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Russia-Ukraine war: unclear if Russian forces have ‘reserves or morale’ to defend Luhansk, says UK – live | Ukraine

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Russia may not have reserves to withstand counter-offensive in Luhansk

Russia is likely to stubbornly defend the Luhansk oblast in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region amid Kyiv’s counteroffensive, but it is unclear if Moscow’s forces have “sufficient reserves or adequate morale” to withstand another concerted Ukrainian assault, the UK ministry of defence says.

Its latest intelligence briefing says:

Any substantial loss of territory in Luhansk will unambiguously undermine Russia’s strategy.

The assessment comes after Ukrainian forces recently recaptured more than 6,000 sq km of territory including the city of Izium, long regarded as the gateway to the Donbas.

Key events

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the democratic opposition in Belarus, writes for us that she lost a rigged election in Belarus – only the west can help us win freedom from Russia:

Peat bogs span almost 15% of my home country of Belarus. But, in recent times, citizens have grown wary of these dense, acidic wetlands.

Their decaying vegetative matter is a valuable source of fuel and, after decades of being gradually drained and stripped away, the drying marshes that remain pose a significant fire risk. Smouldering underground fires can burn for months unseen before bursting out into the open and wreaking devastation.

Much like these underground peat fires that grow shielded from view, democracy in Belarus is currently burning and President Alexander Lukashenko’s corrupt, despotic regime is the decaying marshland, tinder-dry and ripe for destruction.

Read more here: I lost a rigged election in Belarus – only the west can help us win freedom from Russia

President Zelenskiy’s senior adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, has urged European countries to provide Ukraine with “modern and effective” missile defence systems.

His tweet comes after Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow could ramp up its strikes on the country’s vital infrastructure if Ukrainian forces target facilities in Russia.

Western countries have many modern and effective missile/air defense systems. But missiles do not fly over Paris, Rome or Berlin. They fly over 🇺🇦 cities. Maybe it is time to protect civilians and critical infrastructure? Or will we wait for a large-scale man-made disaster?

— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) September 17, 2022

Dan Sabbagh

Our colleague Dan Sabbagh writes that Ukraine depends on morale and Russia on mercenaries. It could decide the war:

The Ukrainian video begins with the Dunkirk beach scene from the film Atonement, the soldiers’ stirring rendition of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.

Until it transitions to several hundred Ukrainian troops, singing the country’s national anthem in the open air, ahead of last week’s successful Kharkiv offensive.

Life may be trying to imitate art, but in this case there is no clearer demonstration of Ukrainian national morale as the war heads towards the end of its seventh month.

The unprovoked attack by their larger neighbour has unleashed a patriotic mobilisation that is having a transformational effect on the battlefield.

Read more of Dan Sabbagh’s analysis here: Ukraine depends on morale and Russia on mercenaries. It could decide the war

In case you missed it on Friday, Ukrainian authorities say they have found a mass burial site of more than 440 bodies in the eastern city of Izium that was recaptured from Russian forces.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has likened the discovery to what had happened in Bucha, saying: “Russia leaves death everywhere, and must be responsible for it.”

Russia has repeatedly denied it targets civilians or has committed war crimes

Ukraine says it has discovered mass burial site with 400 bodies in recaptured city – video

President Biden warns Putin not to use chemical or tactical weapons

Joe Biden has warned Vladimir Putin not to use chemical or tactical nuclear weapons in the war with Ukraine.

The US president was asked in an interview with CBS News what he would say to Putin if he was considering using the weapons.

Biden said:

Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. You will change the face of war unlike anything since World War II.

The US president refused to elaborate on what the US would do if Putin did take things that far.

He added:

They’ll become more of a pariah in the world than they ever have been. And depending on the extent of what they do will determine what response would occur.

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday, September 16, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday he had spoken to Nike Inc and thanked the US sport manufacturer for making what he called the “right decision” to pull out of Russia.

“This is an example of how business can play a significant role in protecting humanity and freedom,” Reuters reported the Ukrainian president as saying in his nightly video address.

If a state chooses the path of terror, it is the duty of every self-respecting company to distance itself from such a state.

Nike told Reuters in June that it was making a full exit from Russia.

Ukraine’s foreign minister has renewed criticism of Germany for failing to send tanks to help fight Russian forces, saying the new weapons pledged by Berlin were “not what we need most”.

Berlin announced on Thursday it would send Kyiv more multiple rocket launchers and “Dingo” armoured troop-carriers as Ukraine’s troops carry out a counteroffensive against Moscow’s forces.

But Agence France-Presse reported the foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, as saying Germany’s decisions were a “mystery” and that there was a “weapon wall” in Berlin that the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, had to tear down.

Kuleba said in an interview with German newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, published online:

We ask for Leopard tanks and Marder [armoured vehicles] and Germany supplies armoured vehicles of the Dingo type

We are grateful for them. But that is not what we need most in combat … What is the problem? Why can’t we get what we need, and what Germany has?

Germany has sent a raft of different armaments to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February but has so far refused to transfer Leopards and Marders, despite repeated requests from Kyiv.

Russia may not have reserves to withstand counter-offensive in Luhansk

Russia is likely to stubbornly defend the Luhansk oblast in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region amid Kyiv’s counteroffensive, but it is unclear if Moscow’s forces have “sufficient reserves or adequate morale” to withstand another concerted Ukrainian assault, the UK ministry of defence says.

Its latest intelligence briefing says:

Any substantial loss of territory in Luhansk will unambiguously undermine Russia’s strategy.

The assessment comes after Ukrainian forces recently recaptured more than 6,000 sq km of territory including the city of Izium, long regarded as the gateway to the Donbas.

Mexico will present a peace plan for Ukraine to the United Nations general assembly next week, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says.

Agence France-Presse reports that the proposal is for Pope Francis, the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, and the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, to form a dialogue and peace committee.

Lopez Obrador said in a speech marking Mexican Independence Day:

It’s a matter of urgently seeking an agreement to stop the war in Ukraine.

The peacemaking mission should immediately seek a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine and the start of direct talks with Ukranian president Zelensky and Russian president Putin.

Lopez Obrador, whose country is a non-permanent member of the UN security council, criticised the UN for being “inactive” in the face of the conflict.

He said his foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, would present the proposal to the UN general assembly in New York, which will be addressed by about 150 heads of state and government.

Putin warns Russia could intensify attacks on Ukraine infrastructure

Vladimir Putin has vowed to continue his attack on Ukraine despite Kyiv’s latest counteroffensive and warned that Moscow could ramp up its strikes on the country’s vital infrastructure if Ukrainian forces target facilities in Russia.

Associated Press reported that the Russian president said the “liberation” of Ukraine’s entire eastern Donbas region remained Russia’s main military goal and that he saw no need to revise it.

Speaking to reporters on Friday after attending a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Putin said:

We aren’t in a rush.

The Russian leader added that Moscow has only deployed volunteer soldiers to fight in Ukraine.

Russia pulled back its forces from large swaths of north-eastern Ukraine last week after a swift Ukrainian counteroffensive. In his first comment on the Ukrainian advance, Putin said: “Let’s see how it develops and how it ends.”

He said Ukraine had tried to strike civilian infrastructure in Russia and “we so far have responded with restraint, but just yet””.

If the situation develops this way, our response will be more serious.

“Just recently, the Russian armed forces have delivered a couple of impactful strikes,” he said, in an apparent reference to Russian attacks earlier this week on power plants in northern Ukraine and a dam in the south.

Let’s consider those as warning strikes.

Vladimir Putin gestures to reporters after the summit in Uzbekistan
Vladimir Putin talks to media after the summit in Uzbekistan. Photograph: Sergei Bobylev/AP

Summary

Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s continuing live coverage of the war in Ukraine. These are the latest developments as it approaches 9.30am in Kyiv.

  • United Nations member states have voted to make an exception to allow Volodymyr Zelenskiy to address next week’s general assembly by video, despite Russian opposition. Of the 193 member states, 101 voted on Friday in favour of allowing the Ukrainian president to “present a pre-recorded statement” instead of in-person as usually required. Seven members voted against the proposal, including Russia. Nineteen states abstained.

  • Virtually all the exhumed bodies in Izium had signs of violent death, Ukraine’s regional administration chief said of the mass burial site discovered after Kyiv’s forces recaptured the east Ukrainian town. Exhumers had uncovered several bodies with their hands tied behind their backs, and one “with a rope around his neck”, Oleg Synegubov, head of Kharkiv regional administration, said on Friday. “Among the bodies that were exhumed today, 99% showed signs of violent death,” he said on social media.

  • The European Union was “deeply shocked” at the mass graves discovered by Ukrainian officials in Izium, said the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. “We condemn these atrocities in the strongest possible terms.” The French president, Emmanuel Macron, also condemned what he described as the “atrocities” committed in Izium, joining growing outrage in western countries over the burial site.

  • Ukrainian armed forces have hit four areas held by Russian troops, according to the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces. The military also targeted an unloading station, it said, in turn preventing Russian forces from deploying additional reserves.

  • Russia has accused Ukraine of carrying out targeted strikes in the cities of Kherson and Luhansk against top local officials who have been collaborating with Moscow. At least five Himars missiles crashed into the central administration building in Kherson, which Russian troops have occupied since March after arriving from Crimea. Video from the scene showed smoke pouring out of the complex. In the eastern city of Luhansk, a pro-Russian prosecutor died with his deputy when their office was blown up. The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s senior adviser, Mikhailo Podolyak, said Ukraine was not behind the blast.

  • Further south, the Russian-backed separatist authority in Berdiansk also blamed Kyiv for the “double murder” of a deputy head of the military civil administration and his wife, who headed the city’s territorial election commission for the referendum.

  • In the southern oblast of Zaporizhzhia there were also reports on Friday of a “powerful explosion” in the Russian-occupied Melitopol, said Ivan Fedorov, mayor of Melitopol. “I hope the Russian fascists have suffered losses, among their personnel and equipment,” he said. “Awaiting good news from the armed forces of Ukraine.”

  • The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, made his first public comment since his troops were forced to withdraw from the territories they held in the north-east, a move that prompted unusually strong public criticism from Russian military commentators. Putin said he invaded Ukraine because the west wanted to break up Russia. He grinned when asked about Ukraine’s recent military success, saying: “Let’s see how it develops, how it ends up.” Putin said nothing had changed with the ultimate goal of Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, which was to capture the Donbas.

  • The United States department of defence has announced it is providing an additional $600m in military assistance to Ukraine to meet the country’s “critical security and defence needs”. In total, the Biden administration has committed about $15.8bn in security aid to Ukraine – $15.1bn since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February.

  • Switzerland on Friday aligned itself with the European Union in suspending a 2009 agreement easing rules for Russian citizens to enter the country. “The suspension of the agreement does not mean a general visa freeze for Russians but rather they will need to use the ordinary visa procedure to enter Switzerland,” the country’s federal council said in a statement. The EU took a similar step earlier, suspending a visa facilitation deal with Russia but stopping short of a wider visa ban in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2022/sep/17/russia-ukraine-war-live-news-putin-warns-attacks-on-ukrainian-infrastructure-could-be-ramped-up-latest-updates

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