Ukraine news – live: New mass graves found in Izyum after Russian troops flee

Ukraine has discovered more mass burial sites in the northeastern town of Izyum which Kyiv recaptured from Russia this month, Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“They found two more mass graves, big graves with hundreds of people,” the Ukrainian president said, as he called for further international sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s regime over potential war crimes.

Russia did not immediately respond to Mr Zelensky’s claim but has repeatedly denied committing atrocities during its invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities earlier this month launched an investigation into a large burial site discovered next to a cemetery in Izyum after the months-long Russian occupation of the Kharkiv Oblast town.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor previously declared Ukraine a “crime scene” after visiting found a mass burial site in Bucha near Kyiv after Russian troops fled in April.

Meanwhile, firce opposition to Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation order continues. In Russia’s Muslim-majority southern region of Dagestan, police clashed with protesters on Sunday, leading to the detention of at least 100 people.

Key Points

  • Ukraine finds more mass graves after driving Russia out

  • Gunman opens fire at draft office in Russia

  • Russian vote counters 'take ballot boxes door-to-door’

  • Putin to meet key ally Lukashenko later

  • Russians fleeing to Finland boost border crossings by 80%

Putin ‘deeply mourns’ death of seven Russian schoolchildren, killed by gunman wearing swastika t-shirt

14:09 , Liam James

At least 13 people have been killed after a gunman with a swastika on his t-shirt, opened fire at a school in the western Russian city of Izhevsk.

Among the dead were seven children, said police. Two teachers and two security guards were also killed.

Another 21 people were injured. Those wounded include 14 children, Russia’s Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes, said, amid fears the death toll could climb higher.

The gunman later killed himself, said the committee, who also revealed the details about what he was wearing.

Putin ‘mourns’ death of 7 schoolchildren, killed by gunman wearing swastika t-shirt

Russia and US in sporadic contact over nuclear weapons

13:54 , Liam James

The Kremlin said on Monday it was in “sporadic” contact with the United States on issues related to nuclear arms, days after Vladimir Putin said he was “not bluffing” over his readiness to use such weapons if Russia felt its territorial integrity was under threat.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two sides had maintained a limited open channel of dialogue to allow for the “emergency exchange of messages” between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

“There are channels for dialogue at the proper level, but they are of a very sporadic nature. At least they allow for the exchange of some emergency messages about each other’s positions,” Mr Peskov told reporters.

Mr Putin said last week Moscow would be prepared to use nuclear weapons to “protect Russia and our people” as he announced a mobilisation drive that threatens to significantly escalate the seven-month conflict in Ukraine.

The United States warned Moscow on Sunday of “catastrophic consequences” if it uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline sees pressure drop

13:30 , Liam James

Pressure in the Nord Stream 2 undersea gas pipeline from Russia to Germany dropped from 300 to 7 bars overnight, a spokesperson for the pipeline’s operator said, adding that the company did not know the cause of the drop.

The Russian-owned pipeline, which was intended to double the volume of gas flowing from St Petersburg under the Baltic Sea to Germany, had just been completed and was filled with 300 million cubic metres of gas when German chancellor Olaf Scholz cancelled it shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Swiss-based operator said it had informed all relevant authorities and that a leak, if that were the cause, could not have been at the landing point in Lubmin, northern Germany.

“If it were in Lubmin, you’d have heard it,” the spokesperson said.

Russia has cut or halted gas supplies to Europe on several routes, including the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany.

Dying Russian troops will be ‘cleansed of sin’, says orthodox church head

13:07 , Liam James

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has said that Russian soldiers who die in the war against Ukraine will be cleansed of all their sins, days after Vladimir Putin ordered the mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of citizens.

Patriarch Kirill is a key Putin ally and backer of the invasion. He has previously criticised those who oppose the war and called on Russians to rally round the Kremlin.

“Many are dying on the fields of internecine warfare,” Mr Kirill, 75, said in his first Sunday address since the mobilisation order. “The Church prays that this battle will end as soon as possible, so that as few brothers as possible will kill each other in this fratricidal war.”

“But at the same time, the Church realises that if somebody, driven by a sense of duty and the need to fulfil their oath ... goes to do what their duty calls of them, and if a person dies in the performance of this duty, then they have undoubtedly committed an act equivalent to sacrifice. They will have sacrificed themselves for others. And therefore, we believe that this sacrifice washes away all the sins that a person has committed.”

Mr Kirill’s support for the war in Ukraine has deepened a rift between the Russian branch of the Orthodox Church and other wings of Orthodoxy around the world. Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, has been a vocal opponent of the war, and has appeared to scold Kirill’s position in several public addresses, including earlier this month when he said God does not support war.

Russian border will remain open for now despite draft dodgers, says Kremlin

12:30 , Liam James

The Kremlin said no decisions have been taken on closing Russia’s borders amid an exodus of military-age men since Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilisation last Wednesday.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also acknowledged that some call-ups had been issued in error, and that mistakes would be corrected.

Earlier, a senior member of the Duma called for a ban on foreign travel for Russian men of fighting age.

“Everyone who is of conscription age should be banned from travelling abroad in the current situation,” Sergei Tsekov, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, told RIA news agency.

Neighbouring countries have reported large influxes of Russian men since the mobilisation order was given.

Huge queues to enter Georgia as Russians flee military draft

12:09 , Liam James

Russian men are fleeing into neighbouring Georgia to avoid being called-up to fight in a war they do not agree with following Vladimir Putin’s order to mobilise hundreds of thousands of reservists for the conflict in Ukraine, according to Reuters.

At one point on Sunday, the estimated wait to enter Georgia hit 48 hours, with more than 3,000 vehicles queuing to cross the frontier, Russian state media reported, citing local officials.

The Georgian capital Tbilisi had already seen an influx of around 40,000 Russians since Moscow invaded Ukraine on 24 February, according to government statistics.

People walk past vehicles with Russian license plates on the Russian side of the border between Georgia and Russia some 20 miles outside the town of Vladikavkaz (AFP/Getty)
People walk past vehicles with Russian license plates on the Russian side of the border between Georgia and Russia some 20 miles outside the town of Vladikavkaz (AFP/Getty)

Moldova could revoke citizenship for Russian fighters

11:49 , Liam James

Moldova may revoke the citizenship of its nationals who go to fight for Russia in Ukraine after being called up because they also hold Russian passports, pro-Western president Maia Sandu said.

Russia launched a “partial” mobilisation last week to reinforce its troops in Ukraine, and there are 200,000 people with dual Moldovan-Russian citizenship who live in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniestria.

Ms Sandu said Moldova was holding consultations with Moscow to prevent cases of its citizens being called up.

Russia has had peacekeeping troops stationed in Transdniestria since the early 1990s when an armed conflict saw pro-Russian separatists wrest most of the region from Moldovan control.

School shooting in Russia kills nine

11:30 , Liam James

A gunman on Monday morning killed nine people and wounded 20 others in a school in central Russia, authorities said.

Russia‘s Investigative Committee said in an online statement that two guards, two teachers and five students were killed in the shooting in a school in Izhevsk, a city about 596 miles east of Moscow in the Udmurtia region.

Governor of Udmurtia Alexander Brechalov said in a video statement that the still unidentified gunman shot himself. The governor said Udmurtia would be in official mourning until Thursday.

The school, named No 88, educated children from ages 5 to 18. It has been evacuated and area around it has been fenced off, the governor said.

No details about the gunman or his motives have been released. Izhevsk, a city of 640,000, is located west of the Ural mountains in central Russia.

Alexander Brechalov gives a statement in front of school No 88 in Izhevsk (Telegram/AFP/Getty)
Alexander Brechalov gives a statement in front of school No 88 in Izhevsk (Telegram/AFP/Getty)

Russia fires on Odesa, claims military target

11:08 , Liam James

Two drones launched by Russian forces into the Odesa region in Ukraine hit military objects causing a fire and the detonation of ammunition, the south command of Ukraine’s forces said this morning.

“As a result of a large-scale fire and the detonation of ammunition, the evacuation of the civilian population was organised,” the command said in statement on the Telegram.

“Preliminarily, there have been no casualties.”

Moscow sources claim that Russia hit Ukraine’s Operational Command South (UOCS) headquarters in Odesa with Shahed-136 drones, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

UOCS is leading Ukraine’s southern counteroffensive against Russia, which has made slow progress towards the captured city of Kherson since launching three weeks ago.

Odesa, Ukraine’s biggest commercial port, has been a prime target of Russia’s throughout the war.

UN pushes for joint talks over occupied Ukraine power plant

10:49 , Liam James

UN atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said he is ready to hold talks in Ukraine and Russia this week on setting up a protection zone at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine that he often says is needed urgently.

“There is a plan on the table to do it. Last week I had an opportunity to start consultations with Ukraine and with the Russian Federation ... and I am ready to continue these consultations in both countries this week,” Mr Grossi told a meeting of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) member states.

An IAEA team has been at the power plant for three weeks after repeated shelling nearby raised fears of a nuclear accident. Shelling has continued at the site, causing further damage to power lines and threatening essential safety functions, the IAEA said.

Russian troops occupy Zaporizhzhia and Moscow blames Ukraine for reckless attacks. Ukraine accuses Russia of the same.

Freed British POW thanks Russian officials who ‘saw common sense'

10:30 , Liam James

One of five Britons released from captivity by Russian-backed forces thanked those responsible for freeing them and expressed gratitude that “someone saw common sense.”

Shaun Pinner, who was sentenced to death by the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) with Aiden Aslin, 28, appeared on Good Morning Britain on Monday after being freed in a Saudi-brokered prisoner swap on Wednesday.

“We’re thankful for whoever decided to let us go in Russia and the DPR. Thank you that someone saw common sense.

“It’s a very bitter pill to swallow after all the treatment we had, but we are thankful.”

Russians fleeing to Finland boost border crossings by 80%

10:11 , Liam James

Almost 17,000 Russians crossed the border into Finland during the weekend, an 80 per cent rise from a week earlier, Finnish authorities said today, as the influx of people continued in the wake of Russia’s announcement of military mobilisation.

The border traffic had somewhat calmed early this morning but remained busier than in the previous weeks, Captain Taneli Repo at Finland’s southeastern border authority told Reuters.

“The queues continue to be a bit longer than they’ve usually been since the pandemic,” he said.

Wednesday’s announcement of Russia’s first public mobilisation since World War Two, to shore up its faltering Ukraine war, has triggered a rush for the border, the arrest of protesters and unease in the wider population.

Young Russian men who spoke to Reuters after crossing into Finland via the Vaalimaa border station last week, some three hours by car from Russia’s second-largest city St Petersburg, said they left out of fear of being drafted for the war.

Ivan, 23, of Russia at the Vaalimaa border check point in Virolahti, Finland on Sunday (Reuters)
Ivan, 23, of Russia at the Vaalimaa border check point in Virolahti, Finland on Sunday (Reuters)

Putin to meet key ally Lukashenko later

09:49 , Liam James

Vladimir Putin will meet his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, a key ally in Russia’s war in Ukraine, later today in Moscow, Belarus state media reported.

Russia and Belarus are close allies, with Russia having used bases in Belarus as a staging post for its troops, aircraft and equipment in the invasion of Ukraine. Belarus has also hosted fruitless peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials.

Mr Lukashenko denied Belarus would mobilise troops for Russia’s war after rumours spread last week that he was planning new measures in light of Mr Putin’s draft announcement last week.

Western powers said Mr Putin’s mobilisation of Russia’s army reserves, the first draft since World War II, showed he was getting desperate. His draft order accompanied a threat of nuclear attacks if Russia’s territory is not respected.

Ukraine finds two new mass graves after driving Russia out

09:30 , Liam James

Ukraine has discovered two more mass burial sites containing the bodies of hundreds of people in the northeastern town of Izium, which Kyiv recaptured from Russia this month, Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Russian authorities did not immediately comment on the Ukrainian president’s assertion about the discovery of the sites. Moscow regularly denies committing atrocities in the war in Ukraine or targeting civilians.

“Today I received more information ... They found two more mass graves, big graves with hundreds of people... We’re talking about [the] little town of Izium,” Mr Zelensky said in an interview with CBS.

“The sanctions need to continue. These sanctions will have political impact, as well as financial impact.”

After the months-long Russian occupation, Ukrainian authorities uncovered a large burial site next to a cemetery in a wooded area in Izium earlier this month, and launched an investigation into the circumstances of the deaths.

Ukraine had previously found a mass burial site in Bucha near Kyiv after Russian troops fled in April.

Russian media report 75% turnout at referendums

09:11 , Liam James

Russia’s state-owned Tass news agency has reported that referendums on Moscow’s territorial claims in in eastern Ukraine have garnered enough votes to be considered legitimate.

Moscow-backed officials in four Ukrainian regions partly occupied by Russia – Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk – are holding votes to claim legitimate control over the territories.

The referendums have been dismissed internationally as shams and Ukrainian officials have reported that Russians are using coercive tactics including collecting votes door-to-door at gunpoint in order to get the result Moscow desires.

Tass today reports that the referendums can be considered legitimate in three of the regions as voter turnout has surpassed 50 per cent.

Nuclear attacks would have ‘catastrophic consequences’ for Russia, says US

08:47 , Liam James

The United States warned on Sunday of “catastrophic consequences” if Moscow uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine, after Russia’s foreign minister said regions holding widely-criticised referendums would get full protection if annexed by Moscow.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States would respond to any Russian use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine and had spelled out to Moscow the “catastrophic consequences” it would face.

“If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia,”Mr Sullivan told NBC. “The United States will respond decisively.”

The latest US warning followed a thinly veiled nuclear threat made on Wednesday by Vladimir Putin, who said Russia would use any weapons to defend its territory.

Russia is currently seeking to formalise its claim to territory in Ukraine through the use of sham referendums which Nato and other countries have refused to recognise.

Scores arrested in anti-war protests in Russia’s Dagestan

08:27 , Liam James

At least 100 people were detained at a protest opposing the mobilisation in the southern Russian region of Dagestan, underscoring the anger with Vladimir Putin’s order to send hundreds of thousands more people to fight in Ukraine.

Public anger against Russia’s first military mobilisation since World War II has appeared to be particularly strong in poor ethnic minority regions like Dagestan, a Muslim-majority region located on the shores of the Caspian Sea in the mountainous north Caucasus.

The independent OVD-Info protest monitoring group said at least 100 people were detained in the regional capital Makhachkala.

Dozens of videos posted on social media showed confrontations with police as protesters shouted “no to war!”

The below video, posted by Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, showed a group of women chasing away a police officer. The Independent has been unable to verify the footage.

Footage shows shooting at Russian draft centre

08:08 , Liam James

A shooting at a Russian draft centre appears to have been captured on video.

The gunman, who in another video published on social media is seen identifying himself to police officers as 25-year-old Ruslan Zinin, opened fire at a draft office in the town of Ust-Ilimsk.

The below footage of the shooting shows him firing at least one shot inside the draft office. The Independent could not verify the footage.

Gunman opens fire at draft office in Russia amid backlash to Putin’s mobilisation

07:53 , Liam James

A gunman has been detained after opening fire at a draft office in Russia’s Irkutsk region on Monday, the local governor said.

The gunman, who in a video published on social media is seen identifying himself to police officers as 25-year-old Ruslan Zinin, opened fire at a draft office in the town of Ust-Ilimsk. A separate video of the shooting shows him firing at least one shot inside the draft office.

Gunman opens fire at draft office in Russia amid backlash to Putin’s mobilisation

Russian vote counters take ballot boxes door-to-door, says Luhansk governor

07:30 , Liam James

Voting in sham referendums in Ukraine aimed at annexing territory to Russia enters a fourth day.

The votes in four eastern Ukrainian regions partially occupied by Russians saw Moscow-backed officials carry ballot boxes from door to door, accompanied by security officials, said Luhansk’s regional governor Serhiy Gaidai.

The governor said residents’ names were taken down if they failed to vote correctly or refused to cast a ballot.

“A woman walks down the street with what looks like a karaoke microphone telling everyone to take part in the referendum,” he added in an interview posted online.

“Representatives of the occupation forces are going from apartment to apartment with ballot boxes. This is a secret ballot, right?”

Nato and several non-affiliated countries, including formerly Soviet Kazakhstan, have said they will not recognise the results of ther referendums. Russia’s parliament could move to formalise the annexations within days.

Zelensky asks Russians to back off from military mobilisation: ‘Not candy wrappers, real people'

07:07 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky urged people in Russia to not give into the military mobilisation orders in his nightly address.

“These are not candy wrappers - these are real people,” Mr Zelensky said and added that people should fight to ensure their children are not sent to Ukraine to die.

“We see that people, in particular, in Dagestan, began to fight for their lives. We see that they are beginning to understand that this is a question of their lives. Why should their husbands, brothers, sons die in this war? In a war that one man wants. In a war against our people, on our land. He does not send his children to war,” Mr Zelensky said last night.

Urging people to not participate in the war, he added: “...If you come to take the lives of our children - I will tell you as a father - we will not let you go alive.”

“I want to emphasise once again: there is a way out. Do not submit to criminal mobilization. Flee. Or surrender to Ukrainian captivity at the first opportunity. I urge all our friends in the information field to spread this appeal,” he added.

Ex-Russian ally Kazakhstan says won’t recognise referendums in eastern Ukraine

06:51 , Arpan Rai

One of Russia’s close ex-Soviet partners Kazakhstan has said it will not recognise the possible annexation of Ukraine‘s eastern regions by Russia in referendums orchestrated by Moscow held there, its foreign ministry said today.

“As for the holding of referendums ... Kazakhstan proceeds from the principles of territorial integrity of states, their sovereign equivalence and peaceful coexistence,” ministry spokesman Aibek Smadiyarov said.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has urged for the resolution of the Ukrainian conflict in line with the United Nations charter.

“We reconfirm our readiness to provide all possible assistance to the establishment of a political dialogue,” Smadiyarov said.

“At the same time, our country believes that maintaining stability at either regional or global level is the most important goal.”

Russian men called up by Putin in latest mobilisation reach military bases - MoD

06:27 , Arpan Rai

The initial tranches of men called up under Russia’s partial mobilisation have started arriving at military bases, the British defence ministry said today, confirming that many tens of thousands of call-up papers by Moscow have already been issued.

But the MoD added that Russia will now face an administrative and logistical challenge to provide training for the troops.

“Unlike most western armies, the Russian military provides low-level, initial training to soldiers within their designated operational units, rather than in dedicated training establishments,” the British MoD said in its latest intelligence update.

It explained: “Typically, one battalion within each Russian brigade will remain in garrison if the other two deploy and can provide a cadre of instructors to train new recruits or augmentees.”

However, Russia has deployed many of these third battalions to Ukraine, it said.

Many of the drafted troops will not have had any military experience for some years, the British defence ministry said.

“The lack of military trainers, and the haste with which Russia has started the mobilisation, suggests that many of the drafted troops will deploy to the front line with minimal relevant preparation. They are likely to suffer a high attrition rate,” the ministry warned.

Children among hundreds arrested in Russia after second wave of anti-war protests

06:18 , Arpan Rai

The latest arrests in Russia of hundreds of people include some children as protests persist against president Vladimir Putin’s military mobilisation order.

Police descended on campaigners, arresting hundreds in several cities in the nationwide demonstrations.

More than 700 people were detained, including over 300 in Moscow and nearly 150 in St Petersburg, according to OVD-Info, an independent website that monitors political arrests in Russia. Some of those arrested were minors, OVD-Info said.

Read the full story here:

Children among hundreds arrested in Russia after second wave of anti-war protests

Russian drones hit military objects in Odesa, says Ukraine

06:11 , Arpan Rai

Two drones launched by Russia struck military objects in Ukraine’s Odesa causing a blaze, the Ukrainian military said.

“As a result of a large-scale fire and the detonation of ammunition, the evacuation of the civilian population was organised,” the Ukrainian military’s southern command said in a statement on Telegram.

“Preliminarily, there have been no casualties.”

43 Russian soldiers killed, five ammunition depots destroyed in Ukraine

06:10 , Arpan Rai

A total of 43 Russian soldiers have been killed in the last 24 hours, Ukraine’s southern operational command said in the latest war update today.

The Ukrainian fighters also destroyed three Russian tanks, five ammunition depots, a self-propelled artillery system, and nine armoured vehicles on Sunday, it added, reported The Kyiv Independent.

Heavy fighting along Ukrainian frontline, says Zelensky

05:41 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed heavy fighting along the frontlines in Ukraine in his address last night.

“Fierce fighting takes place in many sections of the front with a total length of more than 2,000 kilometres. This is the Donetsk region, this is our Kharkiv region, Kherson region, as well as Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia regions,” Mr Zelensky said.

He added that Ukraine is seeing positive results in several directions.

“And no matter what happens this week in Russia, no matter what steps the terrorist state plans - political or military - the tasks of our state, the tasks of Ukraine, cannot change: we are fighting for life and freedom for all Ukrainians,” he added.

It comes after days of Ukrainian counterattacking gains in the eastern region, where its troops reclaimed a significant portion of the territory held by Russian soldiers.

Nearly 1.5 million Ukrainians held back in Russia unable to return home

05:28 , Arpan Rai

Close to 1.5 million Ukrainian nationals including a majority of women and children are unable to return to their country, Ukrainian deputy minister for European integration Olga Stefanishyna said yesterday.

She added that these Ukrainian citizens have fallen off the grid as their relatives cannot contact them.

“Today, more than ever, it is important to use all available international instruments to protect fundamental human rights and double our joint efforts to prevent the violent exploitation of Ukrainian citizens,” the top Ukrainian official said during an event on the sidelines of the UN general assembly.

Putin not bluffing about using nukes, says Zelensky

05:05 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has said Ukraine no longer perceives the nuclear threat from Vladimir Putin as a bluff, given the numerous attacks in regions where nuclear power plants are situated.

Mr Zelensky had previously accused Russia of nuclear blackmail.

“Look, maybe yesterday it was bluff. Now, it could be a reality. Let’s look, what is a contemporary use of nuclear weapons or nuclear blackmail?” he told the CBS news channel.

He accused Mr Putin of targeting and occupying the besieged country’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the city of Enerhodar which has “six of the size of Chernobyl nuclear plants”.

“This nuclear station has six blocks. And on top of that, a few days ago, apart from this station, he- blackmails, he continues his blackmail related to us exporting electricity to Europe,” he added.

Citing Russia’s latest attack on the country’s southern nuclear power plant, he said: “The missile hit the area that was 300 metres from the nuclear plant. The nuclear plant lost all the windows and doors, etc. So, he wants to scare the whole world.”

“These are the first steps of his nuclear blackmail. I don’t think he’s bluffing. I think the world is deterring it and containing this threat,” Mr Zelensky said, calling for more pressure on the Russian leader to stop the invasion.

04:37 , Arpan Rai

Good morning, welcome to our coverage of the Ukraine war on Monday, 26 September.