President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party on Wednesday proposed holding referendums on November 4 to annex territories taken by Moscow’s forces in Ukraine. The move came as the IAEA called for the immediate establishment of a security zone around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant amid continued shelling around Europe’s largest nuclear facility. Follow FRANCE 24’s liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).


5:20pm: Putin touts Asia pivot in threat to the West

FRANCE 24’s regional correspondent Nick Holdsworth has more on Vladimir Putin‘s comments earlier today threatening to cut gas and oil deliveries to Western countries that impose a price cap on supplies from Russia.

Speaking at an economic forum earlier today, Putin sought to pivot towards allies in Asia, the Middle East and Africa as his country faces a barrage of Western sanctions.

Holdsworth summed up the Russian leader’s pitch: “What Putin is saying is, ‘Okay, you in the West want to put the squeeze on us. Well we just won’t sell you anything that you need. You got to get through a very tough, cold winter, and we’ve got new partners here on our doorstep in the far east of Russia that we can deal with, we can trade with, we can work with’.”

4:55pm: Russia’s ruling party proposes Nov. 4 annexation votes for occupied Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party has proposed holding referendums on November 4 to annex territories taken by Moscow’s forces in Ukraine.

“It would be right and symbolic” to hold the votes on November 4, Russia’s Day of National Unity, party secretary general Andrey Turchak said on its website.

After the votes, he said, “Donetsk, Lugansk and many other Russian cities will finally return to their home port. And the Russian world, now divided by formal borders, will regain its integrity.”

2:50pm: West is provoking Russia, says Turkey’s Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the West of staging “provocations” against Russia, saying he understands Moscow’s decision to cut off natural gas supplies to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline.

“I can say very clearly that I do not find the attitude of the West – no need to mention names – to be correct, because it is a policy based on provocations,” Erdogan told reporters on a visit to Belgrade. “As long as you try to wage such a war of provocations, you will not be able to get the needed result.”

Erdogan has maintained good working relations with Russia’s Vladimir Putin while trying to stay neutral in the conflict and supplying Ukraine with weapons and combat drones. He has tried to use his open relations with both Moscow and Kyiv to try to broker talks.

“As Turkey, we have always maintained a policy of balance between Ukraine and Russia. From now on, we will continue to follow that balanced policy,” he said.

2:03pm: Vladimir Putin calls Truss appointment ‘undemocratic’

Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the way British leaders are chosen is “far from democratic”, a day after Liz Truss was appointed prime minister in a vote by Conservative Party members.

“The people of Great Britain don’t take part, in this instance, in the change of government. The ruling elites there have their arrangements,” he told an economic forum in Vladivostok.

11:44am: Moscow will not deliver oil and gas to countries that introduce price caps, warns Vladimir Putin

Russia will stop delivering oil and gas supplies to countries that introduce price caps, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

Capping prices, as some Western countries are considering, “would be an absolutely stupid decision”, Putin told the Eastern Economic Forum in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

“We will not supply anything at all if it is contrary to our interests, in this case economic (interests),” he said. “No gas, no oil, no coal, no fuel oil, nothing.”

10:35am: Vladimir Putin denies that Russia is using energy as a ‘weapon’ against Europe

The Russian president denied that Moscow was using energy as a “weapon” against Europe, days after Russian gas supplies via the Nord Stream pipeline were halted.

“(Westerners) say that Russia uses energy as a weapon. More nonsense! What weapon do we use? We supply as much as required according to requests” made by importing countries, he said at the economic forum in Vladivostok.

9:05am: It is ‘impossible’ to isolate Russia, says Putin 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called Western sanctions against his country a danger to the whole world and showed their lack of vision. 

Speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, in southeastern Russia, Putin said the West had undermined the global economy with its “aggressive” attempts to impose its dominance on the world, while failing to stem the Asia-Pacific region’s rise.

“No matter how much someone would like to isolate Russia, it is impossible to do this,” said the Russian president. The coronavirus “epidemic has been replaced by other challenges, also of a global nature, threatening the whole world. I mean the sanctions fever in the West”, he added.

He also hailed the “increased role” played by the Asia-Pacific region in world affairs, in contrast to a West he portrayed as in decline. “The role … of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region has significantly increased,” said the leader, who is due to hold talks with Asian leaders and senior officials.

8:54am: Moscow wants ‘clarifications’ on UN’s Ukraine nuclear plant report

Russia has requested “clarifications” from the UN nuclear watchdog over its report on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.   

“There is a need to get additional clarifications because the report contains a number of issues. I will not list them but we requested these clarifications from the IAEA Director General,” Lavrov told Interfax, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

10:22pm: Zelensky speaks to Truss, invites new British PM to Ukraine

Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in her first call with a foreign leader where he invited her to Ukraine.

“I became the 1st foreign leader to have a conversation with the newly elected PM @trussliz,” Zelensky said on Twitter.

“Thanked (British) people for the major defense & economic aid for (Ukraine). It’s important that (the UK) is ready to further strengthen it.”

Zelensky also said he invited Truss to Ukraine.

In a statement released later, the British prime minister’s office said Truss accepted Zelensky’s invitation to visit Ukraine.

9:36pm: Russia ‘regrets’ IAEA report on Zaporizhzhia plant did not blame Ukraine: UN envoy

Russia on Tuesday voiced regret that a report by the UN nuclear watchdog warning of risks at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia plant did not blame Kyiv for shelling the Moscow-occupied site.

“We regret that in your report… the source of the shelling is not directly named,” Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya told a Security Council session attended virtually by Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

7:49pm: IAEA recommends improved staff conditions, off-site power

In addition to the call for a security zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the IAEA report has made a number of recommendations.

These include improving the work conditions of the Ukrainian staff working at the Russian-held plant in Ukraine.

“Ukrainian staff operating the plant under Russian military occupation are under constant high stress and pressure, especially with the limited staff available. This is not sustainable and could lead to increased human error with implications for nuclear safety,” said the report. Staff “must be able to carry out their important duties without threats or pressure undermining not only their own safety but also that of the facility itself, and any support required to ensure the health of the staff and their families must be provided”.

The IAEA has also called for off-site power supply to maintain the security systems in the plant. Noting that the Zaporizhzhia plant had, “on several” lost off-site power supply “as a result of military activities”, the UN group recommended that the off-site power supply line “should be re-established and available at any time”.

4:50pm: IAEA calls for ‘security’ zone at Zaporizhzhia plant

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has released its much-awaited report on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The 50-page report calls for the immediate establishment of a security zone to enable inspectors to monitor the current situation at the plant, which the IAEA called “untenable”.

The report also recommended that the conditions of the Ukrainian staff operating the plant should be improved.

“Ukrainian staff operating the plant under Russian military occupation are under constant high stress and pressure, especially with the limited staff available,” said the IAEA. “This is not sustainable and could lead to increased human error with implications for nuclear safety.”

3:34pm: Putin watches military drills with China

President Vladimir Putin attended large-scale military exercises on Tuesday involving China and several Russia-friendly countries, as Moscow seeks to strengthen partnerships in Asia in the face of Western sanctions.

Slapped with unprecedented sanctions from Washington and Brussels over the war in Ukraine, Putin has pursued closer ties with countries in Africa, South America and Asia — especially China.

The Russian president on Tuesday attended the Vostok-2022 manoeuvres that are being held in training grounds in Russia Far East and in the waters off its eastern coast, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told local news agencies.

The drills, involving several of Russia’s neighbours, as well as Syria, India and key ally China, started on September 1 and are due to end Wednesday.

According to Moscow, over 50,000 soldiers and more than 5,000 units of military equipment, including 140 aircraft and 60 ships, were to be involved in the drills.

Similar drills were last held in 2018.

11:43am: Russia says West not honouring commitments of UN-brokered grain deal 

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that the West was not honouring its promise to help Russian food exports reach global markets, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Lavrov said the West had not relaxed sanctions that would allow it easier access to ship its agricultural products abroad.

Moscow saw the commitment as a key part of a landmark grain deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, which helped end a blockade on Ukrainian grain exports from its southern ports and ease a looming global food crisis.

9:22am: Russian missile attack kills three civilians in Kharkiv region: regional governor

Three people died as a result of rocket fire in the Kharkiv region during the past day, the region’s governor said on Tuesday.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is close to the Russian border and has been under constant shelling throughout the Russian invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

“In the Industrial district, a two-story building was damaged and a private residential building, in which a 73-year-old woman was staying, was destroyed. Unfortunately, she died,” governor Oleh Synehubov wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Two men died amid shelling in the village of Zolochiv, north of Kharkiv.

Tuesday morning, an air raid alert was issued throughout Ukraine and the authorities reported explosions in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians.

8:33am: Russia says UK ties unlikely to improve under Truss

Russia is not expecting any changes to its frosty relations with Britain under new prime minister Liz Truss, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

“Judging by statements made by Madame Truss when she was still foreign minister… one can say with much certainty that no changes for the better are expected,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by the state TASS agency.

Under outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Britain was one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters following the start of Moscow’s offensive in the former Soviet republic.

Truss, who is due to formally take over the premiership on Tuesday, is expected to continue the policy of forcefully confronting Russia. 

5:09am: IAEA says Zaporizhzhia plant has enough power to operate safely, will brief Security Council later today

Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of risking nuclear disaster by shelling near Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which officials said disrupted power lines on Monday and took the sole remaining reactor offline.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), citing information supplied from Ukraine, said the plant’s backup power line had been cut to extinguish a fire but that the line itself was not damaged and would be reconnected.

The UN nuclear watchdog said the plant had enough electricity to operate safely and would be reconnected to the grid once backup power was restored.

The IAEA’s presence at the plant was reduced to two staff members from six on Monday. IAEA chief Rafael Grossi will issue a report on Ukraine, including the plant, on Tuesday and then brief the UN Security Council, the IAEA said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday warned of a near “radiation catastrophe” and said the shelling showed Russia “does not care what the IAEA will say”.

04:56am: Russia is buying artillery ammunition from North Korea: US intelligence

US intelligence has assessed that Moscow is buying artillery ammunition from North Korea, the New York Times reported, on the heels of reports that the Russian military has begun using Iranian-made drones.

US government officials told the Times that the purchases showed sanctions had begun to bite and reduce Russia’s ability to sustain its invasion of Ukraine.

The Times report on Monday said the recently declassified intelligence provided no details about what was purchased, beyond saying that the items included artillery shells and rockets. Russia was expected to buy more such gear, the Times reported.

Last month, a US official told Reuters that Russia’s Iranian-made drones had suffered “numerous failures”. The official said Russia most likely planned to acquire hundreds of Mohajer-6 and Shahed-series unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Officials have said Western sanctions are limiting Russia’s ability to replace vehicles and weapons destroyed in Ukraine.

02:28am: Biden says Russia should not be branded state sponsor of terrorism

US President Joe Biden on Monday said Russia should not be designated a state sponsor of terrorism, a label Ukraine has pushed for amid Russia’s ongoing invasion while Moscow has warned it would rupture US-Russian ties.

Asked if Russia should be designated a state sponsor of terrorism, Biden told reporters at the White House: “No.” Some US lawmakers have also pressed for the designation.

Read more analysis on the war in Ukraine
Read more analysis on the war in Ukraine © Studio graphique France Médias Monde


(FRANCE 24 with Reuters, AP and AFP)