Putin’s party proposes a referendum on the annexation of Ukrainian territories

Putin's party proposes a referendum on the annexation of Ukrainian territories

AFP

Ukraine claims advances in northeast, meeting of allied defense ministers

The Ukrainian army claims progress on the northeastern front, with the resumption of several localities in the Kharkiv region, as a meeting of defense ministers from allied countries opens in Germany on Thursday to organize their support Ukrainian military capabilities. “This week we have good news from the Kharkiv region,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening video address broadcast on social media. Refusing to name them, he spoke of “localities where the Ukrainian flag has returned”. Observers had reported in recent days of a breakthrough by Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv region, without this information being verifiable from an independent source. The Kharkiv region has been partly occupied by the Russian army since the start of the invasion on February 24. The city of the same name, the second largest in Ukraine, is regularly targeted by deadly bombardments, but the forces of Moscow have never managed to seize it. On Thursday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will host his counterparts from allied countries at the US base in Ramstein, western Germany, to discuss the situation in Ukraine and organize support for kyiv’s forces. Ukraine has been carrying out a counter-offensive in the south of its territory since last week, and President Zelensky has repeatedly affirmed that he wants to take back “all the regions under Russian occupation”, including Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014 – “Forced transfers of children” – On Wednesday, before the UN Security Council, the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Human Rights, Ilze Brands, also reported “credible accusations” of “forced transfers of unaccompanied children to Russian-occupied territory or to the Russian Federation itself”. “We are concerned that the Russian authorities have adopted a simplified procedure for granting Russian citizenship to children who are not in the care of their parents, and that these children are eligible for adoption by Russian families,” said she added. The United States, at the origin of this meeting of the Security Council with Albania, on Wednesday accused the office of Russian President Vladimir Putin of directly organizing the forced displacement of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia. Operations carried out “as part of its efforts to annex parts of Ukrainian territories under its control,” said a deputy spokesman for American diplomacy. The Russian ambassador to the UN Vassili Nebenzia rejected all these “unfounded” accusations, which he described as “legendary”. In Moscow, the party of Vladimir Putin, United Russia, proposed to organize referendums on November 4 in the territories under Russian control in Ukraine, with a view to attaching them to Russia. – Gas: new EU-Russia tensions  – Tension rose again on Wednesday between Moscow and the EU over Russian gas deliveries, with Vladimir Putin threatening to stop all deliveries of hydrocarbons in the event of a price cap, a project revived the same day by Brussels. Capping the prices of Russian hydrocarbons would be “stupid”, he said during an economic forum in Vladivostok (Russian Far East). “We will deliver nothing at all if it is contrary to our interests, in this case economic. Neither gas, nor oil, nor coal (…). Nothing”, added the Russian president. For the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, such a cap, which is part of measures intended to reduce the energy bill of Europeans, would also make it possible to “reduce the income” used by the Russian government to “finance this atrocious war against Ukraine”. “At the beginning of the war, Russian gas by pipeline accounted for 40% of all gas imported (by the EU). Today it represents only 9%,” said von der Leyen. In his speech, Vladimir Putin also attacked the “sanctions fever” in the West, which he believes will not succeed in “isolating Russia”. He insisted on strengthening ties with Asia, China in particular, in the face of “technological, financial and economic aggression from the West”. Mr. Putin also said that Ukrainian grain exports went mainly to European countries and not to poor countries, which, according to him, creates a risk of “humanitarian catastrophe”. Ukraine on Wednesday refuted these accusations, retorting that two-thirds of deliveries were going to countries in Africa and Asia. Fears around the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant, occupied for six months by Russian forces, also continue to remain strong. In a statement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Wednesday evening that “new bombardments damaged an emergency power line” of this plant, “without immediate impact on the current operations” of this complex of six reactors. A nuclear accident would have “consequences not only for Ukraine, but also, clearly, consequences beyond the borders”, warned Oleg Korikov, the head of the Ukrainian nuclear safety agency. Largest nuclear power station in Europe, Zaporijjia undergoes strikes of which kyiv and Moscow accuse each other. The boss of the Ukrainian public operator Energoatom, Petro Kotin, wished Wednesday that this plant be placed under the protection of a “peacekeeping contingent”. bur-alc/dth

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