Here is the situation as it stands on Friday, September 30.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin took the intermediary step of signing decrees declaring the “independence” of the partially occupied Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia.
- The two regions are set to be incorporated into Russia along with the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk at a lavish ceremony in the Kremlin.
- Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the president would sign the accession documents in an ornate Kremlin hall and give a speech. A pop concert is planned on Red Square.
- The United Nations chief said on Thursday the annexation of the Ukrainian regions would be a “dangerous escalation”.
- “Any decision to proceed with the annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions of Ukraine would have no legal value and deserve to be condemned,” Antonio Guterres told reporters.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised a strong response to the annexations and summoned his defense and security chiefs for an emergency meeting.
- In the United States, Democratic and Republican lawmakers denounced the annexation plan and said they wanted to continue the flow of money and weapons to Ukraine.
- More than half of Russians felt fearful or anxious after hearing that the Kremlin was drafting hundreds of thousands of people to fight in Ukraine, according to a poll released by the independent Levada Centre.
- Russian billionaire leg Deripaska was charged with violating US sanctions imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine, federal prosecutors said.
- Separately, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed an eighth package of sanctions against Russia. It includes punitive measures on trade and Russian oil.
- “We propose sweeping new import bans on Russian products. This will keep Russian products out of the European market and deprive Russia of an additional 7 billion euros [$6bn] in prescriptions,” von der Leyen said.
- Finland has closed its border to Russian tourists following a surge in arrivals after Moscow’s recent mobilization order. From Friday, Russian tourists holding a European Union Schengen visa will not be allowed in the country unless they enter for work, study and family visits.
- The cause of the damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines under the Baltic Sea – built to carry Russian gas to Europe, though already shut – has not yet been found. Sweden’s coastguard said it found a fourth leak.
- Western countries said the pipelines were sabotaged while stopping short of openly ascribing blame. Russia, which has denied involvement, said it looked like acts of state-sponsored “terrorism” and that the United States stood to gain. Washington has denied any involvement.
- US defense chief Lloyd Austin said it was too soon to speculate who might have been behind the pipeline ruptures.
- The NATO military alliance also called the pipeline leaks sabotage and said it would respond robustly to any deliberate attempt to target the infrastructure of its members.