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Ukraine war: Lavrov walks out of UN security council; Russians flee country to avoid military draft – as it happened

Queues seen at Russia’s land borders and flights sell out as Moscow begins drafting citizens into army to fight in Ukraine

 Updated 
Thu 22 Sep 2022 21.02 BSTFirst published on Thu 22 Sep 2022 05.30 BST
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the United Nations Security Council.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the United Nations Security Council. Photograph: Amr Alfiky/Reuters
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the United Nations Security Council. Photograph: Amr Alfiky/Reuters

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Lavrov walks out of UN security council meeting

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, walked out of a UN security council meeting after accusing Ukraine and its western allies of “impunity” in Donbas.

Ukraine and its allies were attempting to “impose on us a completely different narrative about Russian aggression”, Lavrov argued.

Lavrov was nearly 90 minutes late for the security council meeting and appeared to want to leave as soon as he finished speaking.

Britain’s foreign secretary, James Cleverly, speaking at the council meeting after Lavrov, said the UK would support Ukraine all the way and for as long as it takes.

Cleverly said Russia had tried to “lay the blame on those imposing sanctions” and that “every day, the devastating consequences of Russia’s invasion become more clear”.

Cleverly said of Lavrov:

He has left the chamber, I’m not surprised. I don’t think Mr Lavrov wants to hear the collective condemnation of this council.

"He has left the chamber, I'm not surprised, I don't think Mr Lavrov wants to hear the collective condemnation of this council" says Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, following Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov walking out of the meeting.https://t.co/X3flQUCiPZ

📺 Sky 501 pic.twitter.com/8pymw5lIqw

— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 22, 2022
Key events

Summary

It’s slightly past 11pm in Kyiv. Here’s where things stand:

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin is giving directions directly to generals in the field, CNN reports. According to two sources familiar with American and western intelligence that spoke to CNN, the direct orders from Putin to generals “hints at the dysfunctional command structure” that has affected Russia forces on the battlefield.

  • Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban wants EU sanctions on Russia lifted by the end of the year, a pro-government daily newspaper said Thursday. Orban, who has sought close ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin in recent years, has frequently railed against the sanctions which were imposed onto Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

  • Many of the Ukrainians exchanged in the largest prisoner swap with Russia since the beginning of the invasion show signs of violent torture, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence said Thursday. On Wednesday Ukraine announced the exchange of a record-high 215 imprisoned soldiers with Russia, including fighters who led the defence of Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks that became an icon of Ukrainian resistance.

  • Britain’s foreign secretary, James Cleverly, said that he is not surprised that that Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov walked out of a UN security council meeting. “I’m not surprised,” Cleverly said at the UN, saying, “I don’t think Mr. Lavrov wants to hear the collective condemnation of this council.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin is giving directions directly to generals in the field, CNN reports.

According to two sources familiar with American and western intelligence that spoke to CNN, the direct orders from Putin to generals “hints at the dysfunctional command structure" that has affected Russia forces on the battlefield.

Other sources who are familiar with US intelligence told CNN that there are significant disagreements on strategy with military leaders who struggle to agree on where to focus their efforts in Ukraine.

Additionally, a senior NATO official told the outlet that senior officials in Moscow are struggling to assign blame for Russia’s setbacks in the war.

“Kremlin officials and state media pundits have been feverishly discussing the reasons for the failure in Kharkiv and in typical fashion, the Kremlin seems to be attempting to deflect the blame away from Putin and onto the Russian military,” the official said.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban wants EU sanctions on Russia lifted by the end of the year, a pro-government daily newspaper said Thursday.

Orban, who has sought close ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin in recent years, has frequently railed against the sanctions which were imposed onto Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

According to Orban, the sanctions are more damaging to Europe than to Russia.

Magyar Nemzet reported that Orban urged members of his Fidesz party at a closed-door gathering late Wednesday to get the sanctions lifted.

“According to our information... Orban called on the members of the Fidesz faction to do their utmost to ensure that Europe lifts these sanctions by the end of the year at the latest,” the newspaper said.

The government said it confirmed the content of the article. It comes as Brussels looks to impose further sanctions on Russia.

Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said further sanctions would only “deepen the difficulties”.

“Europe is suffering more from the restrictions imposed in response to the war in Ukraine than Russia, and therefore the eighth package of sanctions should be forgotten,” he said at the UN General Assembly in New York earlier this week.

Hungary has been hit by record-high inflation. The country is highly dependent on Russian oil and gas, and there are fears for its energy supplies.

Orban’s ruling Fidesz party meanwhile announced it would soon launch a national public consultation on the issue of sanctions - a method previously used to denounce EU migration policy for instance.

It would aim to give Hungarians the chance to voice their opinion, Mate Kocsis, head of the party’s parliamentary group, told reporters.

“It is not normal that sanctions are only decided by the Brussels elite,” Kocsis said.

EU foreign ministers held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss the issue after Moscow mobilised reservists for its war in Ukraine.

A final decision needs to be made at a formal session.

Many of the Ukrainians exchanged in the largest prisoner swap with Russia since the beginning of the invasion show signs of violent torture, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence said Thursday.

Agence France-Presse reports:

On Wednesday Ukraine announced the exchange of a record-high 215 imprisoned soldiers with Russia, including fighters who led the defence of Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks that became an icon of Ukrainian resistance.

“Many of them have been brutally tortured,” Kyrylo Budanov said during a press conference, without providing further details on signs of torture.

Some of the detainees “are in a more or less normal physical condition, except for chronic malnutrition due to bad conditions of detention”, Budanov said.

The prisoners were detained in Ukrainian territories occupied by Russian troops, as well as in Russia itself, according to the high-ranking official.

Ukrainian interior minister Denys Monastyrsky during the same press conference said “absolutely all” of the Ukrainian prisoners swapped “need psychological rehabilitation.”

Britain’s foreign secretary, James Cleverly, said that he is not surprised that that Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov walked out of a UN security council meeting.

“I’m not surprised,” Cleverly said at the UN, saying, “I don’t think Mr. Lavrov wants to hear the collective condemnation of this council.”

‘I’m not surprised’: Cleverly reacts to Lavrov walkout at UN security council – video

Summary of the day so far

It’s 9pm in Kyiv. Here’s where things stand:

  • Thousands of men across Russia have been handed draft papers after Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilisation. Among those who have been called up since the president’s announcement on Wednesday are Russians detained while protesting against the mobilisation, the OVD-Info rights group said.

  • Traffic at Russian border crossings with Finland and Georgia surged after Putin’s partial mobilisation announcement sparked fears that men of fighting age would be called to fight on the frontline in Ukraine. Prices for one-way flights out of Moscow to the nearest foreign locations rose above $5,000 (£4,435), with most air tickets sold out completely for the coming days. Photos showed long tailbacks at border crossings with Finland and Georgia.

  • In response, Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, said her government was considering ways to sharply reduce Russian tourism and transit through Finland. “The government’s will is very clear, we believe Russian tourism [to Finland] must be stopped, as well as transit through Finland,” Marin told reporters.

  • The Kremlin has dismissed reports of an exodus of Russian men of fighting age following Putin’s mobilisation announcement as “exaggerated”. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, also declined to deny Russian media reports that some anti-mobilisation protesters detained on Wednesday night had been given draft papers, saying: “This is not against the law.”

  • Russian deserters fleeing mobilisation may be able to obtain protection in Germany, the German interior minister, Nancy Faeser, said. “Deserters threatened with serious repression can, as a rule, obtain international protection in Germany,” Faeser said in an interview. The Czech foreign minister, Jan Lipavský, said Russians fleeing the country will not be issued humanitarian visas by the Czech Republic.

  • The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has issued a strongly worded rebuke to Russia for “totally unacceptable” nuclear threats. Speaking at the start of a UN security council meeting the day after Putin raised the stakes in his invasion of Ukraine, Guterres said Moscow’s plans to annex parts of Ukraine were a “violation of the UN charter and of international law”.

  • Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, walked out of a UN security council meeting after accusing Ukraine and its western allies of “impunity” in Donbas. Ukraine and its allies were attempting to “impose on us a completely different narrative about Russian aggression”, Lavrov argued. He appeared to walk out of the UN meeting as his British counterpart, James Cleverly, addressed the council.

  • Also speaking at the UN security council meeting, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, accused Putin of having “shredded” international order “before our eyes”. Russia’s president had added “fuel to the fire” by announcing mobilisation and planning “referendums” in occupied Ukrainian territory, and must be held to account for his actions, Blinken said.

  • Nato has condemned plans to hold “referendums” in Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine, describing them as Moscow’s “blatant attempts at territorial conquest”. “Sham referenda” in the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson “have no legitimacy”, the alliance said in a statement following the announcement earlier this week that the regions were planning to hold “referendums” on joining the Russian Federation.

  • The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, also denied reports that an undisclosed clause in Putin’s decree on partial mobilisation provided for 1 million reservists to be enlisted to fight in Ukraine. “This is a lie,” Peskov said in response to a report by Novaya Gazeta that quoted an unnamed Russian official as saying the government’s real plan is to call up 1 million people.

  • Security forces detained more than 1,300 people in Russia overnight at protests denouncing mobilisation, a rights group said. Those figures from across 38 Russian cities include at least 502 in Moscow and 524 in St Petersburg, according to the independent OVD-Info protest monitoring group. These are the largest protests seen since Putin launched his invasion in February.

  • More than 200 Ukrainian and foreign citizens have been released from Russian captivity, including fighters who led the defence of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, in the biggest prisoner swap since Russia’s invasion began in February. In return, Russia received 55 prisoners from Ukraine, including the former Ukrainian MP Viktor Medvedchuk, an ally of Putin accused by Ukraine of high treason.

  • Five Britons released from Russia overnight are meeting their families after several months of captivity in which it was feared they would be executed for fighting for Ukraine. A major diplomatic effort was behind the release of the five Britons who, together with two Americans, a Moroccan, a Croat and a Swedish national, were released by Russia to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. The five Britons have been named.

  • Poland has distributed iodine tablets to regional fire departments to give to people in the event of radioactive exposure, after concerns about fighting around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The deputy interior minister, Błażej Poboży, said these were “routine, pre-emptive actions” to protect people in the event of a situation “which I hope will not happen”.

Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Summons delivered to eligible men at midnight. Schoolteachers pressed into handing out draft notices. Men given an hour to pack their things and appear at draft centres. Women sobbing as they send their husbands and sons off to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The first full day of Russia’s first mobilisation since the second world war produced emotional showdowns at draft centres and even signs of protest. And it appears Russia could be considering far more than the 300,000 new conscripts claimed by the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu.

One woman in a village in the Zakamensky region of Buryatia, eastern Siberia, said she first felt something was amiss when the dogs began barking at about midnight.

In a community of 450 people, the village head was walking from house to house, seeking to hand out more than 20 draft notices. As men gathered before departing the next morning, she said, some drank vodka, while others hugged and told each other to stay safe. Women cried and made the sign of the cross over the small minibus that carried them away.

“It’s not a partial mobilisation, it’s a 100% mobilisation,” said Alexandra Garmazhapova, the president of the Free Buryatia Foundation, an activist group that has reported on the draft in the region. In the past day, she said, she and her colleagues had received and identified more than 3,000 reports of povestka, or draft papers, being delivered in Buryatia within just 24 hours of Vladimir Putin announcing the draft.

Read the full story here:

Nato condemns Russia's 'sham referenda' in Ukraine

Nato has condemned plans to hold “referendums” in Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine, describing them as Moscow’s “blatant attempts at territorial conquest”.

Earlier this week, four Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions announced they were planning to hold votes on joining the Russian Federation. Ukraine and the west have indicated they will not recognise the annexations – and that Russia’s new territorial claims will not slow Ukraine reclaiming its sovereign land.

In a statement today, Nato said:

Sham referenda in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions of Ukraine have no legitimacy and will be a blatant violation of the UN charter.

It added:

Nato allies will not recognise their illegal and illegitimate annexation. These lands are Ukraine.

Also speaking at the UN’s security council today, the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, called for “neutrality” and urged Russia and Ukraine to commit to “dialogue without pre-conditions”.

Wang Yi attending the UN security council meeting.
Wang Yi attending the UN security council meeting. Photograph: Amr Alfiky/Reuters

China supported investigations into violations of international humanitarian law, but they should be “objective and fair, based on facts rather than an assumption of guilt” and “must not be politicised”, Wang said.

Wang spoke with his Polish counterpart, Zbigniew Rau, on the sidelines of the UN meeting, where he argued that an expanded and protracted war was not in the interests of any parties, according to China’s foreign ministry.

China hopes that the “flame of war” will go out as soon as possible, the Chinese ministry cited Wang as saying.

Boris Johnson has said the UK must be prepared to give “more military assistance” and “more economic support” to Ukraine.

Speaking to the Commons today, the former prime minister said it was “more vital than ever” that Britain has “the strategic patience to hold our nerve” and ensure that Ukrainians succeed in recapturing their territory.

Johnson added:

If Putin is going to double down on his aggression, then we must double down in our defence of the Ukrainians, and we must be prepared to give more military assistance and more economic support.

Detained anti-war protesters among thousands handed draft papers, says rights group

Thousands of men across Russia have been handed draft papers after Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilisation.

First video showing called-up men in Moscow saying goodbyes to crying mothers. Similar scenes unfolded in hundreds of Russians cities and towns today. Some Moscow reservists I spoke to say they are also leaving for training tonight, likely will be on the frontlines in ~2-3 weeks pic.twitter.com/xhBMNT5Oiv

— Mary Ilyushina (@maryilyushina) September 22, 2022

Among those who have been called up since the Russian president’s announcement yesterday are Russians detained while protesting in cities across the country, the OVD-Info rights group said.

One protester in Moscow was told they faced a 10-year jail sentence for refusing to receive an enlistment order, it said.

In a statement, OVD-Info said:

Information was received from 15 police departments that the detained men were handed a summons to the military registration and enlistment office.

Another demonstrator told the Moscow Times that male protesters were given draft papers at the police station. She told the paper:

There was a military recruiting officer who gave the detained men draft notifications. When the first person was asked to go to a separate room, we did not understand what was going on — but when he returned with a draft slip, we just started crying.

Earlier today, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov declined to deny reports that some protesters had been given draft papers, saying only: “This is not against the law.”

The Ukrainian journalist Nataliya Gumenyuk has written for us today about how Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation will make the war real for thousands of Russian families, and proves it is failing to hold the frontline.

Ukrainians feel hope, not fear, she writes.

Instead of thinking about Putin’s speech, many Ukrainians celebrated the exchange of 215 Ukrainian prisoners of war that took place on the same day. Among them were Azov battalion fighters, members of the the national guard, the head of the Mariupol patrol police, and a nine-months-pregnant paramedic who had spent six months in prison.

Exhausted, thin, and wearing the same clothes they had on when captured in May 2022, many had a chance to call their relatives for the first time in months. “The best soil in the world,” one of the fighters said, kneeling down and kissing the land.

Read the full story here:

Russians fleeing the partial mobilisation ordered by Vladimir Putin will not be issued with humanitarian visas by the Czech Republic, the Czech foreign minister, Jan Lipavský, said.

In a statement obtained by Agence-France-Presse, Lipavský said:

I understand that Russians are fleeing from the increasingly desperate decisions taken by Putin. But those who are running away from their country because they do not want to fulfil a duty imposed by their own state do not meet the criteria for receiving humanitarian visas.

Earlier today, Germany’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, suggested that Russian deserters may be able to obtain protection in Germany.

Lavrov walks out of UN security council meeting

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, walked out of a UN security council meeting after accusing Ukraine and its western allies of “impunity” in Donbas.

Ukraine and its allies were attempting to “impose on us a completely different narrative about Russian aggression”, Lavrov argued.

Lavrov was nearly 90 minutes late for the security council meeting and appeared to want to leave as soon as he finished speaking.

Britain’s foreign secretary, James Cleverly, speaking at the council meeting after Lavrov, said the UK would support Ukraine all the way and for as long as it takes.

Cleverly said Russia had tried to “lay the blame on those imposing sanctions” and that “every day, the devastating consequences of Russia’s invasion become more clear”.

Cleverly said of Lavrov:

He has left the chamber, I’m not surprised. I don’t think Mr Lavrov wants to hear the collective condemnation of this council.

"He has left the chamber, I'm not surprised, I don't think Mr Lavrov wants to hear the collective condemnation of this council" says Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, following Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov walking out of the meeting.https://t.co/X3flQUCiPZ

📺 Sky 501 pic.twitter.com/8pymw5lIqw

— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 22, 2022

Speaking at the UN security council meeting, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, accused Vladimir Putin of having “shredded” international order “before our eyes”.

Russia’s president had added “fuel to the fire” by announcing mobilisation and planning “referendums” in occupied Ukrainian territory, and must be held to account for his actions, Blinken said.

We cannot – we will not – let President Putin get away with it.

Blinken said it was critical to show that “no nation can redraw the borders of another by force”, adding:

If we fail to defend this principle when the Kremlin is so flagrantly violating it, we send the message to aggressors everywhere that they can ignore it too.

International criminal court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan has said there are “reasonable grounds” to believe crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed in Ukraine.

Speaking at the UN’s security council, Khan said the ICC investigation priorities were intentional targeting of civilian objects and the transfer of populations from Ukraine, including children.

Pjotr Sauer
Pjotr Sauer

Hours after Vladimir Putin shocked Russia by announcing the first mobilisation since the second world war, Oleg received his draft papers in the mailbox, ordering him to make his way to the local recruitment centre in Kazan, the capital of the ​​Tatarstan republic.

As a 29-year-old sergeant in the Russian reserves, Oleg said he always knew that he would be the first in line if a mobilisation was declared, but held out hope that he would not be forced to fight in the war in Ukraine.

“My heart sank when I got the call-up,” he said. “But I knew I had no time to despair.”

He quickly packed all his belongings and booked a one-way ticket to Orenburg, a southern Russian city close to the border with Kazakhstan.

Map

“I will be driving across the border tonight,” he said in a telephone interview on Thursday from the airport in Orenburg.

“I have no idea when I’ll step foot in Russia again,” he added, referring to the jail sentence Russian men face for avoiding the draft.

Oleg said he was leaving behind his wife, who is due to give birth next week.

I will miss the most important day of my life. But I am simply not letting Putin turn me into a killer in a war that I want no part in.

The Kremlin’s decision to announce a partial mobilisation has led to a rush among men of military age to leave the country, likely sparking a new, possibly unprecedented brain drain in the coming days and weeks.

The Guardian spoke to over a dozen men and women who had left Russia since Putin announced the so-called partial mobilisation, or who are planning to do so in the next few days.

Read the full story here:

The Finnish government is considering ways to sharply reduce Russian tourism and transit through Finland, the country’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, said.

Her remarks came after the Finnish border guard said traffic arriving at the country’s eastern border “intensified” overnight after Vladimir Putin ordered a partial military mobilisation.

Some 4,824 Russians arrived in Finland via the country’s eastern border on Wednesday, an increase of 1,691 compared with the same day last week, it said.

Traffic at the border remained elevated on Thursday but was under control, it added.

Incoming traffic at the eastern border increased during the night. Traffic has increased compared to previous weeks, but the amount is still small compared to the time before the pandemic. Our resources are sufficient and the situation is under the control. #Finnishborder pic.twitter.com/B7GfUQyZti

— Rajavartiolaitos (@rajavartijat) September 22, 2022

The situation at Finland's borders has not changed alarmingly in recent days. Incorrect and misleading information is circulating in social media. We will regularly post about the situation on this twitter account in the coming days. #Finnishborder pic.twitter.com/Jng6BhDs35

— Rajavartiolaitos (@rajavartijat) September 22, 2022

At the Vaalimaa border crossing, roughly three hours’ drive from St Petersburg, three lanes of cars each stretched for 300-400 metres at around 1.15pm local time (1015 GMT), a border official told Reuters.

A couple of hours later, traffic had quietened with cars stretching over three lanes for some 150 metres, according to a Reuters witness.

Cars queue to enter the Brusnichnoye checkpoint on the Russian-Finnish border in the Leningrad region.
Cars queue to enter the Brusnichnoye checkpoint on the Russian-Finnish border in the Leningrad region. Photograph: Obtained By Reuters/Reuters

Russian deserters fleeing the partial mobilisation ordered by Vladimir Putin may be able to obtain protection in Germany, the German interior minister has said.

In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, Nancy Faeser said:

Deserters threatened with serious repression can as a rule obtain international protection in Germany.

She added:

Anyone who courageously opposes Putin’s regime and thereby falls into great danger, can file for asylum on grounds of political persecution.

Following Putin’s mobilisation announcement yesterday, Latvia’s foreign minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs, said his country, which borders Russia, would not offer refuge to Russians escaping mobilisation due to “security reasons”.

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