September 28, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Tara Subramaniam, Sana Noor Haq, Hannah Strange and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 10:35 PM ET, Wed September 28, 2022
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2:32 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Pro-Russian authorities declare majorities in illegal "sham" referendums as fears of annexation grow

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Tim Lister

Workers hang Russian flags on an apartment building in Luhansk, Ukraine on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
Workers hang Russian flags on an apartment building in Luhansk, Ukraine on Tuesday, Sept. 27. (AP Photo)

Russian state media say election commissions in four occupied regions of Ukraine have returned majorities in favor of joining the Russian Federation, following referendums described as a "sham" by Western governments and Kyiv.

The so-called referendums — called at short notice by pro-Russian authorities in occupied areas of Ukraine — are against international law and have been widely condemned by Western governments. They were not observed by independent monitors. 

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said that the commissions had published the results of referendums in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and the Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics. It did not say whether these were the final results.

The referendum plans were suddenly announced a week ago by Russian-backed local administrations and immediately welcomed in Moscow. 

Ukrainian officials say that turnout has been extremely low and that pro-Russian voters have been bused in from Crimea. 

"The results are obvious. Welcome home to Russia!" said Dmitriy Medvedev, the former Russian president who is now the deputy chairman of the country's Security Council, responding to the state media reports.

Officials anticipate Russia could now move quickly to annex the four areas, potentially within days. Such a move could provide Moscow with a pretext to escalate its faltering war, which has seen Kyiv regain thousands of square miles of territory this month.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov previously indicated that if the regions announced majorities in favor of joining Russia, the ratification process would be fast and they could become part of the Russian Federation “quite soon.” 

Asked if that would mean any attempt by Ukraine to regain the territories would be regarded as an attack on Russian territory, Peskov said: “Of course.”

1:42 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

US Secretary of State: Sabotage of Nord Stream pipeline is "in no one's interest"

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the press on Tuesday, September 27.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the press on Tuesday, September 27. (Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that if the leaks in the Nord Stream pipeline were caused by sabotage, “that’s clearly in no one's interest.”

Speaking at a press conference at the State Department Tuesday, Blinken noted the cause of the leaks is being investigated.

“There are initial reports indicating that this may be the result of an attack or some kind of sabotage, but these are initial reports and we haven't confirmed that yet,” he said. “But if it is confirmed, that's clearly in no one's interest.”

The top US diplomat said it was his understanding that “the leaks will not have a significant impact on Europe's energy resilience.”

“What's critical is that we are working, day in, day out, both on a short term basis and a long term basis to address energy security for Europe and, for that matter, around the world,” he said.

In a readout of Blinken’s call, State Department spokesperson Ned Pride said the US was "united" with allies on promoting European energy security. 

1:42 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

UN "deeply disturbed" as thousands detained in Russia protests

From CNN's Chris Liakos and Eve Brennan

Russian law enforcement officers detain a person during a rally in Moscow on September 24, after opposition activists called for street protests against the mobilization of reservists ordered by President Vladimir Putin.
Russian law enforcement officers detain a person during a rally in Moscow on September 24, after opposition activists called for street protests against the mobilization of reservists ordered by President Vladimir Putin. (Reuters)

The United Nations has expressed concern over the detention of thousands of demonstrators in Russia protesting against President Vladimir Putin's partial mobilization order.

“We are deeply disturbed by the large number of people who have reportedly been arrested in the Russian Federation for protesting after the authorities announced a partial mobilization of troops in the context of the armed conflict in Ukraine,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Tuesday.

“We stress that arresting people solely for exercising their rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of liberty. We call for the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained and for the authorities to abide by their international obligations to respect and ensure the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly,” Shamdasani added.

At least 2,398 people have been detained in various cities across Russia from Sept. 21 to Sept. 26, the latest data on Tuesday by independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info shows.

1:41 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Swedish seismologists detected explosions near Nord Stream pipelines

From CNN’s Livvy Doherty, Sharon Braithwaite, Robert North and Chris Liakos

A gas leak at Nord Stream 2 as seen from a Danish F-16 interceptor on September 27.
A gas leak at Nord Stream 2 as seen from a Danish F-16 interceptor on September 27. (Danish Defence Command/Forsvaret Ritzau Scanpix/Reuters)

The Swedish National Seismic Network (SNSN) said Tuesday that it had detected two explosions on Monday near the Nord Stream pipelines.

The first explosion was recorded at 2:03 a.m. local time in the early hours of Monday and the second one 17 hours later, at 7:04 p.m. on Monday evening, according to SNSN.

SNSN said that one of the underwater explosions resulted in a tremor of 2.3 magnitude.

According to SNSN, the last time a similar seismological event was registered in the area was in 2016. It added that this area is not usually used for defense exercises. 

The German geological research centre, GFZ, told CNN that two tremors were registered at similar times at a seismic station on the Danish island of Bornholm, again close to the reported leaks on the pipelines.