Russia-Ukraine updates: UK imposes new sanctions over 'referendums' in occupied regions
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The UK has announced new sanctions over Moscow's "referendums" in southern and eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, the US will provide more financial aid to Ukrainian law enforcement. DW rounds up the latest.
The British government has announced a new package of sanctions over Moscow's "referendums" in occupied regions of southern and eastern Ukraine.
Residents of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions were voting for a fourth day on Monday, in what the UK has described as "sham referendums." The votes were announced after Ukrainian forces recaptured much of the northeastern Kharkiv region in a counter-offensive
"Sham referendums held at the barrel of a gun cannot be free or fair and we will never recognise their results," British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.
"Today's sanctions will target those behind these sham votes, as well as the individuals that continue to prop up the Russian regime's war of aggression," he added.
Among those sanctioned are 55 board members and directors from organizations that London says "continue to bankroll the Russian war machine," such as Gazprombank, Sberbank and Sovcombank.
London also sanctioned four additional oligarchs: God Nisanov, Zarakh Iliev, Iskander Makhmudov and Igor Makarov.
Also sanctioned are Russian-backed leaders in occupied regions, as well a the IMA Consulting firm, which the UK called "Putin's favorite PR agency."
Britain has sanctioned over 1,200 Russian individuals and 120 entities since the start of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Here's a roundup of other news from or concerning the war in Ukraine on September 25.
Japanese diplomat detained in Vladivostok over 'espionage'
Russia's FSB security agency said it had detained a Japanese diplomat over alleged espionage, Russian news agencies reported.
The consul was detained in the port city of Vladivostok in the Primorsky district of Russia's Far East. He was ordered to leave the country and declared persona non grata, Russian news agencies reported.
"A Japanese diplomat was detained red-handed while receiving classified information, in exchange for money, about Russia's cooperation with another country in the Asia-Pacific region," the FSB said in a statement.
The Russian security agency alleged that the diplomat had also been soliciting information about the "impact of Western sanctions" on the Primorsky district.
Tokyo has imposed multiple sanction packages of Moscow since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February.
US to provide $457.5 million in civilian security aid — Blinken
The United States will provide $457.5 (€473.4) million in new civilian security aid for Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
Since mid-December, the US has contributed more than $645 million in total to Ukrainian law enforcement, Blinken said.
The new aid package is designed to help Ukrainian law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, as well as assist with the investigation of alleged atrocities committed by Russian forces, Blinken said in a statement.
A UN-mandated commission found that war crimes were committed by Moscow's forces in parts of Russian-occupied Ukraine. The atrocities include rape, torture, executions and confinement of children.
UK predicts 'high attrition' among Russia's conscripts
The UK's Ministry of Defence laid out its low expectations for the recently mobilized Russian conscripts who have been called up to fight in Ukraine, in its daily intelligence update on Monday.
According to the ministry's intelligence, Russia is facing an "administrative and logistical challenge" to train up the first groups of men called up as part of Russia's partial mobilization.
The report pointed to the lack of "dedicated training establishments" for basic training, saying Russian soldiers are usually trained by a battalion in the brigade that they are assigned to.
According to the update, most of these training battalions have already been deployed to Ukraine.
"Many of the drafted troops will not have had any military experience for some years," the ministry added.
It concluded that the lack of military trainers and the rush to mobilize more men, means that those who are called up "will deploy to the front line with minimal relevant preparation."
"They are likely to suffer a high attrition rate," the ministry predicted.
Putin ally admits role in Wagner mercenary group
Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on Monday that he had founded the mercenary group, confirming suspicions that he had previously denied.
He also admitted to having sent Wagner soldiers to countries in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East after having launched the group in 2014 to fight in Donbas in Ukraine.
He called Wagner soldiers heroes who had "defended the Syrian people, other people of Arab countries, destitute Africans and Latin Americans — have become the pillars of our motherland."
The mercenary group has been accused of being behind numerous cases of abuse in the countries where they have been deployed.
The 61-year-old Prigozhin — known as "Putin's chef" for his catering contracts with the Kremlin — is on both the US and EU's sanctions list.
He appeared in a video earlier in the month in which he was seen recruiting prisoners to beef up Wagner's ranks in Ukraine.
Kremlin admits errors made in mobilization
Following protests against the Russian mobilization of hundreds of thousands of men to fight in Ukraine, especially in certain regions, the Kremlin has acknowledged certain cases where the mobilization decree "was violated."
"In some regions, governors are actively working to rectify the situation," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
He added that "instances of non-compliance" with the decree were decreasing. "We hope this will speed up and that all errors will be corrected."
Peskov also told the journalists that no decision had been made to close Russia's borders despite thousands of people fleeing conscription and seeking refuge in neighboring countries.
Kazakhstan will not recognize 'referendums' in eastern Ukraine
One of Russia's key allies, the former Soviet state of Kazakhstan, said on Monday that it would not recognize the annexation of parts of Ukraine where pro-Russian forces have been holding a so-called "referendum" on joining the Russian Federation.
Kazakhstan has taken a neutral stance on the conflict despite being a member of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
Many experts believe that Russia's failure to achieve a quick victory against Ukraine has shown weaknesses that some countries in the region have been keen to take advantage of — such as the recent hostilities between the two former Soviet member states Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry said on Monday that it abides by the principles of territorial integrity, a rejection of Russia's ambition to incorporate parts of Ukraine.
"As for the holding of referendums ... Kazakhstan proceeds from the principles of territorial integrity of states, their sovereign equivalence and peaceful coexistence," ministry spokesman Aibek Smadiyarov said.
Japan bans exports of chemical weapons goods to Russia
Tokyo introduced new sanctions against Moscow on Monday, including a ban on supplying chemical-weapons related goods saying it was "deeply concerned" over Russian threats to employ nuclear weapons.
"As the world's only country to have suffered nuclear attacks, we strongly demand that the threat or use of nuclear weapons by Russia should never happen,'' Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno
The ban targets the sale of certain materials to 21 Russian organizations including science laboratories.
Ukraine reports more drone attacks on Odesa
Ukraine's southern command said on Monday that the southern coastal city of Odesa had been hit again by two drones.
The attack led to a fire and the detonation of ammunition held in the city, but no casualties were reported.
The city has been hit several times by drones in the past few days. An attack that killed two civilians led the government to downgrade Iran's diplomatic presence in the country as they are believed to have provided Russia with the weapons.
Russian Orthodox Church promises forgiveness of sins for those who die in battle
Patriarch Kirill II, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a staunch supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine, said during a sermon on Sunday that Russian soldiers who die while "fulfilling their military duties" will have their sins forgiven.
The 75-year-old lauded the willingness of self-sacrifice as the "best human quality."