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Ukraine war – latest: Putin warns of ‘serious’ response to Kyiv’s counter-offensive

Russian president Vladimir Putin warned on Friday that Ukraine risks provoking “more serious” action from Moscow with its sweeping counteroffensive, claiming that “we so far have responded with restraint”.

Mr Putin vowed to press on with his “special military operation” in Ukraine during his address to reporters after attending the meeting of Asian world leaders, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, in Uzbekistan.

He said the “liberation” of Ukraine’s entire eastern Donbass region remained Russia‘s main military goal and that he has no intention of giving up the fight.

He came as Indian prime minister Narendra Modi offered a public rebuke to Mr Putin for the first time and the Russian leader admitted there were also concerns about the situation in Beijing.

“We aren’t in a rush,” Mr Putin said, as some pro-Kremlin politicians and military bloggers have urged Moscow to order a broad mobilization to beef up the ranks while lamenting Russia’s manpower shortage.

He accused Ukraine of striking civilian infrastructure in Russia and said it attacked “near our nuclear facilities, nuclear power plants”.

“If the situation develops this way, our response will be more serious,” Mr Putin said.

Key Points

  • Ground report: Bodies were ‘put in sacks and thrown onto trucks’ in Izyum

  • India offers a rare direct rebuke to Putin

  • Putin warns of Ukraine escalation amid widening diplomatic isolation

Putin cannot achieve his Ukraine goals, says Pentagon intelligence chief

08:28 , Shweta Sharma

The Pentagon’s intelligence chief said on Friday that Vladimir Putin’s forces are incapable of achieving his goals, citing recent setbacks and stretched resources.

“We’re coming to a point right now where I think Putin is going to have to revise what his objectives are for this operation,” said Lt General Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, at an intelligence and national security conference outside Washington.

“Because it’s pretty clear right now that he’s… not going to be able to do what he initially intended to do.

“The Russians planned for an occupation, not necessarily an invasion, and that has set them back,” Mr Berrier added.

The Russian president’s reluctance so far to fully mobilize Russian forces and risk more manpower in the fight shows they planned to quickly sweep aside the Zelensky administration and enjoy an occupation in Ukraine rather than a prolonged war, he says.

All the latest developments in Ukraine

07:47 , Shweta Sharma

  • Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with Reuters that it was too early to say which way the tide of the war was turning and that the outcome hinged on the swift delivery of foreign weapons to his country.

  • In his first comments on Ukraine’s counteroffensive, Russian president Vladimir Putin brushed off the advances with a smile but warned that Russia would respond more forcefully if its troops were put under further pressure.

  • On the ground, Ukraine continues its offensive in the northeast while Russia has established a defensive line between the Oskil River and the town of Svatove, protecting one of its few main resupply routes from Russia’s Belgorod region, British military intelligence said on Saturday.

  • The head of a pro-Russian administration pushed out by the counteroffensive, Vitaly Ganchev, accused Ukrainians of staging atrocities in the city of Izyum.

  • United Nations human rights monitors will go to Izyum “to try to establish a bit more about what may have happened”, a spokesperson said.

  • Western sanctions are starting to hurt Russia’s ability to make advanced weaponry for the war in Ukraine, a top Nato military adviser told Reuters, although he said Russia could still manufacture “a lot of ammunition”.

Ground report: Bodies were ‘put in sacks and thrown onto trucks’ in Izyum

07:18 , Shweta Sharma

The crosses are in neat rows, placed with almost military precision in a silent forest of falling autumn leaves. The tranquil scene hides what lies beneath: bodies, in their hundreds, of the dead of Izyum.

The mass grave was found by Ukrainian forces who recaptured the town; around 440 corpses, of more than a thousand estimated to have been killed during the Russian occupation.

Some of those buried in the forest appear to have been killed by bombs and artillery strikes in the fierce fighting for the town, which became the main Russian stronghold in the area.

Andryi Makarenkoin in Izyum and Kim Sengupta bring you details from the mass grave site.

Izyum mass grave discovery will be the first of many, residents fear

UN votes in favor of Zelensky’s pre-recorded speech at the General Assembly

07:08 , Shweta Sharma

Volodymyr Zelensky will be allowed to address the gathering of world leaders for the UN General Assembly next week virtually, making an exception to its rule of in-person speech.

The 193-member world body approved Mr Zelensky’s virtual address by a vote of 101-7 with 19 abstentions including China. The seven countries voting “no” were Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia and Syria.

An amendment put forward by Belarus, a close ally of Russia, to allow pre-recorded addresses in the future for any leader facing exceptional difficulties was defeated by a 23-67 vote.

The document, which was proposed by Ukraine and had more than 50 co-sponsors, allows Mr. Zelensky to submit a pre-recorded statement to be played in the General Assembly hall.

It stresses that this will not set a precedent for future high-level assembly meetings.

‘Tortured, shot, killed’: Zelensky accuses Russia of genocide after Izyum mass grave discovered

06:57 , Shweta Sharma

Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of genocide after the discovery of a mass grave allegedly containing 440 bodies near Izyum, a city recently recaptured from Russian forces.

The Ukrainian president said there was evidence that victims had been tortured. He said that some had been found with broken limbs and ropes around their necks, and that the burial site contained the bodies of civilians and of military personnel.

“Children and adults. Civilians and military. Tortured, shot, killed by shelling,” Mr. Zelensky said. “Even entire families are buried there: mother, father and daughter.”

Read Tom Batchelor and Joe Middleton’s latest report.

‘Tortured, shot, killed’: Zelensky accuses Russia of genocide after mass grave found

After China, India offers a rare direct rebuke to Putin

05:51 , Shweta Sharma

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi told Vladimir Putin that “today’s era isn’t of war”, making his first direct rebuke of the Russian leader after months where New Delhi has held a position of neutrality in the Ukraine conflict.

“Today’s era isn’t of war and I’ve spoken to you about it on the call,” Mr Modi said in his first public criticism of Mr Putin.

“Today we’ll get the opportunity to talk about how we can progress on the path of peace. India-Russia has stayed together for several decades.”

In response, Mr Putin sought to assuage India’s concern about the conflict in Ukraine, telling Mr Modi that Moscow wants to see a quick end to the fighting and alleging that Ukrainian officials won’t negotiate.

“I know your stand on the conflict in Ukraine and the concerns that you have repeatedly voiced,” the Russian leader told Mr. Modi. “We will do all we can to end that as quickly as possible. Regrettably, the other side, the leadership of Ukraine, has rejected the negotiations process and stated that it wants to achieve its goals by military means, on the battlefield.”

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Putin told the Chinese president Xi Jinping that he understands his “questions and concerns” about the Ukraine conflict.

Putin warns of Ukraine escalation amid widening diplomatic isolation

05:33 , Shweta Sharma

Vladimir Putin has warned of “more serious” action against Ukraine amid intensifying questions at home and widening isolation on the world stage.

“Our offensive operation in the Donbas is not stopping. They’re moving forward – not at a very fast pace – but they are gradually taking more and more territory,” he said after a summit of authoritarian leaders in Uzbekistan.

The Russian army was forced to pull back its forces from large swathes of northeastern Ukraine last week after a swift Ukrainian counteroffensive.

In what was the largest military setback for Moscow since it was pushed back from the capital Kyiv early on in the invasion, Ukraine moved to reclaim control of several Russian-occupied cities and villages.

“Let’s see how it develops and how it ends,” he said referring to the Ukrainian counteroffensive. He said Ukraine has also attacked Russian civilian infrastructure and “we so far have responded with restraint, but just yet”.

“If the situation develops this way, our response will be more serious,” Mr Putin said.

“Just recently, the Russian armed forces have delivered a couple of impactful strikes,” he said in an apparent reference to Russian attacks earlier this week on power plants in northern Ukraine and a dam in the south.

“Let’s consider those as warning strikes.”

04:54 , Shweta Sharma

Good morning, welcome to our coverage of the Ukrainian war on Saturday, September 17.

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