War in Ukraine: the mobilization of Russia, the referendum criticized and the Pope denounces the suffering of Ukrainians

1. Vladimir Putin orders Russia’s first military mobilization since World War II

In an early morning televised address following a successful counter-offensive in Kyiv in the Ukrainian War, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s first mobilization since World War II.

The decree posted on the Kremlin’s website said the call would apply only to reservists with previous military experience.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia would recruit 300,000 reservists to support its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

A spokesman for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the mobilization a “great tragedy” for the Russian people.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Sergii Nikiforov said conscripts sent to the front line in Ukraine would suffer the same fate as ill-prepared Russian forces that were repelled in an attack on Kyiv in the early days of the invasion last February.

“It is a recognition of the inability of the Russian professional army, which has failed in all its tasks,” Nikiforov said.

US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink tweeted that the mobilization is a sign of “weakness, Russian failure”.

Shoigu, giving Moscow’s first update on the number of casualties in nearly six months, said 5,397 Russian soldiers had been killed since the start of the war.

It was the first time that Russia has given an official death toll since March 25, when it announced the death of 1,351 servicemen.

The United States reported in July that about 15,000 Russian servicemen were likely killed.

Putin, in a seven-minute televised address to the nation, also warned the West that he was not bluffing by using every means at his disposal to protect Russian territory, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to the ability Russian nuclear.

Putin has previously warned the West not to support Russia against the wall and blamed NATO countries for supplying weapons to help Ukraine.

2. “Imposture”, “parody” and “tragic”: European leaders denounce referendum plans

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has joined Western criticism of plans to hold a “referendum” in the country’s occupied territories on joining Russia.

“I thank all of Ukraine’s friends and partners for their massive and firm condemnation of Russia’s intentions to hold another pseudo-referendum,” he said.

“There was some pretty loud news today from Russia. But what happened? What’s new compared to what’s been said before?”

The upcoming votes, in the regions of Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, will certainly go in the direction of Moscow.

But they were quickly dismissed as illegitimate by Western leaders who back Kyiv with military and other support that has helped its forces gain momentum on the battlefields to the east and south.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the referendum would be a “parody” of democracy, adding that Russia’s actions represent “a return to the era of imperialism and colonialism”.

“If the idea of ​​the Donbass referendum weren’t so tragic, it would be funny,” Macron told reporters in New York.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the so-called referendums a “sham”, while US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington would never recognize the results as legitimate.

3. German police reportedly raid Russian oligarch Usmanov’s property

On Wednesday, German police raided properties belonging to a Russian oligarch targeted by EU sanctions.

According to media reports, the properties belonged to Alisher Usmanov, a billionaire and close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has lived in Bavaria for the past few years.

A total of 24 properties linked to the oligarch and four other people were reportedly raided.

German prosecutors said nearly 250 federal agents were involved in raids on Wednesday in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg.

Usmanov is suspected of using a security company to monitor his property, which was on the European Union’s sanctions list imposed on February 28 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

By paying for these monitoring services, the 69-year-old allegedly breached the ban on frozen funds.

Researchers in Germany believe that Usmanov currently resides in his native Uzbekistan.

4. Pope says Ukrainians are subject to ‘savagery, monstrosities and torture’

Pope Francis said Ukrainians were being subjected to “savagery, monstrosities and torture” amid the war.

During his general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Francis called Ukrainians a “noble” martyred people, without referring to Russia.

The speech came after the pope met Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, his charity leader who brings aid to Ukraine.

Francis also referred to “tortured corpses” after Krajewski allegedly visited mass graves in Ukraine.

“He told me about the pain of these people, the savagery, the monstrosities, the tortured corpses that they find,” Francis said.

Recent reports from Izium in eastern Ukraine indicate that hundreds of bodies and mass graves were discovered after Russian forces withdrew from the area.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said investigators at the site found evidence of torture, including bodies with their hands tied.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the allegations a “lie” and repeatedly denied committing war crimes.

Since the beginning of the war, Pope Francis has tried to maintain a delicate balance between condemning a “cruel” conflict and maintaining dialogue with Moscow.

5. Far-right German politicians plan to visit Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine

Politicians from Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party have come under fire for a planned trip to Russian-controlled Ukraine.

Several regional deputies have announced their intention to travel from Russia to the Donbass region, which is largely controlled by pro-Russian forces.

The group would be led by Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, deputy chairman of the AfD parliamentary group in the regional parliament of Saxony-Anhalt.

“Given the distorted and biased reporting on the conflict in Ukraine, we want to get our own picture of the situation and assess the humanitarian situation,” Tillschneider wrote on Twitter.

Members of the far-right party have previously claimed that “Western” media coverage of the war in Ukraine is “one-sided”.

Many AfD members have visited the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, as well as the annexed Crimean peninsula, but this is the first visit since the start of the Russian invasion from Ukraine.

The news was condemned by Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, who called for the intervention of state security agencies.

According to German media, the federal leadership of the party had not been informed of these plans beforehand.

The MPs involved belong to the most radical wing of the party, which is known to have previously expressed pro-Russian positions. Several media reported that the visit to eastern Ukraine would be sponsored by the Russian Duma.