Russia is holding elections in occupied parts of Ukraine in an effort to tighten its grip on territories it illegally annexed a year ago and still does not fully control. The voting starts Friday and will continue through the weekend. In Cuba, authorities have arrested 17 people suspected of trafficking young men to fight for Russia in Ukraine. Read our live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
Issued on: 08/09/2023 – 08:07Modified: 08/09/2023 – 08:23
7:51am: EU’s Michel calls Russian blockade of Ukraine ports ‘scandalous’
Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian seaports after pulling out of a United Nations and Turkey-mediated deal to ensure grain shipments must be stopped, the president of the European Council Charles Michel said Friday.
“It’s frankly scandalous that Russia, after having terminated the Black Sea grain initiative, is blocking and attacking Ukrainian ports. This must stop,” Michel told reporters in India’s capital of New Delhi, ahead of a G20 summit.
6:07am: Russia holds elections in occupied Ukrainian regions
Russian authorities are holding local elections this weekend in occupied parts of Ukraine in an effort to tighten their grip on territories Moscow illegally annexed a year ago and still does not fully control.
The voting for Russian-installed legislatures in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions begins Friday and concludes Sunday. It has already been denounced by Kyiv and the West.
“It constitutes a flagrant violation of international law, which Russia continues to disregard,” the Council of Europe, the continent’s foremost human rights body, said this week.
Voters are supposed to elect regional legislatures, which in turn will appoint regional governors. In the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, thousands of candidates are also competing for seats on dozens of local councils.
The balloting is scheduled for the same weekend as other local elections in Russia.
5:34am: Cuba arrests 17 for trafficking young men to fight for Russia in Ukraine
Cuban authorities said they had arrested 17 people on charges related to a ring of human traffickers that allegedly lured young Cuban men to serve in the Russian military amid the Ukraine conflict.
Cuba earlier this week revealed authorities were working to “neutralise and dismantle” the network, which it said operated both on Cuban soil and in Russia.
“As a result of the investigations, 17 people have been arrested so far, among them the internal organiser of these activities,” Cesar Rodriguez, a colonel with Cuba´s interior ministry, said late on Thursday on a TV program.
Those involved could be punished with up to 30 years in prison, a life sentence or the death penalty, depending on the severity and type of crimes, which range from human trafficking, fighting as a mercenary and hostile action against a foreign state.
Cuba says it has no part in the war in Ukraine, and that it rejects the use of its citizens as mercenaries.
5:10am: Russia replies to US criticism of ‘sham’ vote in occupied Ukrainian regions
The Russian embassy in the US said on Friday that Washington was meddling in Russia’s internal affairs by calling elections in the occupied areas of Ukraine that Moscow now considers Russian “illegitimate”, the RIA news agency reported.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the comment on Thursday.
2:05am: Ukraine reports some successes in counteroffensive
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday singled out military units in the east and south for their actions against Russian troops and other officials reported some breakthroughs in a counteroffensive to reclaim Russian-occupied territory.
The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces described a “partial success” near the eastern city of Bakhmut, long a focal point of fighting. And it said Ukrainian troops were making gradual progress in their southward advance to the Sea of Azov.
Russian accounts of the fighting said their troops had beaten back Ukrainian attacks near Bakhmut.
Key developments of Thursday, September 7:
Ukraine is “gradually gaining ground” in its counteroffensive against Russia, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said, noting Ukrainian forces have broken through Russian defences despite “heavy, difficult fighting”.
Russia reacted to the US decision decision to supply depleted uranium anti-tank rounds to Ukraine as “a criminal act”.
Read yesterday’s live blog to see how the day’s events unfolded.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)