Russia-Ukraine war latest: Liberation of Luhansk begins as Ukraine recaptures several settlements

Ukrainian soldiers fire on the front line in the Kharkiv region - AP
Ukrainian soldiers fire on the front line in the Kharkiv region - AP

Ukrainian troops have started liberating eastern Luhansk, the region’s top official said on Wednesday, as Vladimir Putin for the first time publicly acknowledged military setbacks in the annexed territories.

Footage shared online appeared to show Kyiv’s forces raising a Ukrainian flag in Hrekivka, a village just over the border from the Kharkiv Oblast, the scene of a lightning counter-offensive that recaptured vast swathes of land.

"The de-occupation of the Luhansk region has already officially started," Serhiy Haidai, the regional government of Luhansk, wrote on the Telegram messaging app, but did not reveal the name of the liberated territories.

The liberation of formerly Russian-occupied land in Luhansk means Russia now does not have full control over any of the four territories illegally annexed by Mr Putin.

In the face of military humiliation, the Russian president vowed to stabilise the situation, stopping short of acknowledging the challenges Moscow faces in asserting control.

"We proceed from the fact that the situation will be stabilised, we will be able to calmly develop these territories," Mr Putin said in televised remarks.

03:53 PM

Putin rules that Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is 'federal property'

President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree ordering the Russian government to take control of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and make it "federal property".

The plant, the biggest in Europe, is controlled by Russian troops but has been operated until now by Ukrainian staff.

Its proximity to the frontline of fighting has raised international fears of a nuclear disaster.

03:40 PM

EU agrees new Russia sanctions following nuclear threats

The EU is set to unleash a new batch of sanctions against Russia in the wake of the Vladimir Putin's nuclear threats.

New measures, which  also follow the Russian President's partial military mobilisation orders and annexation of four regions in Ukraine, are to be formalised by 8am on Thursday if no EU country raises last-minute objections.

They include sanctions targeting more individuals at the Russian defence ministry, people involved in Moscow's ad-hoc annexation votes and those participating in bypassing sanctions.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, said: "We will never accept Putin's sham referenda nor any kind of annexation in Ukraine. We are determined to continue making the Kremlin pay."

The sanctions also include more restrictions on trade with Russia in steel and tech products, and an oil price cap for Russian seaborne crude deliveries to third countries through European insurers meant to align the bloc with the US.

03:26 PM

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant's electricity supply is 'fragile'

The electricity supply to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine is fragile, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog has said.

"The situation with regards to external power continues to be extremely precarious. We do have at the moment external power but it is I would say fragile, there is one line feeding the plant," said Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Energy Intelligence Forum in London via telephone link from Ukraine.

He added his itinerary would also take him to Russia for talks.

03:24 PM

Putin claims he was 'surprised' by the results of his 'sham' referendums

Vladimir Putin claims he was surprised by the results of his "sham" referendums in occupied Ukrainian territories, which delivered overwhelming majorities for the regions to join Russia.

02:44 PM

Tit-for-tat Russia expels Lithuanian diplomat

Russia's Foreign Ministry has expelled a Lithuanian diplomat, saying on its website that it "reserves the right to take additional measures" in response to what it called Lithuania's "unfriendly steps".

European and other Western countries have expelled hundreds of Russian diplomats since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Many of them were accused of spying, with Russia responding in kind.

02:10 PM

Some students will be exempted from conscription, says Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had signed a decree making "corrections" to the partial mobilisation drive he announced last month.

Speaking at a meeting with teachers broadcast on state television, Putin said that the decree would defer conscription for additional categories of students, including those enrolled at accredited private universities, and certain postgraduate students.

02:09 PM

Russia has 'great respect' for Ukrainians, Putin claims

Vladimir Putin has said Russia has "great respect" for the Ukrainian people despite "the current situation".

It comes after Ukrainian forces claimed to have uncovered a Russian torture chamber after liberating the town of Lyman in the eastern Donetsk region.

Speaking at a televised meeting with teachers, Putin said he expected the situation in four newly annexed territories to "stabilise".

02:06 PM

Russia's frontline collapsing due to lack of commanders, expert says

Russia doesn't have the commanders to stop its frontline collapsing, a defence expert has said.

Ed Arnold, research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told Sky News: "Effectively, the Russian front has started to collapse.

"When armies collapse like this they need very good commanders to rally the troops, which the Russians just don’t have at the moment."

He said there were also "no natural defensive positions" around the Russian army.

As Ukraine has already achieved its "primary political objective" - of "showing the West that it can take back territory - and using the weapons systems provided to do that" - he said that it was now liberating as many settlements as possible before winter.

He added it will also aim to ensure occupied territories are in range of the longer-range weapons systems, "so they can further degrade the Russians".

01:42 PM

One killed and three wounded in 'missile strike on Kherson hotel'

Russian-installed authorities have accused Ukrainian forces of carrying out a missile strike on a hotel in Kherson city.

Moscow-backed health officials in the region said one person was killed and three more were wounded.

Kherson and three other Ukrainian regions were last Thursday annexed by Vladimir Putin in the wake of "sham" referendums to join Russia.

01:24 PM

'Russian objects' in occupied land will be treated as military targets, Ukraine warns

Any "Russian objects" on occupied Ukrainian territory will be treated as legitimate military targets, a senior Ukrainian presidential aide has said.

"Any Russian objects on occupied territories – legitimate military targets for attack by (Ukraine's) Armed Forces," presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

"Any counteroffensive and de-occupation of territories falls under the concept of defensive war. This is an absolute axiom for both the leadership of Ukraine and our allies."

01:15 PM

What did Liz Truss say about Ukraine and Elon Musk's peace plan?

In her keynote Tory conference speech, PM Liz Truss said Putin's "illegal" annexation of Ukrainian territories was his latest attempt to subvert democracy and break international law.

She argued Britain needed a strong economy to take on Russian and other authoritarian regimes and added that peace deals - such as one suggested by Elon Musk - that involved giving up Ukrainian land to Russia should be resisted.

The Tesla boss had posted a Twitter poll with his suggestions for ending Russia's invasion, asking his 107.7 million followers to vote on ideas that included ceding territory to Russia, prompting a furious response from Ukraine.

PM Truss said: "We are dealing with the global economic crisis caused by Covid and by Putin's appalling war in Ukraine.

"Putin's illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory is just the latest act in his campaign to subvert democracy and violate international law.

"We should not give in to those who want a deal which trades away Ukrainian land."

She added: "They are proposing to pay in Ukrainian lives for the illusion of peace.

"We will stand with our Ukrainian friends however long it takes.

"Ukraine can win, Ukraine must win, and Ukraine will win.

"To take on Russia and other authoritarian regimes, free democracies need strong economies."

12:56 PM

Nord Stream explosions were sabotage based on 'information available so far' says Germany

Germany assumes that explosions in the Nord Stream gas pipelines last week were the result of sabotage based on the information available to the government so far, said a German government spokesperson.

The spokesperson declined to comment on whether state actors were responsible for the suspected sabotage in a regular government news conference on Wednesday.

One of President Vladimir Putin's top allies earlier said that the sabotage of the offshore gas pipelines connecting Russia to Germany, resembled the CIA-backed attacks on oil infrastructure in Nicaragua in 1983.

Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 offshore gas pipelines were ruptured last month in what Moscow said was an act of "international terrorism".

12:49 PM

Last of north Donetsk towns liberated as Ukrainian flag rises on radio tower

A video shows the moment Ukrainian forces say they recaptured the last of two towns in northern Donetsk oblast from Russia.

The footage shared on Twitter showed a bearded soldier filmed himself on top of a radio tower where a Ukrainian flag was raised.

"With Terny and Yampolivka, the Ukrainian army liberated the last remaining two occupied towns in northern Donetsk oblast from Russian invasion forces. The next occupied Donetsk oblast settlement in Vasylivka, 44 km to the south," wrote BILD journalist Julian Röpcke.

12:41 PM

Kremlin hints at annexing more of Ukraine

The Kremlin has signalled it could annex more Ukrainian territories.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin signed laws to absorb Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine into Russia following "sham" Kremlin-orchestrated referendums, government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "certain territories will be reclaimed, and we will keep consulting residents who would be eager to embrace Russia."

The move came even as Ukrainian forces were pressing a counteroffensive to reclaim those regions.

Asked about Ukraine taking back some territory in the four regions after their declared annexation, Peskov said Russia would reclaim them.

He wouldn't say if Moscow planned to organise votes in any more Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.

12:35 PM

Ukraine energy chief appoints himself head of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

The chief of Ukraine's state energy company is appointing himself as the head of the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Energoatom's chief Petro Kotin said the plant's director, Ihor Murashov, had been seized and blindfolded by Russian forces on his way from work last Friday, and only freed on Monday after being forced to make false statement on camera.

The nuclear plant, the largest in Europe, in south east Ukraine, has been under Russian control but operated by Ukrainian staff.

11:54 AM

Putin's mobilisation order was a 'fatal error'

Vladimir Putin's partial mobilisation of troops was a "fatal error" in a war that will carry on into next year, the former UK ambassador to Russia has said.

Sir Andrew Wood  told Sky News: "There's been quite a lot of division in Russia about the war, mostly hidden because of the repression from the authorities.

"But this time, there's much more discussion about what's going on and the fatal error by Putin I think was to announce mobilisation, which was chaotically, ill-done. So I don’t think the Russians can soon get back to having extra forces with which to resist the Ukrainians.

"I do think we will still be fighting this next year," he added.

11:44 AM

Russia destroyed 'all basics of life' in Lyman

Ukranian President Volodomyr Zelensky said "all basics of life have been destroyed" in liberated Lyman in the eastern Donetsk region.

He tweeted: "Our Lyman after the occupier… All basics of life have been destroyed here.

"They are doing so everywhere in the territories they seize. This can be stopped in one way only: liberate Ukraine, life, humanity, law and truth as soon as possible."

11:14 AM

Kremlin claims there's no contradiction between annexing Ukrainian territories and military retreats

The Kremlin has said there was no contradiction between incorporating Ukrainian territories into Russia and military retreats, saying that Moscow would press ahead with plans to annex four Ukrainian regions.

"They will be with Russia forever and they will be returned", Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

President Vladimir Putin formalised the annexation of four Ukrainian regions on Wednesday despite major battlefield reversals in recent days shrinking the amount of seized territory Moscow controls.

10:49 AM

The Ukraine war, in pictures

Municipal workers remove the remnants of a missile that hit overnight from the garden of a residence in Kramatorsk - Nicole Tung/The New York Times
Municipal workers remove the remnants of a missile that hit overnight from the garden of a residence in Kramatorsk - Nicole Tung/The New York Times
Citizens called up from the reserve as part of partial mobilization, and volunteers during combat coordination as part of military units at a training ground in the Rostov Region - Vasilii' Derjugin/Polaris
Citizens called up from the reserve as part of partial mobilization, and volunteers during combat coordination as part of military units at a training ground in the Rostov Region - Vasilii' Derjugin/Polaris
A column of Ukrainian tracked howitzers moves through the recently recaptured village of Yatskivka and toward the front line, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine - Ivor Pickett/New York Times
A column of Ukrainian tracked howitzers moves through the recently recaptured village of Yatskivka and toward the front line, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine - Ivor Pickett/New York Times

10:23 AM

Europeans continue to stand firmly by Ukraine's side

The willingness to accept Ukraine into the EU remains high, according to polling.

There is also strong support for the need to become more independent in terms of energy supply - even if this means personal cuts. Nevertheless, these attitudes cannot be taken for granted, as there are initial signs that approval is crumbling.

Almost three quarters (72 percent) of Europeans are in favour of the EU becoming independent of energy supplies from Russia, even if this means rising costs.

Support is highest in Poland (80 percent) and Italy (76 percent). It is lowest in Germany, at 69 percent.

This is one of the findings of the new Eupinions survey. Eupinions is the Bertelsmann Stiftung's European public opinion tool, for which around 12,000 citizens throughout the EU are surveyed every three months.

The data is representative for the EU as a whole and for seven selected member states and is published in cooperation with the Belgian King Baudouin Foundation.

09:27 AM

UK's support for Ukraine unwavering, says Foreign Secretary

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has insisted the UK's support of Ukraine is unwavering.

With Liz Truss succeeding Boris Johnson, and with the Kremlin threatening nuclear war, he said: "We always listen carefully. Always listen carefully to what Vladimir Putin is saying.

"We also recognise, of course, that he has a long history of sabre-rattling.

"We are absolutely determined to maintain the strength of our support to Ukraine yesterday I described strategic endurance.

"It means we need to demonstrate to Vladimir Putin and frankly, anyone else who might be watching that the UK stays the course that we don't get flaky that we don't peel off the you know, when when we decided a course of action, as serious as this is a defence of freedom, not is not just about Ukraine.

"It's about respect for the UN Charter that we are going to stick with it."

08:59 AM

'Our brother in arms'

The International Legion For The Defence Of Ukraine said Rory Mason's memory will live on.

"Our brother in arms, Rory Mason has taken part in the Kharkiv counteroffensive with his unit and was killed in action," a spokesman said in a statement.

"While conducting operations, the unit came under attack.

"We are in contact with the family and in co-ordination with them, following their wishes and instructions, the International Legion and the armed forces of Ukraine are handling the repatriation process.

"At this time, to protect operational security and the family's privacy we cannot release more information. Rory's memory will live on in his unit, in the legion and the armed forces of Ukraine.

"We would ask for the family's privacy to be respected at this difficult time."

08:25 AM

Irish foreign affairs department comment on date

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs issued a statement following Rory Mason's death in Ukraine.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs is aware of a case and is providing consular assistance," a spokesman said.

"As with all consular cases, the department does not comment on the details of any individual case."

08:22 AM

Irishman killed fighting in Ukraine

An Irishman has been killed while fighting in Ukraine, his family has confirmed.

Rory Mason, 23, died as a Ukrainian armed forces serviceman while fighting in the International Legion for the Defence of Ukraine near the Russian border.

The Mason family learnt of Rory's death from the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is providing consular assistance.

His father Rob said: "Rory was a private young man of drive, purpose and conviction.

"Though we are deeply saddened at his death, we are enormously proud of his courage and determination and his selflessness in immediately enlisting to support Ukraine.

"Rory was never political but he had a deep sense of right and wrong and an inability to turn the other way in the face of injustice.

"He had a long-standing interest in eastern Europe, in travel and in learning new languages, including Russian. Those who fought alongside Rory speak of 'a truly brave and courageous man who could have left at any time but chose not to'.

"Rory was our son and we will miss him enormously. As our family is still trying to come to terms with Rory's death, we would appeal for privacy at this difficult time".

06:57 AM

Russia 'likely concerned' about Ukrainian troops nearing Luhansk border

Russia will likely be concerned that Ukrainian forces are nearing the borders of the Luhansk region, the UK's Ministry of Defence has said.

Ukrainian military have advanced up to 12 miles beyond Oskil river into Russia’s defensive zone towards the supply node of the town of Svatove in Luhansk.

"It is highly likely that Ukraine can now strike the key Svatove-Kremina road with most of its artillery systems, further straining Russia’s ability to resupply its units in the east," the ministry said on Wednesday.

"Politically, Russian leaders will highly likely be concerned that leading Ukrainian units are now approaching the borders of Luhansk Oblast, which Russia claimed to have formally annexed last Friday."

05:47 AM

Zelensky praises military's 'fast and powerful' advance as territory recaptured

President Volodymyr Zelensky has praised the Ukrainian army for carrying out a "fast and powerful advance" in Ukraine's south that has led to the liberation of dozens of towns over the past week.

Speaking in his evening address on Tuesday, Mr Zelensky said dozens of villages have been freed across the Kherson, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk regions this week from Russian occupiers.

He cited eight small towns in the Kherson region, including Lyubymivka, Khreshchenivka, Zolota Balka, Bilyaivka, Ukrainka, Velyka and Mala Oleksandrivka, and Davydiv Brid, as those that have been recently recaptured.

"The Ukrainian army is carrying out a pretty fast and powerful advance in the south of our country," he said.

"Dozens of settlements have already been liberated from the Russian sham referendum this week alone. Our warriors do not stop. And it's only a matter of time before we oust the occupier from all our land."

04:39 AM

Russia suffers from dozens of losses in past 24 hours

Ukraine's rapid advances have forced Russian forces to retreat as Moscow suffers significant losses.

"In some areas of the front line it was possible to extend the area we hold from between 10 to 20 km," the southern Operational Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) said on Wednesday.

Russian forces were destroying their reserves of ammunition and trying to destroy bridges and crossings in order to slow the Ukrainian advance, the UAF said in its daily report.

According to the UAF, in the past 24 hours Russia had lost 31 servicemen, more than 40 pieces of equipment, including eight tanks, 26 armoured vehicles, and a large calibre howitzer.

03:18 AM

In pictures: Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire rocket launcher in Kharkiv

Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire a BM-21 'Grad' multiple rocket launcher towards Russian positions in Kharkiv region - AFP
Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire a BM-21 'Grad' multiple rocket launcher towards Russian positions in Kharkiv region - AFP
Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire a BM-21 'Grad' multiple rocket launcher towards Russian positions in Kharkiv region - AFP
Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire a BM-21 'Grad' multiple rocket launcher towards Russian positions in Kharkiv region - AFP

02:38 AM

Ukraine considers restarting Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine could restart to protect safety installations ahead of winter, just weeks after fears of a radiation disaster at the Russian-occupied facility.

Ukraine is considering restarting the Zaporizhzhia power plant, the president of the company that operates the plant said on Tuesday.

Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom shut down the last of the plant's six reactors on September 11 because Russian military activity had cut reliable external power supplies for cooling and other safety systems, threatening a potentially catastrophic meltdown.

Energoatom President Petro Kotin told AP the company could restart two of the reactors in a matter of days to protect safety installations as winter approaches and temperatures drop.

"If you have low temperature, you will just freeze everything inside. The safety equipment will be damaged," he said in his office at the company's Kyiv headquarters.

"So you need heating and the only heating is going to come from the working reactor."

01:38 AM

Zelensky thanked Biden for defence support in 'meaningful phone call'

President Zelensky said he had a "meaningful phone call" with Joe Biden on Tuesday night, where he thanked the US President for providing Ukraine with a $625 million security aid package.

The package will include High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, the White House said.

"I thanked him for another package of defence support for our country, in particular for new HIMARS. And in general, I noted that the successes of our military - all successes in returning freedom to our people - are our joint successes, our joint victories," Mr Zelensky said in his evening address.

"Due to the unity of Ukraine, the United States of America and all our partners in the free world, today freedom has the highest strength in decades and demonstrates concrete victories in the confrontation with tyranny."

01:19 AM

Ukraine frees thousands from occupation as Russian frontline collapses

Russian forces in southern Ukraine were on the brink of collapse on Tuesday night after they retreated in the face of one of the fastest Ukrainian advances of the war so far.

Ukrainian troops who initially broke through Russian lines on the western bank of the Dnieper river on Monday rolled into several more strategic villages.

Prominent Russian military bloggers said a “regrouping” order had been given to avoid encirclement in the northern part of the Kherson region.

The significant territorial losses suffered by Russian forces appeared to be confirmed in maps used in the background of Moscow’s ministry of defence in its daily briefing, although it did not directly address the changes to the frontline.

Read the full story by Roland Oliphant and Joe Barnes here

Ukrainian soldiers prepare to move their BM-21 'Grad' multiple rocket launcher after firing towards Russian positions in Kharkiv - AFP
Ukrainian soldiers prepare to move their BM-21 'Grad' multiple rocket launcher after firing towards Russian positions in Kharkiv - AFP

01:18 AM

Today's top stories

  • Russian forces in southern Ukraine were on the brink of collapse on Tuesday night after they retreated in the face of one of the fastest Ukrainian advances of the war so far

  • The United States announced more weapons for Ukraine's army, pledging to ship four more Himars precision rocket launchers, 32 artillery pieces, 75,000 artillery rounds and 200,000 rounds of small arms ammunition

  • Russia may have packed explosives onto the Nord Stream pipelines while construction was being finalised last year, the former head of Ukraine’s state energy company has said

  • Russian defence ministry maps presented on Tuesday appeared to show rapid withdrawals of Russian invasion forces from areas in eastern and southern Ukraine