Russia-Ukraine live updates: Putin declares martial law in occupied Ukrainian territories
(NEW YORK) — More than six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion into neighboring Ukraine, the two countries are engaged in a struggle for control of areas throughout eastern and southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose forces began an offensive in August, has vowed to take back all Russian-occupied territory. But Putin in September announced a mobilization of reservists, which is expected to call up as many as 300,000 additional troops.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Oct 19, 8:31 AM EDT
Putin announces he is imposing martial law in four occupied Ukrainian territories
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he will impose martial law in four Ukrainian territories occupied by Russian forces — Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye. All four regions were illegally annexed by Putin last month.
Marital law grants Russia’s authorities huge powers over the civilian population in the regions it is imposed. Martial law is set to go into effect on Thursday.
The decree, which Putin announced during a televised meeting with his security council, will now be sent to be rubber stamped by Russia’s upper chamber of parliament, the Federation Council.
Putin has also granted new powers to governors in several regions bordering Ukraine.
Putin’s decree includes other points ordering the rest of Russia itself put into various levels of “readiness.”
The decree puts eight regions bordering Ukraine into a state of “moderate level of response,” but also imposes a “level of heightened readiness” in the southern and central regions that include Moscow. All other Russians regions are put on a “basic level of readiness.”
The decree says these statuses grant special powers to local authorities that are similar to martial law and includes points imposing increased security at key facilities, puts transport and communications into a special regime and also envisages the creation of “territorial defense headquarters” in some regions.
Oct 19, 7:35 AM EDT
Russian civilians to evacuate Kherson
Russia has announced the mass evacuation of civilians from the key city of Kherson, as well as all of its civilian occupation administration there.
Russia’s newly appointed overall commander for its war in Ukraine, Gen. Sergey Surovikin, said on Tuesday that “difficult decisions” may have to be made in the near future regarding Russia’s position in Kherson. In his first public remarks since his appointment, he said the situation around Kherson was already “extremely difficult.”
The evacuation combined with Surovikin’s comments has fueled speculation that Russia may be preparing to retreat from the city in the face of a Ukrainian offensive, in what would be a major defeat for President Vladimir Putin.
Other Russian officials though have suggested the evacuation is in preparation of Russian defense of the city. Kherson’s Russian-appointed governor on Wednesday denied Russia was planning to “give up” the city.
Another senior occupation official has said the battle for Kherson will begin in the “very near future.”
Kherson is the only regional capital Russia managed to seize in its invasion and is a capital of one of the regions Putin annexed last month.
The city is located on the western side of the Dnieper river and Russian forces’ position there has become increasingly difficult, after Ukraine succeeded in destroying the bridges needed to supply it.
With the bridges destroyed, thousands of Russian troops risk becoming surrounded in Kherson city and cut off from any supplies.
Russia has already begun evacuating civilians to the eastern side of the Dneipr river. Independent military researchers said Russia has quickly built a pontoon bridge near Kherson that could be used for evacuation or re-supplies.
The Russian-appointed governor said around 60,000 civilians will be evacuated, over the course of seven days.
Oct 18, 5:14 PM EDT
Russia trying to make Ukrainians ‘suffer,’ US officials say
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian power stations shows Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to make Ukrainians “suffer” with deliberate attacks, speaking of attacks on Ukrainian power stations.
“He is trying to make sure that the Ukrainian people suffer,” Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing on Tuesday. “He’s making it very difficult for them.”
Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder echoed those comments, saying Russia is trying to “inflict pain” on Ukrainian civilians with its strikes on population centers and infrastructure.
“We do continue to see them target, among other things, civilian infrastructure, to include energy related targets — power grids, for example,” Ryder said.
He added, “In terms of why we think they’re targeting those areas, I think obviously trying to inflict pain on the civilian society as well as try to have an impact on Ukrainian forces.”
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson and Matt Seyler
Oct 18, 4:59 PM EDT
UN commission releases detailed report on war crimes in Ukraine
The United Nations’ Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine has released its first in-depth, written report on what it calls “an array of war crimes, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” committed in the country during the first weeks of Russia’s brutal invasion.
The report outlines what investigators say are “documented patterns of summary executions, unlawful confinement, torture, ill-treatment, rape and other sexual violence.”
The inquiry zeroed in on four regions of Ukraine– Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy–and focused on incidents that took place following Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24 through the end of March.
Investigators traveled to 27 cities and towns, conducted nearly 200 interviews and “inspected sites of destruction, graves, places of detention and torture, as well as weapon remnants, and consulted a large number of documents and reports.”
Due to the sheer number of allegations, the commission could not investigate all the claims it received. The commission said it intends to “gradually devote more of its resources” to a broader investigation within the country, according to the report.
ABC News’ Shannon Crawford
Oct 18, 2:25 PM EDT
NATO to send Ukraine anti-drone systems: NATO Secretary General
Ukraine will receive anti-drone systems from NATO in the coming days according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“The most important thing we can do is deliver on what allies have promised, to step up and deliver even more air defense systems,” Stoltenberg said, according to Reuters.
He added, “NATO will in the coming days deliver counter-drone systems to counter the specific threat of drones, including those from Iran.”
ABC News’ Will Gretsky
Oct 18, 7:00 AM EDT
30% of Ukraine’s power stations destroyed
About a third of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed by Russian attacks in the last week, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday.
“Since Oct. 10, 30% of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts across the country,” he said on Twitter. “No space left for negotiations with Putin’s regime.”
ABC News’ Guy Davies
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