More than 730 people were detained across Russia at the latest protests against the country’s mobilisation decree, a rights group said, three days after president Vladimir Putin ordered the country’s first military draft since the second world war. The independent OVD-Info protest monitoring group said it was aware of detentions in 32 cities, from St Petersburg to Siberia. Unsanctioned rallies are illegal under Russian law, which also forbids any activity considered to defame the armed forces.
A new law signed by Putin says Russian troops who refuse to fight, desert, disobey or surrender to the enemy could now face a jail sentence of up to 10 years, according to Russian media reports. The law was approved by the parliament during the week.
Russia’s deputy defence minister, Dmitry Bulgakov, has been dismissed from his post. Bulgakov, who has been in charge of military logistics since the beginning of the Ukraine invasion, has been replaced by Col Gen Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of the National Defence Management Centre, who oversaw Russia’s siege of Mariupol.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, addressed the UN general assembly on Saturday, casting opposition to Russia’s assault on its neighbour as limited to Washington and countries under its sway. “The official Russophobia in the west is unprecedented. Now the scope is grotesque,” Lavrov told the general assembly. He criticised the west for not engaging with Russia, saying: “We have never stepped away from maintaining contact.”
Lavrov, in a news conference following his speech to the assembly in New York, said the Ukrainian regions where votes were under way would be under Moscow’s “full protection” if they were annexed by Russia, including with nuclear weapons.
The so-called referendums are under way in in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops, with residents told to vote on proposals to declare independence and then join Russia. The polls are due to run until Tuesday.
China’s foreign minister says it supports all efforts conducive to the peaceful resolution of the “crisis” in Ukraine. Wang Yi told the United Nations general assembly on Saturday that the pressing priority was to facilitate talks for peace, Reuters reported.
Iran regrets Ukraine’s decision to downgrade diplomatic ties, its foreign ministry says. A statement said Iran’s ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, had “advised” Ukraine to “refrain from being influenced by third parties who seek to destroy relations between the two countries”. It came after Ukraine stripped Iran’s ambassador of his accreditation over what it called Tehran’s “unfriendly” decision to supply Russian forces with drones.
The queue at the border between Russia and Georgia is about 10km (six miles) long, where people have reportedly been waiting more than 20 hours to cross. The number of border crossings from Russia into Finland has doubled in recent days compared with last week.
Kyiv and Moscow traded blame for shelling in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region on Saturday. Regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said on Telegram that Russian forces launched “a massive missile strike” on the region from about 10 planes, wounding at least three people. Russia’s RIA state news agency, citing unnamed sources, said Ukrainian forces shelled a granary and fertiliser warehouses in the region. Reuters was unable to verify either side’s claims.
Two civilians were killed in attacks in Ukraine’s Donetsk region on Friday and three were injured, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk oblast. Russian forces also shelled settlements near the Russian border. In the Kupyan district, five people were injured from shelling, including two children, aged 10 and 17.
Russian authorities in the occupied regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson have allegedly started handing out draft notices and mobilising men of conscription age who “renounced Ukrainian citizenship and received passports of the Russian federation”, according to Ukraine’s ministry of defence.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Ukrainians in occupied territory to hide from Russian mobilisation, avoid conscription letters and get to Ukraine-held territory. However, if they ended up in the Russian military, Zelenskiy asked people to save their lives and help liberate Ukraine.
Russian forces are probably trying to attack dams in Ukraine in order to flood Ukrainian military crossing points amid Russian concerns about battlefield setbacks, the latest UK Ministry of Defence briefing said. The strikes were “unlikely to have caused significant disruption to Ukrainian operations due to the distance between the damaged dams and the combat areas”, it said.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report