in Donetsk region has failed, with 70 Ukrainian soldiers killed.

Lyman, which had a population of around 20,000 before Russia ordered troops into Ukraine on February 24, has been at the centre of fighting since Ukraine's lightning counteroffensive earlier this month.

In recent days, both Ukrainian and Russian analysts have suggested that Kyiv's forces are close to encircling the town.

11:52 AM

London Stock Exchange warns traders against breaching sanctions

London Stock Exchange Group has warned market participants not to use its systems for transactions that could breach financial sanctions imposed on Russia.

"The Exchange reminds member firms that they must conduct their own due diligence and take appropriate measures to ensure that they comply with any applicable sanctions, current or future," LSEG said in a notice to the market on Wednesday.

Member firms should ensure that they are not using the "Exchange's systems or services to perform transactions or conduct activities that would facilitate direct or indirect transactions in breach of these sanctions".

11:28 AM

Kremlin denies Russia attacked Nord Stream pipelines

The Kremlin has said claims that Russia was behind a possible attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines were stupid.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a daily conference call with reporters that the incident needed to be investigated and the timings for repair of the damaged pipelines were not clear.

Asked about claims Russia might somehow be behind the leaks, Mr Peskov said: "That's quite predictable and also predictably stupid."

"This is a big problem for us because, firstly, both lines of Nord Stream 2 are filled with gas - the entire system is ready to pump gas and the gas is very expensive ... Now the gas is flying off into the air."

"Before making any claims, we should wait for investigation into these ruptures, whether there was an explosion or not," Mr Peskov said.

11:07 AM

Gas still leaking from Nord Stream 1 pipeline

The volume of gas leaking from the damaged Nord Stream 1 pipeline in the Baltic Sea has not changed since yesterday, the Swedish Coast Guard have said.

10:48 AM

Kremlin says Ukraine invasion to continue until it controls all of Donetsk region

The Kremlin on Wednesday said that the "special military operation" in Ukraine must continue until Russia takes full control of east Ukraine's Donetsk region.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the military campaign in Ukraine would continue "at a minimum" until the "liberation" of the "Donetsk People's Republic".

10:44 AM

In pictures:  Ukrainian forces take Russian spies captive

Ukrainian soldiers escort a suspected Russian spy on to the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, near Lyman, Ukraine - Nicole Tung/Nytns
Ukrainian soldiers escort a suspected Russian spy on to the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, near Lyman, Ukraine - Nicole Tung/Nytns
Ukrainian forces recaptured the resort village of Szczurowe, on the eastern side of the Siverskyi Donets River, 10 days ago, and are attempting to recapture the town of Lyman - Nicole Tung/Nytns
Ukrainian forces recaptured the resort village of Szczurowe, on the eastern side of the Siverskyi Donets River, 10 days ago, and are attempting to recapture the town of Lyman - Nicole Tung/Nytns

10:39 AM

Separatist leader asks Putin to incorporate Luhansk region into Russia

The Russian-installed administrator of Ukraine's Luhansk region has asked Vladimir Putin to incorporate the region into Russia, following a hastily organised referendum that the West has denounced as an illegitimate sham.

"Taking into account the fact that the population of the republic approved the decision in the referendum, I ask you to consider the issue of Luhansk People's Republic becoming a part of Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation," separatist leader Leonid Pasechnik said.

10:31 AM

'One or two weeks' before Nord Stream leaks can be inspected, says Denmark

It could take up to two weeks before the unexplained gas leaks on the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea can be inspected, the Danish defence minister has said.

Due to the pressure inside the pipes and the amount of gas leaking "the reality is that it can easily take one or two weeks for the area to calm down enough to actually see what has happened," Defence Minister Morten Bodskov has said.

10:04 AM

Russia aiming to fly solo without Airbus and Boeing

Russia's aviation industry will aim to go it alone without the West, using locally built parts to produce 1,000 airliners by 2030 and end a reliance on Boeing and Airbus, state-owned engineer Rostec said.

The remarks from Rostec, a vast state corporation headed by a close ally of President Vladimir Putin that includes Russia's only manufacturer of civil aircraft, are the strongest indication yet that the country's aviation sector sees the confrontation with the West as a permanent schism.

The West's imposition of the most severe sanctions in modern history after Moscow sent thousands of troops into Ukraine has forced the biggest change on Russia's economy since the Soviet Union crumbled from 1989 to 1991.

The post-Soviet assumptions of the aviation sector have been turned on their head: foreign aircraft, mainly from Boeing and Airbus, account for 95% of passenger traffic, but sanctions mean there are no spare parts - and no prospect of any.

09:52 AM

Turkish banks cut ties with Russia after pressure from Washington

Turkey's booming wartime trade with Moscow took a giant step back on Wednesday with confirmation that the last three banks still processing Russian payments were pulling out under pressure from Washington.

The decision follows weeks of intensifying pressure from the United States for NATO member Turkey to limit its booming economic relations with Russia.

The US Treasury warned last week that Turkish banks working with Russian Mir bank cards "risk supporting Russia's efforts to evade US sanctions" and could face economic penalties themselves.

Two private Turkish lenders that began processing Mir after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in August suspended the transactions earlier this month.

But three state lenders - Halkbank, Vakifbank and Ziraatbank - still worked with the cards.

09:42 AM

Watch:  Ukraine artillery unit salute fellow fighter jet during combat

09:34 AM

NATO calls Nord Stream leaks acts of sabotage

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg attributed the leaks on the Nord Stream pipelines to acts of sabotage and said he had discussed the protection of critical infrastructure in NATO countries with the Danish defence minister.

"Discussed the sabotage on the NorthStream pipelines with Defence Minister Morten Bødskov," he said on Twitter.

"We addressed the protection of critical infrastructure in NATO countries."

09:21 AM

Russian shelling cut power in much of Ukraine's Kharkiv

Russia fired a salvo of missiles at Ukraine's second city Kharkiv overnight, officials said on Wednesday, hitting a railway yard and knocking out power to more than 18,000 households.

Kharkiv governor Oleg Synegubov said Russian forces had fired S-300 missiles, designed as an anti-aircraft weapon but now often re-purposed to hit civilian infrastructure in Ukrainian cities.

The Kharkiv regional emergency service said the blasts, which were audible in the city centre at around 9:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Tuesday, destroyed an electrical transformer and hit a workshop.

No casualties were reported, but the regional energy company said 18,500 customers in the Shevchenkivsky, Kholodnogirsky and Novobavarsky districts of the city had lost electricity.

Kharkiv residents in these districts woke to find their power cut and commuter trams marooned without current in the streets.

At the railway yard, AFP reporters found fire crews extinguishing a fire left by at least two strikes that demolished an office, ripped up some tracks and destroyed two parked wagons.

09:08 AM

Norway sees no specific threat against its offshore oil sector, says PM

Norway sees no specific threat against its offshore oil and gas sector following explosions on the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea and sightings of drones in the North Sea, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told news agency NTB on Wednesday.

The NATO country had not asked for military assistance from its allies, he added.

08:56 AM

Ukraine says it will never agree to Russian ultimatums

Ukraine has said that Russian-staged votes in four Ukrainian regions on becoming part of Russia were "null and worthless", and that Kyiv would press on with efforts to liberate Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces.

Urging its international partners to impose tough new sanctions on Moscow and provide Kyiv with more military aid, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Ukraine would never agree to Russian ultimatums.

"Forcing people in these territories to fill out some papers at the barrel of a gun is yet another Russian crime in the course of its aggression against Ukraine," it said.

Describing the "referendums" organised by Russia as a sham, it said they had "nothing to do with expression of will" and had no implications for Ukraine’s "administrative-territorial system and internationally recognized borders."

"Ukraine and the international community condemn such actions of Russia and consider them null and worthless," the statement said.

08:45 AM

We expect Russia to continue their military sabre rattling, says Denmark

Denmark's defence minister said on Wednesday there is reason to be concerned about the security situation in the Baltic Sea region, highlighting the suspected sabotage on the two Nord Stream pipelines as the latest example.

"Russia has a significant military presence in the Baltic Sea region and we expect them to continue their sabre-rattling," Morten Bodskov said in a statement following a meeting with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels.

08:41 AM

Norway boosts security at oil installations after suspected sabotage on Nord Stream

Norway, now the biggest supplier of gas to Europe, will beef up security around its oil installations, it said following allegations of sabotage on Nord Stream's Baltic Sea pipelines.

"The government has decided to put measures in place to increase security at infrastructure sites, land terminals and platforms on the Norwegian continental shelf," Norwegian Energy Minister Terje Aasland said in a statement late Tuesday.

The announcement came after three unexplained gas leaks, preceded by two explosions, occurred on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines on Monday, as well as recent drone observations reported by oil companies around their platforms in Norwegian waters.

European leaders have blamed the leaks on sabotage.

After the drone observations, the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority earlier this week called for "increased vigilance from all operators and shipping companies on the continental shelf", noting that they could cause an accident or attack.

Concerns intensified after the spectacular gas leaks on Nord Stream's pipelines linking Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

08:38 AM

EU slams 'falsified outcome' of Russia votes in Ukraine

The EU on Wednesday slammed "illegal" annexation votes Russia held in four occupied regions of Ukraine and their "falsified" results, the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

"EU denounces holding of illegal 'referenda' and their falsified outcome," Borrell said on Twitter.

"This is another violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, amidst systematic abuses of human rights," he said.

European Council President Charles Michel tweeted: "Sham referenda. Sham results. We recognize neither."

On Tuesday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called the votes organised by Moscow in the occupied Ukrainian regions as "a blatant violation of international law" which have "no legitimacy".

Kremlin-installed authorities in those regions are already claiming the ballots had gone Russia's way.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected on Friday to declare those regions annexed parts of Russia, coming under its nuclear umbrella.

08:27 AM

Ukraine can count on Italy, says new far-right PM

Ukraine can count on the support of Italy's new government, far-right leader Giorgia Meloni said in a message to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

She was responding to a message sent by Zelensky congratulating her on her Brothers of Italy party's historic victory in general elections on Sunday.

"We appreciate Italy's constant support for Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression. We are counting on a productive partnership with the new Italian government," he had tweeted in Italian.

Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has been one of the strongest backers of EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, despite his country's reliance on Russian gas.

Rome has also sent weapons to help Kyiv fight off President Vladimir Putin's forces.

Meloni is Eurosceptic but has backed Draghi's line on Ukraine - even if her government allies, far-right League leader Matteo Salvini and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, have long had warm ties with Moscow.

08:22 AM

Kyiv urges 'significant' military aid boost after annexation votes

Kyiv has called on the West to "significantly" increase its military aid to Ukraine after pro-Kremlin authorities in four Moscow-held regions of  the country declared victory in annexation votes.

"Ukraine calls on the EU, NATO and the Group of Seven to immediately and significantly increase pressure on Russia, including by imposing tough sanctions and significantly increase their military aid to Ukraine," Ukraine's foreign ministry said in a statement.

A volunteer mounts a rifle on a Soviet car Moskvitch for the Ukrainian military, at a factory in Bilhorod-Dnistrovs'kyi, Odesa region,  - Shutterstock 
A volunteer mounts a rifle on a Soviet car Moskvitch for the Ukrainian military, at a factory in Bilhorod-Dnistrovs'kyi, Odesa region, - Shutterstock

08:19 AM

Ukraine conflict in pictures

Anton Krasyvyi rows passengers across the Siverskyi-Donets river in front of a destroyed bridge, so they can visit relatives in Staryi-Saltiv, Ukraine, - Evgeniy Maloletka /AP 
Anton Krasyvyi rows passengers across the Siverskyi-Donets river in front of a destroyed bridge, so they can visit relatives in Staryi-Saltiv, Ukraine, - Evgeniy Maloletka /AP
Firefighters tackle blaze after Russian airstrike hit a wagon depot in Kharkiv Oblas - Anadolu /Anadolu Agency
Firefighters tackle blaze after Russian airstrike hit a wagon depot in Kharkiv Oblas - Anadolu /Anadolu Agency
Nina Shevchenko, 65 receives humanitarian aid, in the recently liberated town of Izium - ZOHRA BENSEMRA /Reuters
Nina Shevchenko, 65 receives humanitarian aid, in the recently liberated town of Izium - ZOHRA BENSEMRA /Reuters

08:09 AM

EU eyes banning nationals from top jobs at Russia state-owned firms

Gerhard Schroeder, the former German Chancellor with close ties to Russia, could be forced out of his job, if Brussels bans EU nationals from holding senior roles in Russian state-owned companies, James Crisp reports. 

The EU is considering the ban, which is a German proposal and would need to be backed by all 27 member states, Bloomberg reported. National governments would name the individuals and enforce the rule.

Mr Schroeder is chairman of the shareholders’ committee of the Nord Stream company. The pipelines suffered serious damage after suspected sabotage yesterday.

He stood down as Chairman of Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil company, in May after months of calls for him to cut his ties with Vladimir Putin.

He has become an embarrassment to his centre-Left SPD party, now led by current Chancellor Olaf Scholz, due to those links and lucrative jobs with Russian companies.

08:01 AM

EU to strengthen energy security after Nord Stream incidents

The EU will step up protection of its energy infrastructure following the incidents that caused the leaks of the Nord Stream pipelines, Josep Borrell, the bloc's foreign policy chief, said on Wednesday.

"All available information indicates those leaks are the result of a deliberate act," he said.

"We will support any investigation aimed at getting full clarity on what happened and why, and will take further steps to increase our resilience in energy security."

06:28 AM

Russian reservists begin combat training

Russia's Defence Ministry said on Wednesday that newly mobilised reservists in the Kaliningrad region have started combat training at the base of Russia's Baltic Fleet.

"All mobilised military personnel comply with the standards for shooting from small arms. In addition, citizens called up from the reserve restore their skills in the operation and maintenance of weapons, military and special equipment," the ministry said on its Telegram channel.

Courses have been also held to increase firing skills and prepare military personnel for "confident actions on the battlefield".

President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia's first military mobilisation since World War Two last week, which could see hundreds of thousands more people sent to fight in Ukraine.

05:44 AM

Slovakia's economy could 'collapse' over energy costs, says PM

Slovakia's Prime Minister said that soaring electricity costs had left the country's economy at risk of "collapse", the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

Eduard Heger said that the increase in prices following Russia's invasion of Ukraine would "kill" the country's economy unless it received billions of euros of support from Brussels.

Mr Heger also warned he would be forced to nationalise the country's power supplies if this was not forthcoming.

05:23 AM

Canada promises new sanctions after 'sham' referendums

Justin Trudeau has said he intends to impose new sanctions on Russia over its "sham" referendums in occupied regions of Ukraine.

"Canada does not and will not ever recognise the results of these sham referendums or Russia's attempted illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories," the Canadian prime minister said.

Russian-installed officials in four occupied regions of Ukraine on Tuesday reported huge majorities of votes in favour of joining Russia.

Justin Trudeau - REUTERS
Justin Trudeau - REUTERS

04:50 AM

Why Putin would want to attack Nord Stream pipelines

The suspected sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines could be a page ripped straight from Vladimir Putin’s playbook of panic, escalation and misdirection, James Crisp writes.

The former KGB agent’s illegal war on Ukraine resulted in unprecedented Western sanctions against Moscow. But the Russian president is confident that his people can endure economic pain longer and better than Europeans. His calculation is that soaring gas prices and the cost of living crisis in a continent hopelessly addicted to Russian energy will turn the situation to his advantage.

Read more: Why Putin would want to blow up Nord Stream 2 and the advantages it gives him

04:48 AM

Today's top stories

  • Vladimir Putin was on Tuesday accused of sabotage after a series of underwater explosions caused “unprecedented” damage to pipelines built to supply Europe with gas

  • Loyal Russian propagandists have issued a rare rebuke of Kremlin policy, attacking the mobilisation order which has meant even a reporter for state news has been turned away at the border

  • A Russian opposition activist was beaten up and raped by the police after he was arrested for reading poetry which criticised the Kremlin's puppet governments in Ukraine

  • New recruits to the Russian army are being told to ask their wives and girlfriends for tampons to use as bandages in the event they get shot, as military supplies run out

  • Nearly 100 per cent of voters in four sham referendums in Russian-held regions of Ukraine supported joining Russia, Moscow declared on Tuesday

  • Putin is expected to announce the accession of the occupied areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson into the Russian Federation within days, according to British intelligence