Each week, we round up the must-read for our coverage of the war in Ukraine, from news and features to analysis, visual guides and opinion.
Putin mobilizes reservists
Wednesday brought the news that Vladimir Putin had decided to mobilize 300,000 reservists, a sign that the Russian president realizes that his troops inside Ukraine are dwindling. In a significant escalation that puts the country’s people and economy on a war footing, Putin also threatened nuclear retaliation, saying Russia had “plenty of weapons to respond” to what he called the threats. Westerners on Russian territory – and adding that he was not bluffing.
Putin said in a televised address that Russia’s first mobilization since World War II was a direct response to the dangers posed by the West, which “wants to destroy our country”, and claimed that the West had tried to ” turn the Ukrainian people into cannon fodder”. .
His speech aroused disbelief in the West. Joe Biden and Allied leaders reacted angrily to Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons and pledged to maintain support for Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also ignored Putin’s moves to escalate the war, saying his country’s forces would continue their counteroffensive, giving Russia no respite to mobilize and dig into Ukrainian soil. .
In Russia, the mobilization sparked demonstrations that led to more than 1,300 arrests and sent many Russians to the border. Andre Roth reported on the feeling inside Russia, where suddenly war had come home.
Analyze developments, Dan Sabbaghdefense and security editor, says the mobilization is a move that will take months to have a significant military impact, while Pjotr Saur writes that although the Russian leader has already flirted with the grim prospect of using nuclear weapons, experts say his latest statements have gone further, raising fears around the world of an unprecedented nuclear disaster.
Thursday, Andre Roth wrote on the first day of conscription in Russia: summonses issued to eligible men at midnight. Teachers insisted on handing out draft notices. The men have one hour to pack their things and report to the recruiting centers. Women sobbed as they sent their husbands and sons to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine. While others flee.
At New York, Patrick Wintour explains that Turkey, China and India’s patience with Moscow is waning.
Tuesday Andre Roth reported that four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine said they planned to hold “referendums” on joining the Russian Federation in a series of coordinated announcements that could indicate the Kremlin has made the decision to formally annex the territories.
Moscow may be betting that a formal annexation would help halt Russian territorial losses, after a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive reclaimed large swaths of territory in the Kharkiv region.
But Ukraine and the West have signaled that they will not recognize the annexations – and that Russia’s new territorial claims will not slow Ukraine from reclaiming its sovereign lands.
“These referendums are an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that underpin the international system,” said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
“If this happens, the United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to the allegedly annexed parts of Ukraine.”
On Thursday, Ukraine announced that 215 Ukrainian and foreign citizens had been freed by Russia in a prisoner exchange, including fighters who led the defense of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, which has become an icon of the Ukrainian resistance.
Russia received 55 prisoners including Viktor Medvedchuk, a former Ukrainian lawmaker and ally of Vladimir Putin charged with high treason, Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his daily address. Moscow did not comment.
The exchange came after news broke that a Briton facing execution after being captured by Russian forces during the siege of Mariupol was released alongside four other Britons and five international prisoners after the intervention of the ‘Saudi Arabia.
Freed Ukrainians on life under occupation
Until last week, a portrait of Vladimir Putin hung on the wall of the office of the mayor of the city of Shevchenkove. There was a Russian flag. Around a cabinet table, a pro-Kremlin “leader”, Andrey Strezhko, held meetings with colleagues. There was a lot to discuss. One subject: a referendum on joining Russia. Another: a new fall program for the two schools in Shevchenkove, minus everything related to Ukrainian.
Strezhko’s ambitious plans were never realized. As Luke Harding and report by Isobel Koshow, on September 8, the Ukrainian Armed Forces launched a surprise counter-offensive. They quickly took over a strip of territory in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, including Shevchenkove. Most locals greeted the soldiers with hugs and kisses. Strezhko has disappeared. It is believed that he crossed the Russian border with other collaborators.
Shevchenkove’s acting military administrator Andrii Konashavych pointed to the chair where the pseudo-mayor had sat in the council building. On the wall was a portrait of Taras Shevchenko, the national poet of Ukraine, after whom the city is named. What happened to Putin’s photo? “We tore it up,” Konashavych said. Why was there no photo of President Zelenskiy? “Presidents come and go. Shevchenko is forever,” he replied.
Konashavych described Strezhko as someone who made no secret of his pro-Moscow views. The Russians arrived in Shevchenkove – population 7,000 – on February 25, at the start of the invasion. Strezhko got the job after ripping off a Ukrainian trident and stomping on it with his foot. A memorial to Ukrainian soldiers who fought in 2014 against Russia in Donetsk was also demolished.
The Russians promised the locals that they would stay in the city forever.
Horrors in Izium
As the Ukrainian city’s five-month ordeal comes to an end, evidence from corpses and testimonies from survivors suggest that Izium may be another Bucha.
Standing in the dark, Maksim Maksimov showed Luke Harding where he was tortured with electric shocks. Russian soldiers took him from his cell in the basement of the Izium police station. They sat him on an office chair and attached a zigzag alligator clip to his finger. It was wired to an old-fashioned Soviet military field telephone.
And then it started. A soldier turned the crank, turning it faster and faster. This sent an excruciating pulse through Maksimov’s body. “I collapsed. They pulled me to my feet. There was a hood over my head. I couldn’t see anything. My legs went numb. I couldn’t hear out of my left ear,” he recalls. “Then they started again. I fainted. I returned 40 minutes later to my cell.
The Russian army occupied the police station in April. This followed a furious month-long battle with Ukrainian forces who had based themselves on a hill next to the Soviet war memorial at Izium. According to Maksimov, a 50-year-old publisher, soldiers arrested anyone suspected of holding pro-Ukrainian views. He had stayed behind to take care of his elderly mother.
“They won’t invade, will they?” » Fears are rising in the Russian city
Andre Roth writes that the war has become impossible to ignore in Belgorod, in southern Russia, a few kilometers from the border with Ukraine. Russian soldiers retreating from the Ukrainian counterattack now roam the streets. Air defenses explode above our heads several times a day. The city is once again filled with refugees. And, at the border, Russian and Ukrainian soldiers keep sight of each other.
Three Russian soldiers from Ossetia roam unfamiliar streets in front of the great Transfiguration Cathedral late in the evening. They seem unsteady on their feet, possibly drunk or tired. And they’re looking for a place to eat.
Since February, they say, they have fought in Ukraine as part of the invasion force. They were stationed in the village of Velyki Prokhody, just north of Kharkiv, when the urgent signal came to flee to Russia last week.
“What can we say? An order is an order. We had no choice, ”says one wearing a hat stamped with a Z, the tactical symbol adopted as a patriotic emblem of support for the war in Russia.
As the Russian front in Kharkiv crumbled and Ukrainians who chose the Russian side fled to the border, a dark thought crossed the minds of ordinary people here: that war might cross Russia.
Asked about their next destination, the soldiers reply that they don’t know. But it is probable, they think, that they will be sent back south “to defend the border”.