Anti-war protests have erupted in Russia after President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of the country’s military that will see 300,000 reservists sent to war in Ukraine.
Ten prisoners of war from five countries, including the U.S. and U.K., have been released after being detained in Russian-held areas of Ukraine on Wednesday as part of a wider prisoner exchange between the warring countries in which several hundred Ukrainian soldiers were exchanged for Russian troops.
The prisoner exchange was something of a surprise on a day when tensions between Russia and the West rose even higher after Putin announced the partial mobilization and again blamed the West for the conflict in Ukraine.
Following Putin’s announcement, President Joe Biden called on the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday to stand in solidarity with Ukraine and oppose Russian aggression, condemning the Kremlin’s invasion as an attack on the global body’s founding principles.
UK says Putin’s war call-up likely an admission Russia has exhausted supply of willing volunteers
Britain’s Defense Ministry says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to mobilize more troops “is effectively an admission that Russia has exhausted its supply of willing volunteers to fight in Ukraine.”
In its daily intelligence update posted via Twitter, the U.K. Ministry of Defense says it expects the Kremlin “to struggle with the logistical and administrative challenges” of mustering an additional 300,000 personnel for the Ukraine war.
“Putin is accepting considerable political risk in the hope of generating much needed combat power,” the ministry said.
— Sam Meredith
Finland says traffic arriving at Russia border increased overnight
The Finnish Border Guard said traffic at the country’s eastern border with Russia “intensified” overnight, Reuters reported, following President Vladimir Putin’s order to mobilize more troops for the Ukraine war.
“The number has clearly picked up,” Matti Pitkaniitty, the Finnish Border Guard’s head of international affairs, told Reuters. He added that the situation was under control and border guards were ready at nine checkpoints.
Prices of one-way flights out of Russia surged after Putin announced a partial mobilization of the country’s military and images on social media appeared to show long queues at border posts.
— Sam Meredith
‘Our heroes are free’: Ukraine rejoices at release of prisoners
Ukraine’s top officials are hailing the release of several hundred Ukrainian fighters as part of a prisoner swap with Russia that took place on Wednesday.
“President Volodymyr Zelenskyy set a clear task: to return our heroes. The result: our heroes are free,” the head of President Zelenskyy’s office Andrii Yermak said on Telegram last night.
Over 200 Ukrainian prisoners were swapped for 55 Russian troops and a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician as well as 10 foreign prisoners of war who had been fighting in Ukraine.
Yermak said that among the Ukrainian prisoners freed there were “soldiers, border guards, policemen, sailors, national guardsmen, territorial defense fighters, customs officers, civilians.”
“Among them are officers, commanders, heroes of Ukraine, defenders of ‘Azovstal’ [a steelworks complex in Mariupol defended by Ukrainian fighters during a long seige] and pregnant military women,” he added.
“This is a tremendous success and I am grateful to everyone involved in this operation – everyone who has done this titanic work. I sincerely congratulate our heroes on their return home. We will provide them with all the necessary help – medical, social and any other,” he said.
He added that the 10 foreign fighters were in the city of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, which helped brokered their release, before they travel home to their respective home countries.
— Holly Ellyatt
Over 1,300 detained in nationwide anti-war protests
More than 1,300 people have been arrested in Russia following nationwide protests over President Vladimir Putin’s decision to mobilize more troops for the war in Ukraine.
Around 1,307 people were detained in 39 cities across the country, according to the independent human rights group OVD-Info.
The largest numbers were arrested in the capital city of Moscow (at least 527) and St. Petersburg (at least 480).
— Sam Meredith
Foreign fighters freed after significant prisoner exchange
Ten prisoners of war from five countries, including the U.S. and U.K., have been released after being detained in Russian-held areas of Ukraine on Wednesday as part of a wider prisoner exchange.
The prisoner swap came after Saudi Arabia brokered a deal between Russia and Ukraine, the Saudi government said in a statement. The deal saw 10 prisoners of war — Moroccan, U.S., U.K. and Swedish and Croatian nationals — exchanged as part of a larger prisoner swap between Moscow and Kyiv.
Some of the POWs had been put on “trial” in courts set up by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine and had been told they faced the death penalty for fighting in Ukraine.
As part of a wider prisoner exchange also brokered by Turkey, Russia exchanged 215 Ukrainian soldiers, including those who were holed up in the Azovstal steelworks complex in Mariupol in a long-running siege in the early stages of the conflict, for 55 Russian soldiers and a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician and oligarch, Viktor Medvechuk.
Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy’s Telegram channel hailed the exchange on Thursday, saying “a total of 215 heroes” were finally coming home after being detained by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine. There have been reports of torture and mistreatment while in captivity although Russia denies these.
“Exchange has just finished. We are bringing our people home. This is definitely a victory for our state, for our entire society. And most importantly – for 215 families who will be able to see their loved ones in safety.
“We remember all our people and try to save every Ukrainian. This is the meaning of Ukraine, our essence, this is what distinguishes us from the enemy. We value every life! And we will definitely do everything to save everyone who is in Russian captivity,” he said.
— Holly Ellyatt
Zelenskyy calls Russia a state sponsor of terrorism
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded that global leaders hold Russia accountable for its monthslong assault on his nation.
“Russia should pay for this war,” Zelenskyy said, calling for a special U.N. tribunal to “punish Russia.”
“We must finally recognize Russia as a the state of sponsor of terrorism,” Zelenskyy said at the 77th U.N. General Assembly in New York City.
Zelenskyy’s dramatic remarks to world leaders came on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to mobilize hundreds of thousands of troops for war.
Zelenskyy, who has not left his war-weary nation since Russia’s full-throttle invasion in February, appeared virtually after an introduction by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the 77th U.N. General Assembly.
— Amanda Macias
Partial mobilization is ‘great tragedy’ for Russian people, Ukraine official says
A top Ukrainian official has described Russia’s announcement of a partial mobilization of its military as a “great tragedy” for the Russian people.
The move, announced by President Putin on Wednesday morning, will see around 300,000 military reservists called-up and sent to Ukraine.
Serhiy Nykyforov, spokesperson to the Office of the President of Ukraine, told NBC’s Erin McLaughlin that “300,000 of people who were conscripts just yesterday will be sent to the places where recidivist thugs, mercenaries, and vaunted Kadyrov [Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic] fighters failed. It is clear what will happen to these guys there, whom, as we saw in the first days of the invasion, the army cannot properly train and provide,” he said.
“This is a recognition of the incapacity of the Russian professional army, which has failed in all its tasks. As we can see, the Russian authorities intend to compensate for this with violence and repression against their own people. The sooner it stops, the fewer Russian sons will go to die at the front,” he added.
— Holly Ellyatt
NATO Secretary General says allies will ‘continue to step up support’ for Ukraine as Putin mobilizes more troops for war
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
“The Ukrainian people and forces inspire us all with their courage and determination,” the NATO chief wrote on Twitter.
“As president Putin escalates Russia’s war, it is even more important that NATO allies continue to step up support,” he added, referencing the Kremlin’s recent announcement to mobilize additional troops for the war in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to deliver a dramatic speech at the U.N. later on Wednesday.
— Amanda Macias
Biden calls for U.N. member states to stand with Ukraine and oppose Russian aggression
President Joe Biden called for U.N. member states to stand with Ukraine and oppose Russian aggression, warning that the Kremlin’s invasion of its smaller neighbor threatened the independence and sovereignty of nations around the world.
“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people,” Biden told the U.N. General Assembly. “Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe — that should make your blood run cold.”
Biden condemned Russia’s invasion as a clear violation of the U.N. charter. The U.S. president said the nations of the world had an obligation to put their political differences aside and defend the global body’s founding principles by standing in solidarity with Ukraine.
“If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this very institution stands for,” Biden said. The president called for the U.N. to be “clear, firm and unwavering in our resolve.”
“Ukraine has the same rights that belong to every sovereign nation. We will stand in solidarity with Ukraine, we will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression – period,” Biden said.
— Spencer Kimball
Russia’s partial mobilization will see 300,000 reservists called up
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday that President Vladimir Putin’s decree on partial mobilisation would see 300,000 additional personnel called up to serve in Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, Reuters reported.
In an interview with Russian state television, Shoigu said that students and those who served as conscripts would not be called up, and that the majority of Russia’s millions-strong reserves would not be drafted.
Those being called up would receive military training, the minister added.