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Shelling hit southern Ukraine late on Saturday while Russia sought to defend its seven-month old war at the United Nations even as it moves to escalate the conflict.

Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

Referendums

  • Russia launched referendums on Friday aimed at annexing four occupied regions of Ukraine, drawing condemnation from Kyiv and Western nations who dismissed the votes as a sham and pledged not to recognise their results.

  • Ukrainian officials said people were banned from leaving some occupied areas until the four-day vote was over, armed groups were going to homes to force people to cast ballots, and employees were threatened with the sack if they did not participate.

  • Reuters could not immediately verify reports of coercion.

  • The votes in the provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia were hastily organised after Ukraine recaptured large swathes of the northeast in a counter-offensive.

  • Ukraine, Western leaders and the United Nations condemned the votes as an illegitimate precursor to illegal annexation. There are no independent observers, and much of the pre-war population has fled.

  • The United States is prepared to impose additional economic costs on Russia in conjunction with US allies if Moscow moves forward with annexing portions of Ukrainian territory, the White House said.

  • NATO will ramp up its help for Kyiv in response to the “sham” referendums, the alliance’s secretary-general said.

  • Russia maintains that the referendums offer an opportunity for people in those regions to express their view and its top diplomat said the regions would be under Russia’s “full protection” if they are annexed.

  • The Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, may debate bills incorporating Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine into Russia on Thursday, the state-run TASS news agency said.

Russian mobilisation

  • The strongly pro-Kremlin editor of Russia’s state-run RT news channel expressed anger that enlistment officers were sending call-up papers to the wrong men, as frustration about a military mobilisation grew across Russia.

  • The head of the Kremlin’s Human Rights Council, Valery Fadeyev, announced that he had written to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu with a request to “urgently resolve” problems of the mobilisation.

Russian general replaced

In another rare public sign of turmoil at the top in Russia, the defence ministry said the deputy minister in charge of logistics, four-star General Dmitry Bulgakov, had been replaced “for transfer to another role”.

Diplomacy

  • China supports all efforts conducive to the peaceful resolution of the “crisis” in Ukraine, its foreign minister told the UN General Assembly, adding that the pressing priority was to facilitate talks for peace.

Grain deal

  • A total of 211 ships with 4.7 million tonnes of agricultural products on board have left Ukraine under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to unblock Ukrainian sea ports, the Ukrainian infrastructure ministry said.

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