October 3, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Rhea Mogul, Sana Noor Haq, Laura Smith-Spark, Mike Hayes and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 1:58 a.m. ET, October 4, 2022
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9:43 a.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Russian Parliament begins process to rubber-stamp annexations, in violation of international law

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Joshua Berlinger

Members of the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, attend a session to approve laws on annexing Ukraine's Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions into Russia, in Moscow, Russia, on October 3.
Members of the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, attend a session to approve laws on annexing Ukraine's Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions into Russia, in Moscow, Russia, on October 3. (Russian State Duma/Reuters)

Russia’s legislature on Monday began the process of approving President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex four parts of Ukraine in violation of international law, a move that comes as the Ukrainian military continues to liberate towns previously occupied by Russian forces.

The procedure is expected to be a formality, although it will take a couple of days. Putin and his allies effectively control both branches of the Russian legislature, and the space for political dissent in Russia has shrunk in recent years.

The lower house, the State Duma, voted unanimously Monday to approve the annexation, according to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency. The upper house, the Federation Council, is scheduled to hold meetings on the topic on Tuesday, TASS reported.

But the maneuverings inside the ornate halls of the Kremlin stand in stark contrast to the facts on the ground in the detritus-strewn battlefields of eastern Ukraine.

Where things stand on the ground: Russian forces have suffered a series of surprising defeats in eastern Ukraine, forcing them to retreat and abandon several positions in areas the Kremlin is annexing. Pro-Russian propagandists and bloggers have been unusually critical of the war effort in recent days, as town after town falls to Ukrainian forces.

One prominent Russian pro-government tabloid, Komsomolskaya Pravda, said Russian forces had to retreat in the strategically important city of Lyman because they lacked manpower and communicated poorly, and commanding officers there made “mistakes.”

Now, much of the territory Moscow claims as its own in Donetsk region is under the control of Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that the country had taken back Lyman, while the Ukrainian military said it had recaptured the nearby villages of Drobysheve and Torske, putting Kyiv in a better position as it seeks to take back the Luhansk region.

9:22 a.m. ET, October 3, 2022

US considering how to respond to possible Russian escalation in Ukraine, sources say

From CNN's Jim Sciutto

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the signing ceremony with separatist leaders on the annexation of four Ukrainian regions at the Grand Kremlin Palace, on September 30, in Moscow, Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the signing ceremony with separatist leaders on the annexation of four Ukrainian regions at the Grand Kremlin Palace, on September 30, in Moscow, Russia. (Getty Images)

With concerns growing that Vladimir Putin will escalate Russia’s war in Ukraine, the US is considering how to respond to a range of potential scenarios, including fears that Russians could use tactical nuclear weapons, according to three sources briefed on the latest intelligence.

The US has since the start of the conflict been developing contingency plans to respond, including to the possibility that Russia’s President could escalate via a step just short of a nuclear attack on Ukraine, through what one source described as a “nuclear display,” such as a potential military strike on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, or the detonation of a nuclear device at high-altitude or away from populated areas.

Officials caution the US has not detected preparations for a nuclear strike. However, experts view them as potential options the US must prepare for as Russia’s invasion falters and as Moscow annexes more Ukrainian territory.

US officials have also taken somber note of the Russian President’s repeated public threats to use nuclear weapons. In a televised address late last month, Putin said, “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.”

On Friday, at a ceremony in which he announced the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions, Putin said Russia would use “all available means” to defend the areas, adding that the US had “created a precedent” for nuclear attacks in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.

“Putin is capable of anything,” Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN. While noting there is no evidence yet of preparations for such an attack, Quigley added, “You have to take him seriously.”

The US is studying the range of potential scenarios in order to have contingency plans in place for how it and its partners would respond to any such attacks. The potential for a “nuclear display” is considered an option if Putin stops short of ordering a nuclear strike on Ukrainian forces or population centers, opting instead for what one official described as a “show of bravado.”

8:31 a.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Ukrainian official: Ukraine makes further gains in south, including capturing town on bank of Dnipro river

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv and Mick Krever in London

Ukrainian forces have made additional gains in the country’s south, pushing towards the occupied city of Kherson and capturing the town of Zolota Balka on the western bank of the Dnipro river, according to a regional official and pro-Russian military blogger.

“Our Armed Forces are powerfully advancing just along the bank of the Dnipro closer to Berislav,” Serhii Khlan, adviser to the head of Ukraine’s Kherson region military administration, said in a news briefing.

The head of the Russian-appointed administration in Kherson, for his part, acknowledged that Ukrainian forces were advancing along the Dnipro river.

“What can I say, my friends?,” Kirill Stremousov said on Telegram. “The Nazi forces got through a little bit further but our defense is working.”

“We are repelling all the attacks and to be fair those who are panicking today on social media they have to take a pause. It’s not Kharkiv here, it’s not Lyman here. We are holding our defence lines.” 

Boris Rozhin, a Russian military blogger, said that Russian forces were trying to hold off Ukraine’s offensive.

“Artillery duels are going on between Zolota Balka and Dudchan,” said on Telegram. “Armed Forces of Ukraine are equipping strongholds in occupied positions.

8:21 a.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Swedish Coast Guard says leak from Nord Stream 2 pipeline has increased in size

From CNN’s Livvy Doherty

The release of gas emanating from a leak on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea on September 27 is seen in this handout image provided by Swedish Coast Guard.
The release of gas emanating from a leak on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea on September 27 is seen in this handout image provided by Swedish Coast Guard. (Swedish Coast Guard/Getty Images)

The Swedish Coast Guard said that one leak from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline had not stopped but instead grown larger in size, according to Swedish authorities.

Following a fly-over of the leak locations on Monday morning a leak from Nord Stream 1 was no longer visible and therefore could be said to have stopped, the Swedish Coast Guard said.

However, “the smaller one from Nord Stream 2 is instead slightly larger than yesterday” and measured around 30 metres in diameter, the coast guard said in a statement.

The coast guard added that it is taking "emergency" measures for a longer time than expected, due to the larger leak.

The coast guard's announcement came after Russian state-owned energy supplier Gazprom earlier stated all leaks had stopped in both pipelines, but said it is still working to “reduce pressure in line B of the Nord Steam 2 gas pipeline.”

It is unclear if pressure in line B could lead to the larger leak seen by the coast guard.

The pipelines, which run under the Baltic Sea near Sweden and Denmark, were created to funnel gas from Russian into the European Union.

More background: When Swedish authorities first cited the leaks on Tuesday it prompted fears around European reliance on Russian energy, a problem that has only deepened since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February.

European leaders swiftly denounced the leaks, with European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, saying the leaks were likely "the result of a deliberate act." European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen referred to them as "sabotage action."

US President Joe Biden said the leaks were a "deiberate act of sabotage," after it emerged that European security officials on Monday and Tuesday observed Russian Navy support ships in the vicinity of leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines likely caused by underwater explosions.

At the time it was unclear whether the ships had anything to do with the explosions, these sources and others said -- adding that it was one of the many factors investigators would be probing.

CNN's Allie Malloy, Maegan Vazquez, Katie Bo Lillis, Natasha Bertrand and Kylie Atwood contributed reporting.

5:35 p.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Ukrainian forces advance into the Luhansk region, pro-Russian officials say

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv and Mick Krever in London

After regaining the key eastern Ukrainian city of Lyman over the weekend, Ukrainian forces have continued their counteroffensive and pushed into the Luhansk region, according to pro-Russian officials and propagandists.

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine managed to cross the administrative border of the LPR and gain a foothold in the direction of the settlement of Lysychansk,” Andrey Marochko, a military leader in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), said on Telegram on Monday.

Russia controls nearly all of Ukraine’s Luhansk region; Ukrainian forces liberated the Luhansk village of Bilohorivka at the end of September.

Ukrainian forces have continued their offensive towards the Russian-occupied towns of Svatove and Kreminna, in the Luhansk region, a pro-Russian journalist, military blogger and analyst said.

“In the face of the threat to our grouping in the area of ​​the settlement of Borova, it was decided to withdraw it to the line of the Zherebets River, which was done tonight,” Yuriy Podolyaka wrote on Telegram.

“In the area of ​​Kreminna, the enemy is also not particularly active today, but the concentration of troops suggests that a new offensive in this direction (towards Svatove and Kreminna) should begin any day,” he said.

Kyiv is now advancing into the Luhansk region, according to military representative for the so-called People's Militia of the Luhansk People's Republic.

"Now the Ukrainian media have begun to very actively share information that the Armed Forces of Ukraine have crossed the administrative border of the LPR, and they are rejoicing,” Andrey Marochko said, quoted by the Luhansk Media Center.

“But in fact, there are no administrative borders for the military now, in fact, Ukrainian troops entered ‘the fire bag’ and are being actively destroyed by our troops," Marochko added.

10:08 a.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Russian tabloid describes "mistakes" in battle for Lyman

From CNN's Mick Krever

Ukrainian troops pose for a photo in Lyman, Ukraine, in this picture released in social media October 1.
Ukrainian troops pose for a photo in Lyman, Ukraine, in this picture released in social media October 1. (Oleksiy Biloshytskyi/Reuters)

Russian troops in eastern Ukraine withdrew from the city of Lyman after facing a lack of manpower, poor communications and “mistakes” by commanding officers, according to a revealing report in a Russian pro-government tabloid.

“The risk of being encircled and the prospects of the humiliating captivity were too big, and the commanders made a decision to retreat,” the writer, who was embedded with Russian troops, wrote in Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Residents of Lyman who spoke with CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh said that Russian troops began retreating late on Friday – just as Russian President Vladimir Putin was celebrating his claimed annexation of Ukraine’s Donetsk region, where Lyman is located. 

The author of the newspaper report said the Russian troops had described “all the usual stuff.” 

“No decent communication between different units. Nobody knows what is happening at the neighboring positions. When you ask for the artillery support through a convoluted system of reports, it takes time and our targets are long gone.”

The reason for the Russians’ retreat, too, was “typical,” the report said.

“Not enough soldiers, mistakes of the commanders when organizing the defense,” according to the tabloid account.

“The so-called ‘500’s’ – the contract soldiers who refuse to fight and leave the battlefield. Late arrival of the reserves played its role too as well as lack of coordination between units on the ground and lack of modern equipment when it comes to intelligence.”

7:22 a.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Lithuania declares top Russian diplomat "persona non grata"

From CNN’s Eve Brennan

Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declared Russian diplomat Sergey Ryabokon a “persona non grata.” 

Ryabokon, the charge d’affaires at the Russian embassy in Vilnius, has been given “five days to leave the country,” according to a press release published by the foreign ministry on Monday. 

Its reasoning was based on “recent actions and statements by Ryabokon” which “were incompatible with his diplomatic status,” and “regarded as an interference in the host state's internal affairs and, therefore, violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.” 

“Lithuania's Foreign Ministry also strongly protested against the Russian President's decision of 30 September to illegally annex the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, parts of which were temporarily occupied by Russia,” the statement concluded. 

Lithuania has emerged a staunch ally of Kyiv since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Last week, the Lithuanian president alongside the leaders of eight other NATO countries issued a joint statement supporting Ukraine's bid for membership of the defense alliance. They also called for increased military aid to Ukraine.

9:39 a.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Moscow to continue "consulting" on borders of territories annexed by Russia, says Kremlin

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a screen set at Red Square as he addresses a rally and a concert marking the annexation of four regions of Ukraine - Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia - in central Moscow on September 30.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a screen set at Red Square as he addresses a rally and a concert marking the annexation of four regions of Ukraine - Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia - in central Moscow on September 30. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Moscow will “continue consulting” with the residents of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions to establish the exact borders of the Ukrainian regions claimed to be annexed by Russia.

“As for the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia (regions), we will continue consulting with the population of these regions," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday, when asked to clarify the borders of the territories annexed by the Russian Federation.

In response to questions about what format these consultations will take place, Peskov said he “cannot answer this question at the moment,” but added it will depend on the will of the people living on those territories. He said that no new referendums are planned.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally signed a decree to annex nearly a fifth of Ukraine's territory in blatant violation of international law, following so-called referendums held by Russian-backed officials in eastern and southern Ukraine on joining Russia. The votes are illegal under international law and have been dismissed by Ukraine and Western nations as "a sham."

Part of the territory of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions is currently under control of the Ukrainian military. Peskov declined a comment on whether Russia will consider this as its own land following the ceremony at the Kremlin's St. George's Hall on Friday.

Talking about the other two regions, Peskov reaffirmed that Russia recognized as part of its territory the entirety of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), within their borders of 2014.

On Sunday, the Constitutional Court of Russia recognized the treaties on the admission of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, the DPR and the LPR to the Russian Federation as legal. The treaties published by the government do not specify the exact borders of the new territories.

CN's Joshua Berlinger, Anna Chernova and Tim Lister contributed reporting.

8:13 a.m. ET, October 3, 2022

It's 2 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Kyiv has recaptured more territory in the eastern Donetsk region, shortly after liberating the key city of Lyman.

Russian forces are pursuing young men of conscription age in occupied areas of Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Kyiv gains ground in the east: Ukrainian forces retook the village of Torske near Lyman in the Donetsk region on Sunday, according to the Ukrainian military. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces are hitting Russian military units in Kreminna “with fire," according to a military spokesperson, adding that they would also be able to take back Severodonetsk and Lysychansk should they win back control of the city in the Luhansk region.
  • Russian forces look to bolster numbers: The Russian military is carrying out “door-to-door” checks in occupied areas of Ukraine, looking for young men of conscription age, the Ukrainian military said on Monday, adding that Moscow has stepped up document inspections at checkpoints. Ukrainian officials have been warning for some time that Russia planned on using its claimed annexations as a pretext to draft Ukrainians in occupied areas.
  • Nine NATO leaders endorse Ukraine's membership bid: The presidents of nine NATO countries issued a joint statement Sunday supporting Ukraine's proposal for membership of the defense alliance as they called for increased military aid to Kyiv. A decision about Ukraine’s application for accelerated NATO membership must be agreed upon by all 30 members of the alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general, said after Zelensky announced Ukraine's "accelerated" membership application.
  • US backs Ukraine's military success: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin believes Ukrainian forces are “making progress” in the Kherson region of the country as they continue to counter Russia’s invasion, adding there has been a “kind of change in the battlefield dynamics.” Austin told CNN in an exclusive interview that he attributed the change to the skill of Ukrainian soldiers and their strategic use of weapons supplied by US and NATO allies, specifically their use of the high mobility air rocket system, or HIMARS.