Moscow-backed separatists in Kherson say they’ll hold referendum on joining Russia
People arrive to receive Russian passports at a center in Kherson, which is occupied by Russian forces. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decree to make it easier for residents of Kherson and Melitopol regions to get passports, in Kherson, Kherson Oblast, Ukraine on July 21, 2022.
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Moscow-backed officials in occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine say they’ll hold a referendum on joining Russia.
Volodymyr Saldo, the head of the Russian-backed administration of the Kherson region, said on Telegram Tuesday that ” the leadership of the Administration of the Kherson region decided to hold a referendum on the entry of the Kherson region into the Russian Federation.”
Pre-empting the result, Saldo said “I am sure that the leadership of the Russian Federation will accept the results of the referendum and the Kherson region will become a part of Russia, becoming a full-fledged subject of a united state.”
Saldo’s comments come as Ukraine’s counteroffensives in the northeast and south of the country prompt Russian-installed officials to try to organize referenda, with the aim of legitimizing Russia’s “defense” of such territory in the likely result of the majority of people voting to join Russia. Referenda in occupied parts of Ukraine are widely seen as illegitimate by the international community. Russia has already tried to “Russify” occupied parts of the country, such as by handing out Russian passports, as in the image above.
There was no mention of when such a vote in Kherson could take place.
Saldo said he was “sure that the entry of the Kherson region into the Russian Federation will secure our region, as well as open up new opportunities on the path to returning to peaceful life and become a triumph of historical justice.”
The Russian proxy leaders of two breakaway republics in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine also look likely to try to hold similar votes in Luhansk and Donetsk.
— Holly Ellyatt
Top Russian official says breakaway regions must hold votes to join Russia
Russia’s former president, Dmitry Medvedev, has said that it is “essential” for Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine to hold referenda on becoming a part of Russia.
Medvedev, now deputy chair of the Security Council of Russia, claimed that the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) would have their interests protected if they became a part of Russia.
“Referendums in the Donbas are essential, not only for the systematic protection of residents of the LPR, DPR and other liberated territories, but also for the restoration of historic justice,” Medvedev said in a message on Telegram.
“Encroachment on the territory of Russia is a crime, the commission of which allows you to use all the forces of self-defense,” Russia’s former president, Dmitry Medvedev.
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“After their implementation and the acceptance of new territories into Russia, the geopolitical transformation in the world will become irreversible,” he added, implying that becoming a part of Russia would enable Moscow to justify defending such territories, which are already seen as under Moscow’s control.
“Encroachment on the territory of Russia is a crime, the commission of which allows you to use all the forces of self-defense,” he said, adding “that is why these referendums are so feared in Kyiv and in the West. That is why they need to be carried out.”
Medvedev’s comments come after the separatist leaders of the DPR and LHR stepped up calls to hold immediate votes on joining Russia, calls that come as Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the northeast of the country starts to spread, putting pressure on the Luhansk, a region Russia claimed to have fully occupied in July.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russia likely to have relocated submarines away from Crimea
Russia has almost certainly relocated its Kilo-class submarines from their home port in Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea to southern Russia, according to the latest intelligence update from Britain’s Ministry of Defense.
“The command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has almost certainly relocated its KILO-class submarines from their home port of Sevastopol in Crimea to Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai, southern Russia,” the ministry said on Tuesday.
The Russian Navy’s Kilo-class submarine Rostov-na-Donu B-237 enters the Bosphorus Strait en route to the Black Sea on Feb. 13, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey.
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This is highly likely due to a heightened security threat level following an increased Ukrainian long-range strike capability, the ministry added, and following recent attacks on the fleet headquarters and its main naval aviation airfield.
“Guaranteeing the Black Sea Fleet’s Crimea basing was likely one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations for annexing the peninsula in 2014. Base security has now been directly undermined by Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine,” the ministry said.
— Holly Ellyatt
Battle to liberate occupied Luhansk proceeds as Russian proxies look worried
Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the northeast of the country continues, with the region of Luhansk believed to be no longer under the full control of Russian forces.
One Ukrainian official stated on Monday that Kyiv’s forces had retaken control of the village of Bilohorivka in Luhansk. Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said on Telegram on Mondat that Bilohorivka “has been cleared and is completely under the control of the Armed Forces.”
“We should all be patient in anticipation of the large-scale deoccupation of Luhansk region. This process will be much more difficult than in Kharkiv region. There will be a hard fight for every centimeter of Luhansk land. The enemy is preparing for defense,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities and their proxies appear to be worried about Ukraine’s gains in an area of the country where there are two self-proclaimed “republics” in Luhansk and Donetsk.
A photo taken on June 17, 2022, shows a destroyed school in the village of Bilohorivka not far from Lysychansk in the Luhansk region which was seized by Russian forces in early July.
Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images
Denis Pushilin, head of the Russia-backed separatist Donetsk region, called on his fellow separatist leader in Luhansk on Monday to combine efforts aimed at preparing a speedy referendum on joining Russia.
In a video posted on his telegram channel, he told Luhansk People’s Republic leader Leonid Pasechnik in a phone call that “our actions should be synchronized.”
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said the desire to hold a rapid referendum “suggests that Ukraine’s ongoing northern counter-offensive is panicking proxy forces and some Kremlin decision-makers.”
The ISW’s analysts said referenda would be “incoherent” as “Russian forces do not control all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.”
“Partial annexation at this stage would … place the Kremlin in the strange position of demanding that Ukrainian forces un-occupy ‘Russian’ territory, and the humiliating position of being unable to enforce that demand. It remains very unclear that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be willing to place himself in such a bind for the dubious benefit of making it easier to threaten NATO or Ukraine with escalation he remains highly unlikely to conduct at this stage,” they said.
— Holly Ellyatt
UK says it will match current support for Ukraine in 2023
The U.K.’s newly elected prime minister Liz Truss is expected to announce a multibillion-pound stimulus package to help people with soaring energy prices.
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The U.K. has announced that in 2023 it will meet or exceed the amount of military aid spent on Ukraine this year.
Britain’s Prime Minister Liz Truss is expected to announce during a visit to the United Nations in New York this week that leaders “must put an end to Putin’s economic blackmail by removing all energy dependence on Russia,” acording to a pre-released statement by the government.
Truss will use her visit to New York this week to solidify the U.K.’s “commitment to Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity, with the announcement that the UK will match or exceed our record 2022 military support to Ukraine next year,” the government said.
The U.K. said Ukraine’s gains in the conflict in the last couple of weeks amounted to “a significant moment in the war” and said this success is evidence of what the Ukrainian people can do with the backing of fellow democracies.
Missile strikes near Ukraine nuclear plant, IAEA says
A. Russian serviceman guards an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, May 1, 2022.
An explosion near a Ukraine power plant damaged windows and power lines but did not impact the operation of the three reactors there, Kyiv told the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday.
The blast from the shelling occurred about 300 meters, or 984 feet, from the industrial site of the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant in Mykolaiv Province, the IAEA said in a press release.
No staff were injured by the missile, which impacted three power lines that were swiftly reconnected, Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom told the IAEA.
Ukrainian authorities reportedly called the shelling an act of “nuclear terrorism” by Russia.
The IAEA also said its experts discovered that a power line used to supply electricity to another nuclear plant, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, had been disconnected Sunday.
Zaporizhzia, located in southeastern Ukraine, is Europe’s largest power plant, and has six reactors that are currently in a “cold shutdown state,” the IAEA said. The plant still receives the electricity it needs for essential safety functions, but it now does not have access to back-up power from the Ukrainian grid, the IAEA experts said.
The disconnected power line transferred electricity from the Ukrainian grid through the switchyard of a nearby thermal power station, the IAEA said. It was not immediately clear how the line was disconnected.
“The situation at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant remains fragile and precarious,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in the press release.
“Last week, we saw some improvements regarding its power supplies, but today we were informed about a new setback in this regard. The plant is located in the middle of a war zone, and its power status is far from safe and secure. Therefore, a nuclear safety and security protection zone must urgently be established there,” Grossi said.
— Kevin Breuninger
Putin relying increasingly on volunteer and proxy forces for Ukraine combat: ISW
Russia is relying more and more on volunteer and proxy forces for its combat operations in Ukraine, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
“(Russian President) Putin’s souring relationship with the military command and the Russian (MoD) may explain in part the Kremlin’s increasing focus on recruiting ill-prepared volunteers into ad-hoc irregular units rather than attempting to draw them into reserve or replacement pools for regular Russian combat units,” the ISW said.
Part of this, it said, is due to Putin “bypassing the Russian higher military command and Ministry of Defense (MoD) leadership throughout the summer and especially following the defeat around #Kharkiv Oblast.”
— Natasha Turak
Russian troops strike nuclear power plant; reactors still intact
Russian forces struck a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine in Monday’s early hours, but its three reactors are unharmed, Ukraine’s state nuclear energy company said.
The Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region is still functioning normally, Ukraine’s Energoatom said.
The attack, which cause a blast about 300 meters away from the reactors and caused damage to buildings at the plant, also reportedly hit a nearby hydroelectric power plant and transmission lines.
— Natasha Turak
War ‘not going too well’ for Russia, Gen. Milley says
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley at a news briefing at the Pentagon on July 20, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia.
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Things are not going so well for Russia in Ukraine at the moment, U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Warsaw, Poland. That could make Putin unpredictable and Western forces need to be vigilant, he added.
“The war is not going too well for Russia right now. So it’s incumbent upon all of us to maintain high states of readiness, alert,” Milley said. “In the conduct of war, you just don’t know with a high degree of certainty what will happen next.”
The general added that he wasn’t suggesting there was any increased threat to American troops stationed in Europe, but that readiness is paramount.
Russia’s operations in Ukraine have faced significant setbacks with the rapid counteroffensives in recent weeks that saw Ukrainian forces retake swathes of territory in the country’s northeast.
— Natasha Turak