A few hours after Russia annexed several areas, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyi announced his army's successes in the east of the country. "Everyone has heard what is happening in Lyman," said Zelenskyj in a video speech on Saturday night, with a view of the strategically important small town, which is located in the Donetsk region that has just been incorporated into Moscow. Previously, the Donetsk occupation chief Denis Puschilin had already admitted the almost complete encirclement of Russian troops in Lyman by Ukrainian soldiers.
More than seven months after the start of the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Cherson and Zaporizhia in addition to Donetsk on Friday. Internationally, this illegal step is not recognized.
The United States announced new sanctions against Russia in light of the recent escalation by Moscow. Ukraine itself is hoping for an accelerated admission process to NATO. On Friday evening there were air alerts in all parts of the attacked country. Saturday is the 220th day of the war.
Immediately after the annexation of his country's four territories, Zelenskyy announced that he wanted to apply for Ukraine's accelerated accession to NATO. "In fact, we've already made our way into NATO," he said. "Today Ukraine is applying to do it de jure," he added.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg then emphasized the defense alliance's open-door policy. "We have repeatedly said that NATO's door will remain open," said the Norwegian. However, a decision must be made by consensus among all member states. The current focus is on direct support for Ukraine. "That is the main focus and the main effort of the NATO allies."
Stoltenberg described Russia's recent actions in the war against Ukraine as the worst escalation since the invasion began on February 24. "This is a crucial moment," he said in Brussels. In addition to the annexations, the NATO chief also referred to the partial mobilization of Russia and nuclear saber-rattling. "None of it shows strength. It shows weakness." This is an admission that the war is not going according to plan and that Russian President Putin has completely failed in his strategic goals.
In response to Russia's annexation of the four occupied Ukrainian territories, the US is imposing further sanctions on Russia. The punitive measures are aimed, among other things, against other Russian government officials, their family members and members of the military, as the US government in Washington announced. The list includes hundreds of people — and companies too. Defense procurement networks, including international suppliers, are also affected.
In addition, the US interim budget, which includes billions in aid for Ukraine, passed Congress. President Joe Biden put the approved budget into effect with his signature. The budget, scheduled to run until mid-December, provides for military and economic support for Ukraine in the amount of around 12.3 billion dollars (12.5 billion euros).
The head of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russian troops, Ihor Murashov, has been kidnapped by Moscow troops, according to Ukrainian sources. This was announced by the President of the operating company Enerhoatom, Petro Kotin, on Saturday. The general director of Europe's largest nuclear power plant was stopped the day before by a Russian patrol at the Enerhodar nuclear power plant site, dragged out of the car and taken to an unknown location, blindfolded. So far, there has been no explanation from the Russian side. Russia has occupied the nuclear power plant since early March.
"There is no information about his fate," said Kotin on Telegram. He accused Russia of nuclear terrorism against the management and employees of the power plant. Murashov, who bears the main responsibility for the safe functioning and nuclear safety of the plant, must be released immediately.
According to Ukrainian sources, 30 people were killed in a rocket attack on a civilian car convoy in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhia on Friday. Another 88 people were injured, police said. The governor of the Zaporizhia regional administration, Olexander Starukh, blamed Russian troops for the attack. The information cannot be verified independently.
At the end of a UNESCO conference in Mexico City, representatives from 48 countries protested against Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine. Dozens of delegates temporarily left the hall on Friday (local time) when the Russian representative spoke up. Representatives from around 120 countries took part in the conference of the UN organization for education, science and culture. In a joint statement, delegates from the EU, Canada, the USA, Japan and other countries first called on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. They also denounced the vandalism and looting of cultural sites in Ukraine.
Despite the recent Russian annexations, Ukraine continues to try to liberate the occupied part of its country. A particular focus is likely to be on the now largely encircled Russian troops in Lyman in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.