September 26, 2022 Russia-Ukraine News

By Aditi Sangal, Tara Subramaniam and Sana Noor Haq, CNN

Updated 8:25 PM ET, Mon September 26, 2022
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2:20 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Putin grants Edward Snowden Russian citizenship

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Chris Liakos

Edward Snowden speaks remotely during a news conference in New York City on September 14, 2016.
Edward Snowden speaks remotely during a news conference in New York City on September 14, 2016. (Brian McDermid/Reuters)

President Vladimir Putin has granted former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden Russian citizenship, according to an official decree published on the Russian government portal Monday. 

Snowden, who admitted to leaking information about US surveillance programs to the press, has been in Russia since 2013. He is facing espionage charges in the US and up to 30 years in prison.

In November 2020, Snowden and his wife applied for Russian citizenship. He had been already given permanent residency in Russia. 

What the US is saying: US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said their position on Snowden “has not changed” in light of this development. 

“Perhaps the only thing that has changed is that as a result of his Russian citizenship, apparently now he may well be conscripted to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine,” Price said at a State Department briefing Monday. “Mr. Snowden should return to the United States where he should face justice as any other American citizen would.” 

Price said he was not aware of any change in Snowden’s American citizenship.

CNN's Jennifer Hansler contributed reporting to this post.

12:33 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Protests continue for second day in Russia's Dagestan region over Putin's mobilization order

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova 

Multiple social media videos show hundreds of civilians taking part in a second day of protests against military mobilization in the Russian region of Dagestan. 

The videos show scuffles in the main square in the Dagestan capital of Makhachkala involving dozens of young men. They also show police making a number of arrests.

In an apparent effort to assuage the protestors, the head of the Republic, Sergey Melikov, said that mobilization should take place "strictly according to criteria set out by the President."

In a message on his Telegram channel, Melikov said that if "those who are not included in the list were mobilized, including students, fathers with many children with young children, guys who have never held a machine gun in their hands, [this] should be immediately corrected."

"I know that at the very beginning of the mobilization such mistakes took place, among other things, because some citizens did not notify the military enlistment offices in a timely manner about the circumstances giving them a respite from mobilization," he continued.

"If on the ground you are faced with a violation of your rights in the process of partial mobilization, be sure to report this to the republican military registration and enlistment office. In each case, we will understand and make an objective decision," he added.

Melikov also suggested that there were "fake stories on social networks that our enemies diligently spread through public pages created abroad" about mobilization. He asserted that the protests were "prepared and controlled from abroad."

He said he was in regular contact with the military commissar of Dagestan about the mobilization process. 

More than 100 people were detained during the protests on Sunday in Makhachkala, according to an independent human right monitor OVD-Info.

More background: The protests come after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared last Wednesday that 300,000 reservists would be drafted under an immediate “partial mobilization,” in a bid to reinforce his faltering invasion of Ukraine.

Though Russian authorities have said it would only affect Russians with previous military experience, the decree itself gives much broader terms, sowing fear among Russians of a wider draft in the future – and the implications for ethnic minorities.

Anti-mobilization protests have spread across the country, with more than 2,350 people arrested since the announcement, according to OVD-Info.

CNN's Josh Pennington and Jessie Yeung contributed reporting to this post. 

10:14 a.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Ukraine looks for ways to combat Russian attacks with Iran-made drones

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

A part of an unmanned aerial vehicle, that Ukrainian authorities consider to be an Iranian made suicide drone Shahed-136, is seen after it was shot down in Odesa, Ukraine, on September 25.
A part of an unmanned aerial vehicle, that Ukrainian authorities consider to be an Iranian made suicide drone Shahed-136, is seen after it was shot down in Odesa, Ukraine, on September 25. (Press Service of the Operation Command South and the Ukrainian Armed Forces/Reuters)

Ukrainian officials say there have been five attacks on the port city of Odesa in recent days by Russian forces using recently acquired Iranian drones.

Russia had launched Iran-made Shahid-136 kamikaze drones against the city "for several days in a row," Serhii Bratchuk, spokesperson for Odesa region civil military administration, said. "The enemy is trying to save its cruise missiles, missiles of different calibers, because these drones are much cheaper ... And they work not alone, but sometimes in pairs. We even note that the enemy may launch several such kamikaze drones during one attack."

In the latest drone attacks, "there were two hits, one kamikaze drone was destroyed, but a detonation took place on the territory of this military object [installation]....There were no casualties," he added.

Separately, Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for Operational Command South, said samples of the drones were being studied to develop ways to destroy them.

9:39 a.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Record number of Russians entered Finland by land over the weekend, Finnish border guard says

From CNN's Allegra Goodwin and Jorge Engels

Vehicles queue to cross the border from Russia to Finland at the Nuijamaa border checkpoint in Lappeenranta, Finland, on September 22.
Vehicles queue to cross the border from Russia to Finland at the Nuijamaa border checkpoint in Lappeenranta, Finland, on September 22. (Lauri Heino/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty Images)

The number of Russians who entered Finland via its land border with Russia on Sunday was double that of the previous Sunday, the Finnish border guard said. 

On Sunday, 8,314 Russians entered Finland via the Finnish-Russian land border — double the number than (the) week before, tweeted Matti Pitkäniitty, the border guard’s head of international affairs. 

Including Saturday's numbers,16,886 Russians arrived in total, with “many in transit to other countries,” he added. 

Following the Kremlin's announcement of "partial mobilization," Russia saw nationwide protests and an exodus of citizens fleeing the country.

Last Wednesday, Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen said the country was closely monitoring the situation.

Finland and Russia share a land border that stretches for 1,340 kilometers (about 830 miles), and there are several border crossing points available.

1:48 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Ukraine declares 4 organizers of "pseudo referendum" as criminal suspects

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Mick Krever

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said on Monday that it had notified four Russian-backed officials in occupied Ukraine that they are criminal suspects for their role in organizing so-called secession referendums in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

“The Ukrainian special service established that these individuals played key roles in the organization and holding of a fake plebiscite in eastern Ukraine,” the SBU said.

Remember: Authorities in Kyiv and other Western countries say that the so-called referendums are a “sham” whose outcome has been preordained, and which are carried out often literally at the barrel of a gun. International observers and the Ukrainian government expressed similar concerns in 2014, when Russia unilaterally annexed Crimea after a referendum carried out in the presence of Russian troops. 

The individuals are suspected of violating Ukraine’s criminal code on “collaboration” and “encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability” of Ukraine.

The SBU said that the four men, “in collusion with other persons,” appealed to the self-declared Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics “with the initiative of holding a fake referendum on the territories temporarily occupied by the enemy, and also proposed immediate separation from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation.”

The SBUT named the men as Volodymyr Vysotsky, "head of the Central Election Commission of the DPR"; Olena Kravchenko, "head of the Central Election Commission of the LPR"; Oleksandr Kofman, "head of the Public Chamber of the DPR"; and Maryna Filipova, "adviser to the head of the Luhansk People's Republic".

The SBU said that the men would be “declared wanted in the near future.”

CNN could not immediately reach any of the individuals named by the SBU.

9:34 a.m. ET, September 26, 2022

US announces $457.5 million in additional security assistance for Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with journalists at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport in Jasionka, Poland, on September 9.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with journalists at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport in Jasionka, Poland, on September 9. (Jonathan Ernst/AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday the United States committed an additional $457.5 million in civilian security assistance for Ukraine.

This package is "to enhance the efforts of Ukrainian law enforcement and criminal justice agencies to improve their operational capacity and save lives as they continue to help defend the Ukrainian people, their freedom, and their democracy from the Kremlin’s brutal war of aggression," the statement released on Monday said.

In addition to that, Blinken's statement said that the assistance can contribute American support "for the Ukrainian government’s efforts to document, investigate, and prosecute atrocities perpetrated by Russia's forces, drawing on our long-standing relationship with Ukrainian criminal justice agencies, including the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General and the NPU’s war crimes unit."

8:16 a.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Kazakhstan says it supports "territorial integrity" as Russian-backed referendums occur

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Tim Lister 

Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic and one of Moscow's close partners, said it "adheres to the principle of territorial integrity of the states," as four Russian-occupied areas vote in referendums on joining Russia.

The referendums are illegal under international law and have been dismissed as "a sham" by Western governments and Kyiv. 

"As for the referendums on joining the Russian Federation being held in self-declared states of LPR and DPR, and military administrations of Zaporozhzhia and Kherson regions, Kazakhstan adheres to the principle of territorial integrity of the states, their sovereign equality and peaceful coexistence," the official spokesperson of the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs Aibek Smadyarov said on Monday, as quoted by Kazakhstan's state news agency Kazinform.

"Our President has repeatedly stated, including in his recent speech from the UN tribune, the importance of constant observance of the international law principles, based on the Charter of this global universal organization. The Charter stipulates the responsibility of the UN member-states in maintaining peace and adherence to territorial integrity of the countries," Smadyarov added.

Smadyarov reaffirmed the government's readiness to provide assistance to the promotion of political dialogue, adding that "Kazakhstan believes that maintaining stability at the regional and global levels is of paramount importance."

8:07 a.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Moscow-backed authorities claim massive turnout for referendums they held in Russian-occupied regions

From CNN's Olga Voitovych, Mick Krever and Jennifer Hansler

Resident cast a ballot into a mobile ballot box carried by members of an electoral commission on the second day of a referendum on the joining of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) to Russia, in Mariupol, Ukraine, on September 24.
Resident cast a ballot into a mobile ballot box carried by members of an electoral commission on the second day of a referendum on the joining of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) to Russia, in Mariupol, Ukraine, on September 24. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russian-backed authorities in occupied portions of four Ukrainian regions holding ongoing so-called referendums on accession to the Russian Federation claim that voter turnout has been massive.

Authorities in Kyiv and the West say that the so-called referendums are a “sham” whose outcome has been preordained, and which are carried out often literally at the barrel of a gun. International observers and the Ukrainian government expressed similar concerns in 2014, when Russia unilaterally annexed Crimea after a referendum carried out in the presence of Russian troops. 

In the Kherson region, the deputy head of the Russian-backed administration said Monday that there is already enough of a margin to say that that region has approved seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.

“The current votes cast are enough for a positive outcome of the referendum,” Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-backed head of the Kherson region administration, said on Telegram on Sunday. “However, voting will continue for two more days, not counting today, so that those voters who, for various reasons, have not voted yet, can express their will.”

The Russian-backed authorities in Ukraine’s Donetsk region – much of which is still controlled by Ukraine – claimed Monday that turnout so far has been 77%. Russian-backed authorities in the Luhansk region said that it is already 76.09%.

Ukrainian officials scoffed at those numbers.

Serhii Hayday, the Ukrainian head of the Luhansk region military administration, said that authorities were going door to door, trailed by armed guards, to collect votes. 

“If someone checked ‘against’ joining Russia, the data is recorded in some notebooks,” Hayday said on Telegram. “Rumors are being spread that people who vote against are being taken away somewhere. This is deliberately done to intimidate the local population.”

US Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter on Monday said the "sham" referendums are "merely propaganda stunts" to try to legitimize their seizure of territory and said that residents remaining in these regions were being forced, sometimes at gunpoint, to vote for annexation. 

This is "not a real vote," Carpenter said on a briefing call, and reiterated that the United States would not recognize the results. 

8:07 a.m. ET, September 26, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what we know.

From CNN staff

A registration commissar is reportedly "fighting for his life" after being shot at Siberian enlistment office today, amid a backlash in Russia following President Vladimir Putin's order of increased military conscription for his war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, after Putin raised the specter of nuclear retaliation in the conflict during his address last week, his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky warned: "I don't think he's bluffing."

Here are the latest developments:

  • Shooting at Siberian mobilization center: A military official was injured after a man opened fire at the facility in the Russian city of Ust-Ilimsk in the Irkutsk region, the regional governor Igor Ivanovich Kobzev said on his Telegram channel. Kobzev said the shooter "will definitely be punished" following his arrest. It followed defense minister Sergei Shoigu's confirmation last Wednesday that the government will call up 300,000 reservists to revive Moscow's faltering military campaign in Ukraine.
  • Zelensky assesses nuclear fears: Putin's threat of using nuclear weapons in the war "could be a reality," according to Zelensky. Following the Russian president's comments last week, Zelensky told CBS News that Russia was trying to leverage its occupation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine "to scare the whole world."
  • Russian-backed "sham" referendums spike tension: Ukrainian officials say that Russia is using the so-called secession referendums in occupied portions of four Ukrainian regions as a pretense to draft Ukrainians into the Russian military. “The main purpose of the fake referendum is to mobilize our residents and use them as cannon fodder,” a Ukrainian official said on Telegram. The referendums are illegal under international law and have been dismissed as "a sham" by Western governments and Kyiv.
  • Protests flare in Russia: At least 2,352 people have been detained in various cities across Russia from September 21 to September 25 since Putin's announcement of a partial mobilization, according to the independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info. Demonstrations have broken out in some ethnic minority regions in Russia, with reports that these communities are being disproportionately targeted for conscription.
  • Russian drone attacks in southern Ukraine: Two drones launched by Russian forces into the Odesa region in Ukraine hit a military infrastructure facility, causing a fire and the detonation of ammunition, Ukrainian military officials said on Monday. One drone was destroyed by the Ukrainian air defense forces, they said. No casualties have been reported, and firefighting and rescue operations continue, the command added.