Ukraine live updates: Russians protest, flee as mobilization begins – USA TODAY

Russia’s partial military mobilization aimed at slowing Ukraine’s high-octane counteroffensive was in full swing Thursday: Conscripts answered summonses, schools were commandeered for recruit intake – and there was plenty of controversy.
In the mountainous Siberian republic of Buryatia, 11 schools began doubling as administration buildings for draftees, the local arigus-tv reported. Medical exams were waived unless the recruit raised an issue. 
“Buryatia survived one of the scariest nights in its history today,” resident and activist Alexandra Garmazhapova said in a Facebook post. “People are fleeing to Mongolia.”
President Vladimir Putin, in a speech to his people Wednesday, said the mobilization was necessary because his country is fighting not just Ukraine but the entire Western world. The announcement set off protests resulting in hundreds of arrests around the country – and a run on plane tickets out of it.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the military is adding 300,000 soldiers from the ranks of 25 million reservists – primarily gunners, artillerymen, tank drivers and signal corps veterans. But some draftees said they had no military experience. The British Defense Ministry said the new troops “are unlikely to be combat-effective for months.”
A spinoff from the shuttered independent Russian website Novaya GazetaNovaya Gazeta Europe, said the prices for tickets to countries not requiring visas jumped significantly and were “completely gone” by Wednesday night. And it noted that statements by authorities on how partial mobilization will take place in practice were “very contradictory and sometimes did not coincide with reality.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the outlet’s report that a hidden article of Russia’s mobilization order allows for drafting up to 1 million reservists into the army. 
Other major developments:
►Russia has given its formal diplomatic approval to Lynne Tracy’s appointment as the new U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Thursday. President Joe Biden announced her nomination Tuesday; she will need Senate approval.
►Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania said they won’t offer asylum to Russians fleeing mobilization into the military, hoping discontent with the Russian authorities grows at home. The three Baltic countries closed their borders to most Russians earlier in the week.
►Voting begins Friday on referendums in four Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine — Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — a precursor to Russian annexation. Foreign leaders have called the votes a nonbinding sham.
►In the Donetsk province, one of the areas where referendums are scheduled, city Mayor Alexei Kulemzin said at least five people were killed Thursday when Ukrainian shelling hit a covered market and a passenger minibus.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the U.N. Security Council on Thursday to condemn the nuclear saber-rattling of council member Russia, repeating President Joe Biden’s description of those threats as “reckless.”
The day before, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country will “certainly use all means available to us” to defend the country and its people, his latest veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal since ordering the invasion of Ukraine in February.
“Every council member should send a clear message that these reckless nuclear threats must stop immediately,” Blinken said.
On Wednesday night, new British Prime Minister Liz Truss accused Putin of “desperately trying to justify his catastrophic failures” with “more bogus claims and saber-rattling threats.”
Thursday’s Security Council meeting focused on demanding accountability for the abuses and atrocities the West accuses Russia of committing in Ukraine, but no concrete action is expected because Russia has veto power.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said Ukraine’s allies “have been covering up the crimes of the Kyiv regime.”
BIDEN SAYS PUTIN WAS ‘RECKLESS’: Putin’s veiled nuclear threat; 2 Americans captured in war freed: Updates
For many Russians the war in Ukraine had seemed like a distant endeavor, a conflict that didn’t affect their daily lives as state propaganda made it seem like the pursuit was going according to plan.
The realization of the war’s impact finally struck home for thousands of families Thursday when legions were called for duty a day after President Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization of 300,000 reservists.
That resulted in numerous dramatic scenes playing out on social media of tearful families saying goodbye to loved ones who might wind up in combat.
A 25-year-old man in Moscow who gave only his first name, Dmitry, told Russian media company Ostorozhno Novosti he did not expect to be called up and shipped out so quickly, especially since he’s still a student.
“They gave me the draft notice that I should come here at 3 p.m. We waited one-and-a- half hours, then the enlistment officer came and said that we are leaving now,” Dmitry said. “I went outside and started calling my parents, brother, all friends of mine to tell that they take me.”
A top Ukrainian government economist says the war has created a severe financial burden requiring help from other countries. Prewar forecasts of 3% to 4% economic growth in 2022 have been dashed, and gross domestic product is expected to shrink by 30% to 40% this year. Ukraine was the poorest country in Europe by most measures even before the war.
Oleg Ustenko, chief economic adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, also said the speed of victory in the war will depend on the pressure Ukraine’s allies place on Russia. Ustenko told The Associated Press that it was “ridiculous” for European countries to keep paying for Russian fossil fuels. He called for an EU oil embargo to be brought forward and a price cap imposed on Russian gas.
The Group of Seven (G7) nations will not recognize the referendums Russia is preparing in the occupied territories of Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Thursday. The G7 members will also “pursue further targeted sanctions” on Russia if the referendums take place, she said.
G7 ministers – representing the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom – said in a statement that the voting can’t be “free and fair” with Russian soldiers present. The ministers deplored “deliberate Russian escalatory steps, including the partial mobilization of reservists and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric.”
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded that Russia be punished for attacking his country and assured the world that his military could drive out the invaders in a passionate address that drew a standing ovation from the U.N. General Assembly.
Zelenskyy, speaking remotely and in English on Wednesday, said Russia committed crimes against the “values that make you and me a community” in the U.N. He described grisly scenes at hundreds of gravesites of men, women and children, some bound and tortured.
He dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim of a willingness to negotiate an end to the 7-month-old war, saying the military mobilization and “pseudo referendums” make clear he won’t compromise. 
“Russia will never be able to stop the course of history,” he said. “Mankind and international law are stronger than one terrorist state. Russia will be forced to end this war.”
BIDEN SAYS PUTIN WAS ‘RECKLESS’: Putin’s veiled nuclear threat; 2 Americans captured in war freed: Updates
Two Americans fighting for Ukraine have been freed in a prisoner exchange after being captured in June in the Kharkiv region, but high-profile Americans Brittney Griner and businessman Paul Whelan remain in Russian custody. 
Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, and fellow Alabaman Alexander Drueke, 39, were released to Saudi Arabia, which brokered a swap with Russian-backed separatists that included the release of eight other prisoners from four countries. The deal was part of a larger swap included in the release of 200 Ukrainian fighters. Russia gained the freedom of 55 prisoners, among them prominent Putin ally and opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk.
Huynh’s fiancé, Joy Black, told USA TODAY she got a surprise call from the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia while at work Wednesday alerting her that Huynh was there. She got to speak with Huynh, who told her he’ll go through medical checks before flying home.
“He said that he’s OK and he’s safe and healthy,” said Black, adding she was “very thankful” and “happy for the first time in, like, four months.”


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