(Bloomberg) -- President Vladimir Putin early Friday signed decrees recognizing the "independence" of occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine as a prelude to absorbing those regions, as well as Donetsk and Luhansk, into Russia -- a move that's expected later today. Putin is also expected to address legislators.
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President Joe Biden denounced Russia's efforts as a "flagrant violation of the UN Charter and the basic principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity." The recent annexation votes have been condemned as illegal by the United Nations and other world leaders.
Multiple civilian casualties were reported from a Russian missile strike near Zaporizhzhia early Friday.
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On the Ground
Over the past day, Russia has launched give missile and 11 air strikes, as well as more than 100 rocket attacks at almost 50 Ukrainian settlements, Ukraine's General Staff said. Moscow's troops shelled the southern cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa on Thursday night. Kyiv's troops have likely nearly completed the encirclement of the Russian grouping in Lyman and cut critical ground lines of communication that support Russian troops in the Drobysheve-Lyman area, the US-based Institute for the Study of War said in an update. Seven months into the conflict, Belarus remains highly unlikely to become directly involved in the war in Ukraine on behalf of Russia, according to ISW.
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Zaporizhzhia Atomic Workers Told to Apply at Rosatom to Keep Jobs (9:36 a.m.)
Ukraine said its workers at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were told they'll need to re-apply to Kremlin-controlled Rosatom to keep their jobs.
Moscow's plan to recognize the Zaporizhzhia region, including the site of the atomic plant, as part of Russian territory are overshadowing attempts to de-escalate fighting around the facility. Kyiv's ambassador told a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency that Rosatom has sent in more officials to enforce a change in ownership once the territorial acquisition is completed.
"Representatives of Rosatom stated that at that moment, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant will belong to Rosatom," Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk said. Allowing Russia to claim ownership of Zaporizhzhia would represent the biggest nuclear heist in history; the plant has a replacement value of about $40 billion and produces a fifth of Ukraine's electricity. Russian forces seized the facility during the first week of the invasion.
Ukraine Says 23 Civilians Killed in Russian Missile Attack (8:45 a.m.)
At least 23 people were killed and 28 wounded among civilians near the south-eastern city of Zaporizhzhia following a Russian missile strike early Friday, according to local military officials. The people were preparing to leave the city in a humanitarian convoy to go to temporarily occupied areas and bring their relatives out or provide aid, the officials said.
In response, a Moscow-linked official denied the Russian army was behind the strike and blamed Ukraine.
The attack took place as Russia plans to officially officially annex Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions after illegal referendums. Russian forces continue intense shelling of Ukraine's cities and towns. Putin in mid-September threatened to step up attacks on Ukraine's civilian targets.
Putin Puts Annexation Process Into Motion (8:10 a.m.)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed decrees recognizing the "independence" of the occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine. This formality is necessary to annex these regions. Moscow recognized the independence of two other Ukrainian regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, in February and used the pretext of protecting these territories to invade Ukraine.
Putin plans to sign treaties on Friday to absorb these four Ukrainian regions into Russia. The signing ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. Moscow time, according to Russian state TV. Later, Putin's expected to address Russian legislators and other officials.
The annexation has been condemned by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as a violation of international law and the UN charter. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Thursday that Russia will "annex itself to the catastrophe that it has brought to the occupied territory of our country."
Russia Closes Consulate in Montenegro After Expulsions (8 a.m.)
Russia "indefinitely" shut its consulate in Montenegro, a NATO member, after authorities there ordered an expulsion of six diplomats, according to tweets by the Russian embassy in Podgorica and Montenegro's foreign Ministry.
A day earlier, Montenegro police raided homes of several people suspected of "creating a criminal organization and espionage," the Vijesti newspaper reported, citing the state prosecutor's office.
Biden Says US Will "Never, Never, Never' Recognize the Annexation (10:05 p.m.)
Biden condemned what he called the "transparent effort by Russia to annex parts of neighboring Ukraine."
"I want to be very clear about this -- the United States will never, never, never recognize Russia's claim on Ukraine sovereign territory," Biden said in remarks at the White House. "This so-called referendum was a sham, an absolute sham. The results were manufactured in Moscow."
Putin Says Mistakes Were Made in Russian Mobilization (7:40 p.m.)
Acknowledging errors in Russia's military mobilization, Putin told a meeting of his Security Council that "it's necessary to correct all mistakes and prevent them from happening in the future."
The mobilization of about 300,000 reservists has been met with protests in Russian cities and thousands of military-age men fleeing the country.
While the criteria for being called up included previous service in the armed forces and relevant experience, some of the Russians told to report for duty were entitled to a delay, such as fathers with many children, those with chronic diseases and those past military age, according to Putin.
Ukraine Says Foreign Aid Declined in September (7:16 p.m.)
Ukraine received about $2 billion of financial aid in September from international partners, down from $4.7 billion in the previous month, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said.
"That is not the amount which we expected," Marchenko said on Ukrainian TV. However "as we have leftovers from the previous periods and budget revenue rose compared with the beginning of the war, we are now more calmly looking at our needs."
The government expects to get 8 billion euros ($7.8 billion) from the European Union by the end of the year and "thus I don't see any problems," Marchenko said. Ukraine has estimated that it needs $5 billion a month in foreign aid to cover budget needs.
UN's Guterres Says Russian Annexation 'Has No Place in Modern World' (6:44 p.m.)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Russia's annexation announcement as a violation of international law and the UN charter.
"Any decision to proceed with the annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned," he said. "It cannot be reconciled with the international legal framework."
Ukrainian President President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed appreciation in a tweet for the "clear position" of Guterres.
Most Russians Alarmed by Military Call-Up, Poll Shows (5:51 p.m.)
Most Russians were alarmed at Putin's decision to order a "partial mobilization" after battlefield losses in Ukraine, and slightly more are concerned that their war on their neighbor is going badly, an opinion poll showed.
According to the survey by the independent Levada Center, 70% of respondents had feelings of fear, alarm or shock after Putin ordered the call-up, with many worrying that a full-scale nationwide draft will follow. A total of 66% believe that's a possibility, compared with 28% in February.
Russia Says Mobilized Troops Will Be Used for 'Defense' (5:20 p.m.)
Russia said mobilized troops will be for the "defense" of the territories it occupies in Ukraine, as fear of being sent to the front lines of the invasion has led hundreds of thousands of draft-aged men to flee the country.
The Defense Ministry said that the mobilized troops would receive training and then be deployed to "control and defend" territory held by Russia, Interfax reported. Ukraine has steadily pushed Russian forces back in recent weeks, but the Kremlin is moving ahead with plans to annex the areas it holds, as well as laying claim to neighboring regions that Kyiv controls. The UN has denounced Russia's annexation plans as illegal and illegitimate.
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