The UN has said its investigators have concluded that Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine, including bombings of civilian areas, numerous executions, torture and horrific sexual violence. The team of three independent experts had launched initial investigations looking at the areas of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, where they were “struck by the large number of executions in the areas that we visited”, and the frequent “visible signs of executions on bodies, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head and slit throats”.
Long lines of vehicles continued to form at Russia’s border crossings on the second day full day of Vladimir Putin’s military mobilisation. The president’s announcement of the first mobilisation since the second world war has led to a rush among men of military age to leave the country, with some men waiting more than 24 hours or resorting to using bicycles and scooters to skip the miles-long queue of traffic jams. Traffic into Finland across its south-eastern border with Russia continues to be busy, the Finnish border force said.
Finnish ministers on Friday evening announced that the government would prohibit Russian tourists from crossing its borders over the next few days. “The aspiration and purpose is to significantly reduce the number of people coming to Finland from Russia,” president Sauli Niinistö told state broadcaster Yle.
The United States is prepared to impose additional economic costs on Russia in conjunction with American allies if Russia moves forward with Ukraine annexation, the White House said on Friday. Russia has been planning what the US has described as sham referendums in portions of eastern Ukraine in what is seen as a step toward annexing these territories.
So-called referendums are under way in areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops, with residents told to vote on proposals for the four Ukrainian regions to declare independence and then join Russia. The polls in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces are due to run until Tuesday and appear to be a thin attempt to provide cover for illegal annexation of the regions by Moscow.
Some residents are ignoring the vote, Andriy Yusov, a Ukrainian defence intelligence official, told CNN.Ukraine’s state security service has claimed the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, held by Russian-backed separatists, planned to allow teenagers aged under 18 to cast their votes.
The “referendums” have been widely condemned in the west as illegitimate. Britain’s ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, described the “sham referenda” as “a media exercise” by Russia, for whom the outcomes have been “almost certainly already decided”. Nato described the “referendums” as Moscow’s “blatant attempts at territorial conquest” and said they have no legitimacy. G7 leaders said they would never recognise the “sham” referendums in a joint statement.
Ukraine said on Friday it had shot down four Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones used by Russia’s armed forces, prompting president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to complain that Tehran was harming Ukrainian citizens. Ukraine and the US have accused Iran of supplying drones to Russia, something Tehran has denied. Zelenskiy had asked his foreign ministry to respond to the use of Iranian equipment, spokesperson Serhii Nykyforov said.
Russia will continue its communication with the United Nations about a deal to export grain from Ukrainian ports but says concrete results are needed, Tass news agency cited a senior official as saying on Friday. It also cited the deputy foreign minister, Sergei Vershinin, as saying Russia had a positive assessment of the UN’s efforts to resume the export of Russian fertilisers.
Ukraine’s armed forces said it has liberated another settlement in the Donetsk region and improved their positions around the eastern town of Bakhmut. The village of Yatskivka in Donetsk region is now in Ukrainian hands, according to Oleksii Hromov, deputy head of the operations directorate of the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces.
China’s foreign minister has told his Ukrainian counterpart that the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected”. The meeting between Wang Yi and Dmytro Kuleba took place on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York, and was the first since Russia invaded Ukraine. Kuleba said Wang had “reaffirmed China’s respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.