Occupation authorities of three Ukrainian regions have officially demanded referendums on becoming part of Russia.
The Russian authorities of the Luhansk and Donetsk republics and the deputy head of the Kherson administration simultaneously demanded that referendums be held immediately, Russian news agency RIA Novosti has reported.
These statements came immediately after the Ukrainian army liberated Belogorovka, a village in the Luhansk region, signaling that Russian troops are losing control of the region on the battlefield.
Against this backdrop, the Russian Duma has passed amendments to the laws on mobilization and martial law, increasing penalties for desertion. The referendums are expected to lead to the formal annexation of the Ukrainian provinces to Russia, which insiders say could lead President Vladimir Putin to declare national mobilization under the pretext of defending (newly acquired) Russian territory.
Putin has until now resisted a nationwide draft and referred to the war as a "special military operation," but now may be forced to mobilize to reverse Ukraine's stunning gains of the past few weeks.
Looming referendums have been announced since early summer, but each time the dates have been postponed. Now that Ukrainian troops have gone on the offensive and sabotage has become more frequent in the occupied regions, leading to the deaths of local pro-Russian officials, referendums have now become urgent.
Andrei Turchak, secretary of United Russia's general council, said that "referendums" are expected to be held on November 4, Russia's National Unity Day.
The YouTube channel Populyanaya Politika described the calls for a referendum as an attempt to consolidate the legal status of the regions, but also noted that there was no hope to believe that any document would force Ukrainian troops to give up military action to return these territories.
Report: Russian Black Sea Fleet Relocated After Ukraine Acquires Long-Range Missiles
Russia’s Black Sea fleet
Russian Navy Black Sea Fleet/TASS
The British Ministry of Defense reported that in light of Ukraine’s increased long-range strike capability, Russia’s Black Sea fleet has relocated some of its submarines from the port of Sevastopol in Crimea to Novorossiysk, Krasnodar Krai in the south of Russia.
"Guaranteeing the Black Sea Fleet’s Crimea basing was likely one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations for annexing the peninsula in 2014,” the statement said. “Base security has now been directly undermined by Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine."
More Tanks From Germany, U.S. To Keep Ukraine Gains Coming
Ukrainian troops arriving in Izium
As Ukraine continues to make progress with its counter-offensive, the West is ready to provide more military hardware.
Germany will supply Ukraine with four more Panzer howitzer 2000 tanks along with an additional ammunition package, said the country’s Defense Ministry.
Meanwhile, according to a senior U.S. military official, tanks are “absolutely on the table” for the U.S. to provide to Ukraine in the future. “We’re looking at the entirety of the Ukrainian armed forces and considering for the future what capabilities they will need and how the US and our allies will be able to support Ukraine in building out those capabilities,” the official told reporters.
Erdogan: Russia And Ukraine Agree To Prisoners Swap
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that Ukraine and Russia had reached an agreement to exchange prisoners: "200 hostages will be exchanged upon an agreement between the parties," he said during an interview Monday night with the U.S. public broadcaster channel PBS,
Commenting on his recent meeting with Vladimir Putin in Uzbekistan, Erdogan said the Russian leader showed him "that he's willing to end this as soon as possible". He also mentioned that "certain steps'' had been taken to ensure that "the lands which were invaded will be returned to Ukraine", including the Crimean territories invaded in 2014.
Erdogan, who helped negotiate the accord to end the Russian blockade on Ukrainian grain, has sought to play the role of mediator since the war began.
Britain’s Truss Pledges To Meet Or Exceed Military Aid To Ukraine Next Year
Prime Minister Liz Truss
Prime Minister Liz Truss will use her visit to New York this week at the UN General Assembly to solidify the UK’s commitment to Ukraine with the announcement that the UK will match or exceed the 2.3 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) military support to Ukraine next year.
This is Truss’s first international visit as prime minister, and like other leaders at the UN General Assembly, much of her focus will be on the war in Ukraine. Truss will meet U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday where she will again pledge her support for Ukraine.
"My message to the people of Ukraine is this: the UK will continue to be right behind you every step of the way. Your security is our security," she said in a statement before her speech to the summit.
Britain has been the second-largest military donor to Ukraine, with 2.3 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) of aid in 2022, after the U.S. Support going into next year would be determined by the needs of the Ukrainian army and would possibly include rocket artillery systems.
Other Victims In Izyum Of Russian Occupation: Sri Lankan Migrants
The crosses mark the graves of Izium residents killed by Russian occupiers
The recapture by pro-Kyiv forced of occupied areas has revealed evidence and testimony of cruelty by Russian troops in the preceding months, including the mass graves near the liberated city of Izyum.
Add to the victims a group of Sri Lankans, who had come to Ukraine in search of work, who have recounted months being held and tortured by the Russian occupying forces.
"We thought we would never get out alive," Dilujan Paththinajakan told the BBC.
Dilujan was one of seven Sri Lankans captured by Russian forces in May, who say they were blindfolded, deprived of food and regularly beaten by the troops.
Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska Pays Her Respects To The Queen
Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska and Kate Middleton
Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska attended an audience in the company of Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales, at Buckingham Palace and said that the late Queen “shared the same values Ukraine stands for today.”
Speaking to the BBC, Zelenska said she was in the UK to pay her respects to the Queen "on behalf of all Ukrainians". "They know that the Queen shared the values that Ukraine stands for today: freedom, the right to one's own home, language, culture and country," she said.
Zelenska added, “it is very important for us to know that such a world leader of an epoch, a leader with an impeccable reputation and morals, was with us."