Ukraine Latest: US Sees Russia Pullout From Lyman as Encouraging

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Ukrainian forces on Saturday entered a strategic eastern town after encircling Russian troops, challenging President Vladimir Putin’s claim to have annexed the area the day before. Russia’s defense minister confirmed its forces had pulled out “amid a threat of encirclement.”

Putin said Moscow was annexing four occupied Ukrainian regions “forever” and repeated warnings that he’d use all available means to defend the territories. The US and European Union members denounced the move. The US sanctioned hundreds of Russians, including central bank head Elvira Nabiullina and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, a key figure in Russian dealings with OPEC.

Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom suspended natural-gas deliveries to Italy on Saturday, escalating the energy crisis in Europe. Ukraine released video of what it said was the execution of 24 people, including children, in a “gray zone” between occupied and unoccupied areas.

(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.)

Key Developments

  • Putin’s War Machine Funding Is Unscathed by Latest US Sanctions

  • Russia Cuts Off Gas Supply to Italy From Saturday, Eni Says

  • Russian Rapper Commits Suicide to Avoid Ukraine War Call-Up

  • Putin Vows Annexation of Occupied Ukraine Lands Is ‘Forever’

  • Russian Troops Flee Key Eastern Ukraine Town in Latest Setback

  • Putin’s Threats Ring Hollow in Ukraine Port Bombarded for Months

On the Ground

Russian troops are pursuing attacks against Ukrainian-held areas in the east and south, including civilian housing and infrastructure, Ukraine’s military general staff said Saturday. Over the past 24 hours, Moscow’s forces staged missile, air and artillery strikes against military and civilian targets in dozens of settlements. Ukrainian forces struck Russian weapons complexes and military logistical sites, it said. A power station in the Odesa region and many residences in Mykolaiv were struck with “Iskander” and C-300 rockets Saturday morning, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Smoke billowing near the Belbek airfield in Sevastopol, Crimea, was caused by an aircraft overrunning the landing strip and catching fire, the occupied region’s governor said. Dramatic images of black smoke flooded social media.

All times CET:

Austin Says Retaking of Lyman Is Encouraging (11:30 p.m.)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Ukrainian forces are creating “some really good effects” as they push to regain Russian-occupied territory, including the recapture of the strategic town of Lyman.

“We’re very encouraged by what we’re seeing right now,” Austin told reporters in Honolulu alongside Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles.

Marles said the war has the potential to turn into a “protracted conflict,” requiring support for Ukraine for an extended time. The “unprovoked aggression” by Russia “must not be allowed stand,” he said.

Australia Sanctions Russian Officials (11:15 p.m.)

Australia imposed financial sanctions and travel bans on Russian-appointed officials in response to President Vladimir Putin’s self-declared annexation of parts of Ukraine. “The areas of Ukraine currently occupied by Russian forces are the sovereign territory of Ukraine,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement.

The measures will target 28 separatists, ministers and other officials, some of whom are flouting international law by seeking to legitimize Russia’s seizing of Ukrainian territory, according to the statement.

Putin Critic Wins Latvian Election, Exit Poll Shows (7:01 p.m.)

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’s party won parliamentary elections, an exit poll showed, knocking a political force backed by ethnic Russians from the top spot for the first time in more than a decade.

Bolstered by its opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Karins’s New Unity took 22.5% of Saturday’s vote, while the upstart United List party placed second at 11.5%, according to an exit poll for the Baltic nation’s public broadcasters. Karins has called on NATO to bolster its eastern flank, including Latvia’s 214-kilometer (132-mile) border with Russia.

Attack on Civilians in ‘Gray Area’ Killed 24, Ukraine Says (6 p.m.)

Russian forces attacked a civilian convoy in Kupyhansk district of the Kharkiv region on Sept. 25, shooting people in private cars, Security Service of Ukraine officials said Saturday.

Video from the scene, in the so-called “gray zone” between occupied Svavtov in Luhansk, and liberated Kharkiv, has just come to light. Russian hasn’t commented on the incident.

“Seven cars were shot, 24 people died, including 13 children and one pregnant woman,” Interfax-Ukraine reported.

Moscow’s Troops Out of Lyman in Battle Setback (5:25 p.m.)

Kyiv’s forces on Saturday recaptured Lyman, a strategic town in the country’s east, the second major victory in weeks and one that challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim to have annexed the area the day before.

The Russian defense ministry said its forces had “pulled out, amid a threat of encirclement, to more favorable positions.”

Retaking Lyman, which Russian troops occupied in May, restores Kyiv’s control over a key road and rail junction. It could pave the way for Ukraine’s military to push deeper toward cities such as Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk in the neighboring Luhansk region.

Russian Troops Flee Key Eastern Ukraine Town in Latest Setback

Russia’s Gazprom Cuts Off Supplies of Gas to Italy (3:40 p.m.)

Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom PJSC suspended natural gas deliveries to Italy on Saturday, escalating the energy crisis in Europe.

“As of today Gazprom is no longer delivering gas to Eni,” said a spokesman for Eni SpA, Italy’s largest oil company.

Gazprom supplies Italy with gas through a pipeline that passes through Austria. The cutoff appeared to target just Italy, with Austria continuing to receive gas. Higher volumes of Russian gas were allocated to OMV than had been recently, a company spokesman said.

France Prepares New Caesar Cannons for Ukraine: Le Monde (3 p.m.)

France is preparing to deliver as many as 12 new Caesar cannons to Ukraine’s force, the French daily reported on Saturday, without saying how it obtained the information. The weapons were initially destined to Denmark.

Technical talks are still ongoing, though an agreement in principle has been found between the French, Ukrainian and Danish governments.

An official at the French Ministry of Armed Forces declined to confirm the details of the report, beyond saying that France has supported Ukraine from the first days of Russia’s invasion. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke Saturday with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

Russian Rapper ‘Walkie’ Commits Suicide (2:54 p.m.)

The Russian who rapped under the name “Walkie” killed himself rather than risk being drafted to fight in Ukraine, after recording an online video telling fans of his decision, according to Russian media reports on Saturday.

Ivan Petunin, 27, said he had an exemption to the call-up because of psychological problems but feared the authorities’ mobilization order would ultimately affect all draft-age men.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry Demands Return of Atomic Plant Official (1:46 p.m.)

Ukraine’s foreign affairs ministry called on the international community -- including the United Nations and its nuclear agency, as well as the Group of Seven nations -- to help secure the release of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant director Ihor Murashov.

A Russian patrol seized Murashov on Friday afternoon and took him to an undisclosed location, Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said in a Telegram post. Russian officials haven’t commented on the claim.

Poland Cracks Down on Russian Guest Workers (1:28 p.m.)

Poland plans to end simplified work permits for Russian citizens on the heels of its recent travel-visa ban, according to a draft law.

About 35,000 Russians used the simplified procedure last year, typically to take up seasonal jobs. Poland’s government says Russia’s invasion of requires stricter rules to avoid the risk of hybrid attacks by those allowed easy access to the country.

Russian Troops Said to be Encircled in Lyman (10:08 a.m.)

Some 5,000 Russian troops are said to be surrounded around Lyman as Kyiv’s forces push to recapture the strategic rail hub in Ukraine’s east, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he’d annexed the region.

The Moscow-backed forces have no way of leaving the town beyond “trying to escape, die or surrender,” Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Facebook. If Lyman is liberated, Ukraine’s army may press east toward Kreminna, he said. Five nearby settlements were liberated on Saturday, a military spokesman said.

Ukraine Surrounds Lyman, a Key Hub in Region Annexed by Russia

“Ukraine is about to capture Lyman and it shows its military prowess again by humiliating the Russian army,” Mick Ryan, a defense analyst and retired Australian general, said on Twitter.

Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Thanks Biden for Signing Bipartisan Aid Bill (9:54 a.m.)

Ukraine Atomic Plant Chief Said to be Detained by Russia (9 a.m.)

Moscow’s troops detained the head of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as he was driving to the nearby city of Energodar, the Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom said in a Telegram post.

A Russian patrol seized Ihor Murashov, the plant’s director-general, on Friday afternoon, stopping his car and blindfolding him before taking him to an undisclosed location, according to the post. Russian officials haven’t commented on the claim.

Energoatom President Petro Kotin demanded Murashov’s immediate release and urged the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency to intervene. “His detention by (Russia) jeopardizes the safety of Ukraine and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant,” Kotin said.

Black Sea Grain Initiative Has Shipped 5.5M Tns So Far, Minister Says (8:30 a.m.)

A total of 5.5 million tons of agricultural products were shipped from three Black Sea ports in Aug-Sep under the safe-transit agreement brokered by Turkey and the UN, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said.

“This is important not only for countries facing hunger but for the entire world,” Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter. “Such export volumes positively affect the dynamics of food prices.”

Zaporizhzhia Strike Likely a ‘Long-Range Air Defense Missile,’ UK Says (8 a.m.)

Friday’s strike on a civilian convoy southeast of Zaporizhzhia “was likely a Russian long-range air defence missile being used in a ground attack role,” the UK defense ministry said.

“Russia’s stock of such missiles is highly likely limited and is a high-value resource designed to shoot down modern aircraft and incoming missiles,” the UK said. Moscow is “killing civilians it now claims are its own citizens.”

At least 25 people were killed in the strike, including two children, Ukrainian authorities said. The people were preparing to travel into occupied areas to rescue relatives or deliver aid.

Putin’s Funding Unscathed by Latest US Sanctions (8 a.m.)

The latest measures taken by the US to sanction Russian officials, their families, and others appear likely to have little practical effect on President Vladimir Putin’s ability to sustain his country’s economy with oil and gas revenue.

“To further isolate Russia, there needs to be a serious look at deploying secondary sanctions, rather than just threatening,” said Daniel Tannebaum, a former Treasury Department official. “Secondary sanctions force countries to choose between doing business with the target of sanctions, or those imposing sanctions.”

Adding Ukraine to NATO Is for a ‘Different Time’: US (9:33 p.m.)

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reaffirmed the Biden administration’s position that Ukraine’s request to join NATO should be considered “at a different time.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said earlier Friday that his country would make an accelerated bid to join the alliance after Russia formally annexed areas of Ukraine. “The best way for us to support Ukraine is through practical, on-the-ground support in Ukraine and that the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time,” Sullivan said in response.

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