Ukraine: Zelenskyy urges Russians to resist mobilization
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday urged the Russians to resist the Kremlin’s announced mobilization amid a refusal to fight in Ukraine as part of the population fled the country.
Under fire from international criticism, Russia also found itself in the dock at the Security Council when it was held accountable for its invasion of Ukraine the day after it announced the immediate mobilization of 300,000 reservists, accompanied by threats to resort to nuclear weapons by Vladimir Putin.
“55,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in this war in six months (…) Do you want more? No? So protest! Fight! flee! “These are your options for survival.”
“They are already complicit in all crimes (by the Russian army), murders and torture to which Ukrainians are victims. Because you are silent. Because you are still silent,” Mr. Zelenskyy accused.
And to confirm that the Russian authorities are preparing to mobilize “up to a million men.”
On the diplomatic front, it was US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who led the charge in the Security Council and refused to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
“We cannot let President Putin get away,” he said at the meeting convened by the French presidency.
Mr. Lavrov, who was present in the council chamber, where he also made a speech, did not sit at the same table as the other ministers, but was replaced by a deputy.
“He doesn’t want to hear anything,” said Brit James Cleverly.
Mr Blinken took the opportunity to denounce the recent escalation, including the holding of annexation referendums in Ukrainian areas under Russian control.
“For President Putin to vote this week, as most world leaders gather at the UN, to add fuel to the fire he has started shows his utter disregard for the UN Charter,” he said.
In Russia, the announcement of the mobilization led to an influx of Russians wanting to leave the country, no figures are available.
A person who had crossed Mongolia told AFP on condition of anonymity that he had to wait “12 hours” to cross the border by car.
Finnish border guards say they are seeing an increase in crossings, but it remains moderate. Russians need visas to get there.
While Poland and the Baltic states have taken measures to drastically limit Russian entry into their territories in recent weeks, Germany on Thursday agreed to take in deserters from the Russian army who “are at risk of severe reprisals”.
“Anyone who courageously opposes Putin and thus puts themselves in great danger can apply for political asylum in Germany,” said Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.
Upon arrival at Yerevan airport in Armenia, Russians interviewed by AFP admitted fleeing mobilization. Dmitri, 45, carries a small bag and says he left his wife and children behind.
“I don’t want to die in this senseless war. It’s a fratricidal war,” he said on condition of anonymity.
The day before, more than 1,300 people had been arrested at improvised anti-mobilization demonstrations across Russia, according to the NGO OVD-Info.
The Kremlin denied the extent of the departures, a “greatly exaggerated” phenomenon.
– “sham” referendums –
From Friday to Tuesday, four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine controlled in whole or in part by Moscow will take part in elections organized in an emergency to be annexed by Russia, “simulacra” of referendums denounced in the West . China, which is close to Moscow, has voiced criticism and called for respect for states’ territorial integrity.
“Voting starts tomorrow and nothing can prevent it,” Vladimir Saldo, head of the occupation administration for the Kherson region in southern Ukraine, told Russian television.
The electoral body of pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk in the east said the election would be held almost door-to-door “in front of the houses” for four days “for security reasons”, with polling stations not opening until “the last day”, that is September 27th.
Former Russian President and number two on the country’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, told him via telegram that the separatist regions of Lugansk and Donetsk (east), which make up the Donbass basin, and Kherson and Zaporizhia (south), “will integrate Russia “.
He added that his country was ready for a nuclear strike, stressing that “Russian hypersonic missiles can reach their targets in Europe and the United States much faster” than Western weapons.
– “It’s not a bluff” –
Vladimir Putin said in an address to the nation on Wednesday that he was ready to use “any means” against the West, which he accused of wanting to “destroy” Russia. “It’s not a bluff,” he blurted out.
Moscow, therefore, unsurprisingly remains deaf to criticism, beginning with that of American Joe Biden, who insisted on Wednesday before the United Nations General Assembly that Putin’s war is “destroying Ukraine’s right to exist.”
After him, Mr. Zelensky called on the world to “punish” Russia.
Rockets continued to rain down on the ground, with nine rockets hitting the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporijjia (south), among others, hitting a hotel in particular, killing at least one person.
Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk accused Kyiv of shooting at a market, killing seven people.
In addition, Ukraine and Russia on Wednesday carried out the largest exchange of military prisoners since the Russian invasion began in late February.
Kyiv has apprehended 10 foreigners and 205 Ukrainians, including defense chiefs at the Azovstal Steelworks in the city of Mariupol, a symbol of resistance to the Russian invasion.
In return, Moscow received 55 Russians and a former Ukrainian MP Viktor Medvedchuk, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A senior Ukrainian official claimed that “many” of the freed Ukrainians were “brutally tortured” in captivity.
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