Putin Visits Crimea Bridge Two Months After Deadly Blast

File photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. AFP

 

President Vladimir Putin on Monday visited a bridge that links Moscow-annexed Crimea to the Russian mainland weeks after the vital link was hit by a blast, images on state television showed.

Putin drove a Mercedes across the bridge and heard a report from Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin about repair work on the bridge following an October blast Moscow blamed on Ukraine.

More to follow…

A ‘Dear Friend’ To Russia – Putin Mourns Late Chinese Leader Zemin

A photo combination of former Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin and Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Credit: AFP

 

President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin — who was hailed as a great communist revolutionary and was announced by Beijing to have died earlier — was a “dear friend” to Russia.

“As a dear friend of our country, Jiang Zemin made an invaluable contribution to the development of Russian-Chinese relations… the bright memory of such an authoritative politician and a wonderful person will forever remain in my heart,” Putin said in a message of condolence to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, according to a Kremlin statement.

READ ALSO: Former China Leader Jiang Zemin Dies At 96

I Share Your Pain, Putin Tells Mothers Of Soldiers Killed In Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Russian government via teleconference in Moscow on March 10, 2022. Mikhail Klimentyev / SPUTNIK / AFP
In this file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Russian government via teleconference in Moscow on March 10, 2022. Mikhail Klimentyev / SPUTNIK / AFP

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday told a group of mothers whose sons are fighting in Ukraine that he shares the pain of those who have lost family members in the conflict.

The meeting took place ahead of Mother’s Day, which Russia will mark on Sunday, and amid mounting anger from Russian soldiers’ families after a chaotic military draft.

“I want you to know: I personally and the entire leadership of the country share this pain,” Putin told the women at his residence near Moscow.

“We understand that nothing can replace the loss of a son, a child,” he said in his opening remarks which lasted just a few minutes.

“I do not dare say any formal, standard things related to expressing condolences,” he said.

He added that some news reports about Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine could not be trusted.

“There is a lot of fake news, deceit, and lies,” he said.

Putin, who has introduced legislation that effectively bans any public criticism of the offensive in Ukraine, told the women they should be wary of what they read on the internet.

“It is clear that life is more complex than what is shown on our TV screens or even on the internet, nothing can be trusted there,” he said.

Earlier on Friday, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the rest of the discussion would be shown “depending on the conversation.”

State television aired images of the Russian leader sitting at a table with 17 mothers, in the first such meeting since Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.

“I completely understand that for you, and for many other women in Russia whose sons are currently in fighting zones, this will not be a festive time,” the 70-year-old said, referring to Mother’s Day.

Videos of Russian mothers and relatives concerned about men fighting in Ukraine have in recent months flooded Russian social media.

AFP

UN, Russia To Meet Friday On Grain, Fertiliser Exports

In this file photo, a farmer stands as he collects wheat near Mykolaiv, on July 21, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

 

UN chiefs are to hold talks with Russian officials in Geneva on Friday on the Black Sea agreements on exporting grain and fertilisers, eight days before the deals expire.

The UN’s humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and Rebeca Grynspan, head of the UN’s trade and development agency UNCTAD, will meet a high-level delegation from Moscow, led by Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Vershinin.

“They will continue ongoing consultations in support of the efforts by the (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the full implementation of the two agreements signed on July 22 in Istanbul,” a UNCTAD spokeswoman told AFP on Thursday.

“It is hoped that the discussions will advance progress made in facilitating the unimpeded export of food and fertilisers originating from the Russian Federation to the global markets.”

The 120-day Black Sea Grain Initiative, a UN-led deal agreed with Moscow and Kyiv, runs out on November 19.

Two agreements brokered by the UN and Turkey were signed on July 22 — to allow the export of Ukrainian grain blocked by Russia’s war in the country, and the export of Russian food and fertilisers despite Western sanctions imposed on Moscow.

The United Nations would like to renew the agreement for one year.

READ ALSO: Floods In Central Africa Leave Fishermen Stranded

But Russia is unhappy with some aspects of the arrangements and how they work, fuelling doubt as to whether the Kremlin would want to carry on with the deal.

One of the agreements, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, has been working quite well, allowing millions of tonnes of grain to leave Ukrainian ports, and relieving some fears over a deepening global food security crisis.

Ukraine is one of the world’s top grain producers and the Russian invasion had blocked 20 million tonnes of grain in its ports until the safe passage deal was agreed.

But Moscow has complained its grain and fertiliser exports continue to face issues over sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine, despite the Black Sea agreements that called for sanctions to spare agriculture-related products.

Russia has yet to decide whether to extend the Black Sea agreements beyond November 19.

AFP

Putin Oversees Nuclear Response Drills

Russian President Vladimir Putin oversees the training of the strategic deterrence forces, troops responsible for responding to threats of nuclear war, via a video link in Moscow on October 26, 2022. (Photo by Alexei Babushkin / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday surveyed drills carried out by his nuclear-capable forces as Moscow pressed unfounded claims to India and China that Ukraine was developing a “dirty bomb.”

The drills are the latest in a series of escalatory comments from Moscow and Putin — who observed the drills from a control room — that the eight-month conflict in Ukraine could turn nuclear.

“Under the leadership of… Vladimir Putin, a training session was held with ground, sea and air strategic deterrence forces, during which practical launches of ballistic and cruise missiles took place,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Russian state-run media ran footage of a submarine crew preparing the launch of a Sineva ballistic missile from the Barents Sea in the Arctic.

The drills also included launching test missiles from the Kamchatka peninsula in the Russian Far East.

Footage of the drills across state media came after Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu pressed ahead with telephone calls to his counterparts globally, claiming that Ukraine was developing a “dirty bomb”.

Shoigu, who has made these claims in recent days to counterparts from NATO countries, reiterated them to Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe on Wednesday.

READ ALSONATO Warns Russia Against ‘Dirty Bomb’ Pretext

Moscow alleges ‘irresponsible behaviour’ 

Shoigu also voiced the same “concerns” in a phone with India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh earlier on Wednesday, Moscow said.

Ukraine has dismissed the allegations as “absurd” and “dangerous,” suggesting the claims could be cover for Russia’s own plans on the battlefield, as have its western allies, including Britain, France and the United States.

A dirty bomb is a conventional bomb laced with radioactive, biological or chemical materials which are disseminated in an explosion.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier Wednesday that Russia had information pertaining to the “existing threat” of Ukraine using a “dirty bomb” and that Kyiv was “preparing for such a terrorist act of sabotage”.

He added: “We will continue vigorously bringing our point of view to the world community to encourage them to take active steps to prevent such irresponsible behaviour.”

Nuclear rhetoric from Russia began building in September, when Moscow said it was annexing four regions of Ukraine over which its forces have partial control. Putin warned Russia could use nuclear weapons to defend them.

Advance on Kherson 

One of those regions is Kherson, in southern Ukraine near Moscow-annexed Crimea, where Kyiv has been clawing back territory since a counter-offensive it announced at the end of the summer.

Russian-backed authorities in recent days urged residents to flee what they say is an oncoming onslaught. They claimed to have turned the city of Kherson into a “fortress”, vowing to defend it at all costs.

A Moscow-installed official in the region, Vladimir Saldo, said Wednesday that at least 70,000 people have left their homes within the last week.

Ukraine’s capture of the Kherson region would give Kyiv back important access to the Sea of Azov. It would also cut off Moscow’s land bridge to Russian-annexed Crimea.

Saldo banned entry to the right bank area of the region for a period of seven days “due to the tense situation on the contact line”, according to a statement on his social media on Wednesday.

Russia’s offensive to capture Ukrainian territory spurred a wave of international solidarity with Kyiv, including hundreds of foreigners who volunteered to help fend off Russian advances.

Kyiv said Wednesday that Russia had returned the remains of US citizen Joshua Alan Jones, who was killed fighting Moscow’s forces in August, along with 10 Ukrainian servicemen in a prisoner swap.

AFP

Biden Condemns ‘Utter Brutality’ Of Russian Missile Strikes

US President Joe Biden announces student loan relief on August 24, 2022 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Biden announced that most US university graduates still trying to pay off student loans will get $10,000 of relief to address a decades-old headache of massive educational debt across the country. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)
In this file photo, US President Joe Biden announces student loan relief on August 24, 2022 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)

 

US President Joe Biden on Monday condemned Russia’s missile strikes on Ukrainian cities, saying they “demonstrate the utter brutality” of Vladimir Putin’s “illegal war.”

“The United States strongly condemns Russia’s missile strikes today across Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement.

“These attacks killed and injured civilians and destroyed targets with no military purpose,” he said.

“They once again demonstrate the utter brutality of Mr. Putin’s illegal war on the Ukrainian people.”

The US president said the attacks “only further reinforce our commitment to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes.

READ ALSO: Biden Promises Zelensky Advanced Air Defense Systems

“Alongside our allies and partners, we will continue to impose costs on Russia for its aggression, hold Putin and Russia accountable for its atrocities and war crimes, and provide the support necessary for Ukrainian forces to defend their country and their freedom,” Biden said.

“We again call on Russia to end this unprovoked aggression immediately and remove its troops from Ukraine.”

Mass retaliatory strikes hit Ukraine nationwide on Monday, after Moscow blamed Kyiv for a blast on a bridge connecting Russia to Crimea, a peninsula Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

AFP

Biden Warns Of Nuclear ‘Armageddon’ After Russian Threats On Ukraine

US President Joe Biden announces student loan relief on August 24, 2022 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Biden announced that most US university graduates still trying to pay off student loans will get $10,000 of relief to address a decades-old headache of massive educational debt across the country. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)
In this file photo, US President Joe Biden announces student loan relief on August 24, 2022 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC.(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)

 

US President Joe Biden said Thursday the world is facing nuclear “Armageddon”, warning that Vladimir Putin may use his atomic arsenal as Russian troops struggle against a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

After Russia’s invasion eight months ago, Putin has made thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons if he feels he has run out of options in his bid to seize swaths of Ukrainian territory in the face of stiff resistance by Western-back Kyiv.

“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis” in 1962, Biden said Thursday in New York, adding that “we’re trying to figure out what is Putin’s off-ramp”.

While experts say any nuclear attacks would likely be relatively small, Biden warned that even a tactical strike in a limited area would still risk triggering a wider conflagration.

READ ALSODeadly Strikes Batter Ukraine City Of Zaporizhzhia

Putin is “not joking when he talks about the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons, because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming,” he said.

Ukraine’s proclaimed wins in the southern region of Kherson are the latest in a series of Russian defeats undermining the Kremlin’s claim to have annexed around 20 percent of Ukraine.

“More than (500 square kilometres) have been liberated from Russian occupiers in the Kherson region alone” since the start of October, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced late Thursday in his nightly address.

The recaptured territory was home to dozens of towns and villages that had been occupied by Russian forces for months, southern army command spokeswoman Natalia Gumeniuk said.

Kherson, a region with an estimated pre-war population of around one million people, was captured early and easily by Moscow’s troops after their invasion launched on February 24.

Russian-installed officials have renewed a call for residents to remain calm, with deputy pro-Moscow leader Kirill Stremousov saying Kremlin forces were holding back the advance.

But the Kremlin has pushed on — Russian missiles struck the central industrial city of Zaporizhzhia early on Thursday, killing several civilians. Rescue workers clawed through the rubble with their bare hands searching for survivors, AFP journalists saw.

Addressing a meeting in Prague of European heads of state, Zelensky called on Western capitals to supply his army with more weapons “to punish the aggressor”.

Ukraine must fend off Moscow’s invasion “so that Russian tanks do not advance on Warsaw or again on Prague”, he said.

 ‘Pure hatred’

The EU imposed its latest round of sanctions on Russia, expanding bans on trade and individuals over Moscow’s formal annexation last Friday of four Ukrainian regions.

The Russian foreign ministry said it had summoned the French ambassador to Moscow, pointing to the “threats posed” by the increased military support Paris offered to Kyiv.

On Thursday, just 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the artillery battles of the southern front, seven Russian missiles struck downtown Zaporizhzhia.

“The deaths of seven residents… have been confirmed and at least five more people are considered missing,” said Oleksandr Starukh, Zaporizhzhia’s regional governor.

“Currently the dismantling of the rubble continues.”

A woman, whose body was carefully removed from the rubble by rescuers, looked as though she had been asleep in bed when the building around her was destroyed.

“For the first time in my life, I feel pure hatred,” said Igor Osolodko, a 25-year-old musician, one of the dozens of volunteer rescuers.

Ukraine’s military has also said it is reclaiming territory in the eastern Lugansk and Donetsk regions, which have been partially controlled by Kremlin proxies since 2014.

Ukrainian forces have made gains on the west bank of the river Dniepr that cuts through Kherson, but the Russian military in a Thursday briefing said its forces rebuffed “repeated attempts to break through our defences” in the area.

Further west, on Ukraine’s contact line with Russian forces from the Mykolaiv region — where Kyiv’s forces had been hunched in foxholes for months and pounded by Russian artillery — the mood was shifting along with frontlines.

‘End of the tunnel’

Bogdan, 29, from northwest Ukraine who re-enlisted in the military this year, has spent most of the summer holding the line in Mykolaiv some four kilometres from the Russians.

“We see their successes and it inspires us,” he said of Ukrainian advances elsewhere in the country.

The Ukrainian push deeper into Kherson is putting further strain on the Kremlin’s announcement last week that it had annexed the territory — alongside three others — and that its residents were Russian “forever”.

The four territories — Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia — create a land corridor between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Together, the five regions make up around 20 percent of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russian forces of “deliberately striking civilians to sow fear”.

In Russia, opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza — jailed in April for denouncing the war — has been charged with high treason, his lawyer told the TASS news agency.

The UN nuclear agency chief was meanwhile in Kyiv to discuss creating a security zone around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia atomic plant — the largest in Europe — after Putin ordered his government to impound it.

Rafael Grossi said Thursday it was “obvious” the Russian-controlled plant belonged to Ukraine.

Shelling has hit its vicinity in recent months, with Ukraine and Russia blaming each other for the attacks that have raised fears of a nuclear disaster.

Grossi is visiting the Ukrainian capital ahead of a visit to Russia.

AFP

Ukraine Calls On Russia Troops To Lay Down Arms

In this file photo, Russian soldiers walk along a street in Mariupol on April 12, 2022, as Russian troops intensify a campaign to take the strategic port city, part of an anticipated massive onslaught across eastern Ukraine, while Russia’s President makes a defiant case for the war on Russia’s neighbour. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP)

 

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on Friday called on Russian troops to lay down their arms, promising them “life and safety.”

“You can still save Russia from tragedy and the Russian army from humiliation,” Reznikov said in Russian in a video addressed to Russian troops.

“We guarantee life, safety, and justice for all who refuse to fight immediately. And we will ensure a tribunal for those who gave criminal orders,” he promised.

“You have been deceived and betrayed” by the Kremlin, Reznikov said.

READ ALSO: Deadly Strikes Batter Ukraine City Of Zaporizhzhia

“It’s easier for them to tell you that you died heroically in a battle against imaginary NATO hordes. It is true that NATO countries are supplying us with weapons. But it is Ukrainian soldiers who are beating you with these weapons,” Reznikov said.

Reznikov said that “Ukrainian soldiers do not need Russian lands, we have enough of our own. And we are taking them all back.”

Ukrainian troops have been leading counter-offensives in the south and the east of the country in the past few weeks, clawing back large swathes of territory.

AFP

Putin Says War To ‘Stabilise’, Ukraine Presses Counterattack

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during a ceremony formally annexing four regions of Ukraine Russian troops occupy, at the Kremlin in Moscow on September 30, 2022. (Photo by Gavriil GRIGOROV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that he expected the situation to “stabilise” in Ukrainian regions annexed by the Kremlin after Moscow suffered military setbacks and lost several key towns to Kyiv.

He also ordered his government to seize control over Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in the Russian-controlled region of Zaporizhzhia, with IAEA head Rafael Grossi en route to Kyiv for consultations on the facility.

Ukraine earlier claimed victories over Russian troops in the eastern region of Lugansk, as the Kremlin vowed to recapture territory lost in a lightning Ukrainian counteroffensive.

In recent weeks, Ukraine’s forces — bolstered by Western weapons — have wrested Russian troops out of a string of towns and villages in the southern Kherson region and the eastern separatist strongholds of Lugansk and Donetsk.

And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky late Wednesday said his forces had recaptured three villages in the Kherson region from Russian troops.

“We are working on the assumption that the situation in the new territories will stabilise,” Putin told Russian teachers during a televised video call.

Just hours earlier, the Ukrainian-appointed head of Lugansk Sergiy Gaiday announced that the “de-occupation of the Lugansk region has already officially started”.

A senior Russian lawmaker called on military officials to tell the truth about developments on the ground in Ukraine following the string of bruising defeats.

“We need to stop lying,” the chairman of the lower house of parliament’s defence committee, Andrei Kartapolov, told a journalist from state-run media.

“The reports of the defence ministry do not change. The people know. Our people are not stupid. This can lead to loss of credibility.”

 Regions to be ‘Russian forever’

Putin on Wednesday signed into legislation his annexation of four Ukrainian territories — including Lugansk — as the European Union agreed a new round of sanctions against Moscow in response.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would take back land it lost to Kyiv within the annexed regions, vowing they would be “Russian forever and will not be returned”.

Putin initially inked agreements with the Moscow-installed leaders of the four regions to become subjects of the Russian Federation, despite condemnation from Kyiv and the West.

The four territories — Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia — create a land corridor between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Together, the five regions make up around 20 percent of Ukraine.

The Kremlin annexed the territories after hastily conducting referendums, denounced as void by Kyiv and its Western allies, but has yet to confirm what areas exactly of those regions are being annexed.

Russian forces do not have full control over Kherson or Zaporizhzhia and recently lost control of several settlements in Donetsk.

The latest battlefield maps from Moscow showed that Russian troops had left many areas in Kherson, including along the west bank of the Dnipro River.

‘Lived like rats’

In Kharkiv, the maps indicated that Moscow’s forces had almost entirely abandoned the east bank of the Oskil River, potentially giving the Ukrainians space to shell key Russian troop transportation and supply corridors.

While Russian authorities remain largely silent about the extent of the setbacks, war correspondents of pro-Kremlin media admitted that troops were in trouble.

“There won’t be any good news in the near future. Not from the Kherson front nor from Lugansk,” newspaper journalist Alexander Kots wrote on his Telegram channel with more than 640,000 followers.

In the town of Lyman, Ukrainian police officers were moving back into the station used until last week by the Russian occupation force.

“They lived like rats,” said the town’s police chief, Igor Ugnivenko, returning to his pre-invasion office and surveying the debris.

In front of the central administration building, queues of mainly elderly residents built up for two ambulances distributing meagre humanitarian aid.

“I don’t know if the situation is better or worse,” said 62-year- old Tatiana Slavuta of the town’s recapture by Ukrainian forces.

“All the shops are closed, we don’t have money, we don’t have light. Nothing.

“We don’t see any change,” she said before correcting herself and brightening.

 ‘Now there’s silence’

“At least now there’s silence — no shelling.”

Putin’s decision to wrest control of the Zaporizhzhia plant comes after months of tensions around the facility, with both sides blaming each other for strikes that had raised fears of a radiation disaster.

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden told Zelensky that another $625 million in military assistance was on the way.

The new batch includes more HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, which have allowed Ukraine to strike Russian command depots and arms stockpiles far behind the frontline.

In a powerful show of solidarity, Ukraine was added to the joint bid of Spain and Portugal to host the World Cup in 2030.

Zelensky called this “more than a symbol of faith in our joint victory”.

“Ukraine will endure, prevail and be rebuilt thanks to the solidarity of its partners,” Zelensky said on Twitter.

AFP

Swede Paabo Wins Nobel Medicine Prize For Sequencing Neanderthal DNA

In this collage, to the left, Member of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine Anna Wedell explains the research field of the winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Svante Paabo, who is captured on the right, in a photo from a 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

 

Swedish paleogeneticist Svante Paabo, who sequenced the genome of the Neanderthal and discovered the previously unknown hominin Denisova, on Monday won the Nobel Medicine Prize.

“By revealing genetic differences that distinguish all living humans from extinct hominins, his discoveries provide the basis for exploring what makes us uniquely human”, the Nobel committee said in a statement.

Paabo, director of the department of genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, found that gene transfer had occurred from these now extinct hominins to Homo sapiens following the migration out of Africa around 70,000 years ago.

“This ancient flow of genes to present-day humans has physiological relevance today, for example affecting how our immune system reacts to infections”, the jury said.

Covid-19 patients with a snippet of Neanderthal DNA run a higher risk of severe complications from the disease, Paabo reported in a 2020 study.

Paabo, 67, who takes home the award sum of 10 million Swedish kronor ($901,500), will receive the prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.

Last year, the Medicine Prize went to US pair David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for discoveries on receptors for temperature and touch, which have been used to develop treatments for a wide range of diseases and conditions, including chronic pain.

The Nobel season continues this week with the announcement of the winners of the Physics Prize on Tuesday and the Chemistry Prize on Wednesday.

They will be followed by the much-anticipated prizes for Literature on Thursday and Peace on Friday, while the Economics Prize winds things up on Monday, October 10.

Anti-Putin prizes?

For the Literature Prize on Thursday, literary critics told AFP they thought the Swedish Academy may go for a more mainstream author this year, after selecting lesser-known writers the past two years.

Last year, Tanzanian author Abdulrazak Gurnah won, while US poet Louise Gluck was crowned in 2020.

US novelist Joyce Carol Oates, France’s Annie Ernaux and Maryse Conde, Russia’s Lyudmila Ulitskaya and Canada’s Margaret Atwood have all been cited as potential laureates if the committee has its eyes on a woman.

Online betting sites however have France’s Michel Houellebecq as the favourite, ahead of British author Salman Rushdie, who was the victim of an attempted murder attack in August.

But it is the Peace Prize that is expected to hold special significance this year.

After Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov won the prize last year together with his Philippine colleague Maria Ressa in the name of freedom of expression, will the Norwegian Nobel Committee award another anti-Putin prize after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine?

Not since World War II has a conflict raged between two countries so close to Oslo.

The International Criminal Court, tasked with investigating war crimes in Ukraine, and the International Court of Justice — both based in The Hague — have been mentioned as possible laureates this year.

So have jailed Russian dissident Alexei Navalny and Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

If the committee were to focus on the climate crisis, experts tipped Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, possibly together with British environmentalist David Attenborough or other activists such as Sudan’s Nisreen Elsaim and Ghana’s Chibeze Ezekiel.

Putin Signs Accord To Annex Four Occupied Ukraine Regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during a ceremony formally annexing four regions of Ukraine that Russian troops occupy, at the Kremlin in Moscow on September 30, 2022. (Photo by Gavriil GRIGOROV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed treaties to annex four Moscow-occupied Ukrainian regions — Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia — at a grand ceremony in the Kremlin.

He then joined hands with the Moscow-installed heads of the regions on a stage in front of the Russian elite and chanted alongside them “Russia! Russia!”.Putin annexed the regions despite warnings from the West and the fact that Moscow’s forces do not control the entirety of the regions.

The long-time Russian leader said the people of the regions had made an “univocal choice” to join Russia after so-called referendums that Moscow organised.

“I want to say this to the Kyiv regime and its masters in the West: People living in the Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia (regions) are becoming our citizens forever,” he said.

READ ALSO: Attack Kills 25 In Ukraine Ahead Of Kremlin Annexation

The West and international organisations did not recognise the voting, which was organised after Russia seized the territories by force.

In a speech before signing the treaties, Putin demanded that Kyiv stop all military action.

“We call on the Kyiv regime to immediately stop fighting and stop all hostilities… and return to the negotiating table.”

Putin, who turns 70 next week, sent troops to Ukraine in February.

Last week, he announced a mobilisation to prop up Russian forces fighting in Ukraine who have suffered heavy losses in recent months.

AFP

Over 700 Detained In Russian Anti-Conscription Protests – NGO

Police officers detain a man in Moscow on September 24, 2022, following calls to protest against the partial mobilisation announced by the Russian President.  (Photo by AFP)

 

Russian authorities on Saturday detained more than 700 people at protests against the partial mobilisation ordered by President Vladimir Putin this week, according to an independent monitoring group.

Police monitoring group OVD-Info counted at least 726 people detained in 32 cities across Russia, nearly half of them in Moscow, at rallies following the partial mobilisation designed to bolster Russia’s operation in Ukraine.

There was a large police presence in the central areas of Chistye Prudy in Moscow, an AFP journalist witnessed.

Most protestors walked by or were standing still — individually or in small groups — to avoid being spotted and detained by the police.

READ ALSO: China, India Call For Negotiated Way Out Of Ukraine War

AFP saw police detaining about 20 people.

“We are not cannon fodder!” a woman shouted, while police officers took her away.

In Russia’s second biggest city of Saint Petersburg, AFP saw a police van with about 30 detainees.

Protesters in Saint Petersburg also tried to be discreet — police swept away anyone deemed suspect.

Ilya Frolov, 22, was holding a sign saying “peace”.

“I want to voice my opposition to what is happening… I don’t want to go to war for Putin,” he said.

“I’m against the war, and against mobilisation. I’m afraid for young people” said 70-year-old Natalya Dubova.

After Putin announced partial mobilisation on Wednesday, Russian authorities detained over 1,300 people.

AFP spoke to some of them, who said police gave them call-up papers in custody — ordering them to enlist in the very army they were denouncing.

The Kremlin defended the procedure on Thursday, saying “it isn’t against the law”.

Russian authorities have cracked down on criticism of the military operation in Ukraine, arresting thousands of protesters since the beginning of the conflict in February.

At Saturday’s protest in Saint Petersburg, police officers said through megaphones that protesters were “infringing covid rules.”

But on Friday, hundreds of people gathered without being stopped in Moscow and in Saint Petersburg, in a show of support for the offensive and the annexation of Russia-controlled areas.

AFP