(Bloomberg) --

The Kremlin may rush to complete annexation of four occupied regions of Ukraine within days, ahead of an expected annual state of the nation address on Friday by President Vladimir Putin. The votes to join Russia have been condemned by the UN as illegal. 

Seven months into the war, Russia is attempting to subsume some of its neighbor’s most productive farming and industrial areas. Putin ordered another 300,000 troops mobilized last week; the rollout has triggered sporadic protests. Fears rose that Putin will soon close to borders to draft-aged men. 

Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said the US has warned the Kremlin privately that using nuclear weapons would be “catastrophic” for Russia.

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Key Developments

  • Russian Exodus Grows Amid Fears Kremlin May Restrict Borders
  • Biden Aide Says US Has Warned Kremlin Against Using Nuclear Arms
  • Russians Confront New Normal as Annexation Voting Continues
  • Zelenskiy Says China’s Position on Russian Invasion ‘Ambiguous’
  • Mazda Discussing Exit From Russia After War Halted Production
  • Philippines’ Marcos Seeks Russian Fuel as Inflation Bites 

On the Ground

Moscow’s troops in the past day have continued rocket and aviation strikes against military and civilian targets in Ukraine, focusing on taking the entire Donetsk region and holding occupied territories. Russian forces are also shelling with tanks, mortars and barrel artillery, Ukraine’s General Staff said. Responsibility for Putin’s partial mobilization “appears to be divided and complex, possibly contributing to confusion, disorganization, and violations of [Defense Minister Sergei] Shoigu’s commitments regarding exemptions,” the Institute for the Study of War said in a report. 

(All times CET) 

Ukraine Says It Has Air Defenses From US (10:30 p.m.)

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine has received the advanced air-defense systems from the U.S., though it’s “not even nearly enough” to protect the country’s civilian infrastructure. 

“I want to thank President Biden for a positive decision that has been already made. And to the US Congress, we received NASAMS,” Zelenskiy said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” broadcast Sunday. 

The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, developed by Raytheon Technologies Corp. and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, is among the military aid the US has said it’s providing to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. Zelenskiy didn’t say how many systems were delivered, or when. A US Defense Department spokesperson declined to comment. 

Anti-Mobilization Protests Reported Across Russia (8:15 p.m.)

Scattered protests against Russia’s mobilization have broken out across the country, particularly in southern and eastern areas far from Moscow that have been hit hardest by the draft.

In Dagestan, crowds of women chanted “No to the war” and “Shame” at police in a video posted by the Meduza news website. Police fired in the air to disperse another rally against the call-up in a video Kommersant newspaper posted in its Telegram channel.

As of Sunday evening, some 2,345 people have been detained at demonstrations since President Vladimir Putin started the mobilization on Sept. 21, according to the OVD-Info monitoring group. A wave of arson attempts has hit at least 17 military recruitment offices and administrative buildings since Wednesday, bringing the total to 54 since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the Mediazona news website estimated, based on media reports.

US Has Warned Kremlin on Nuclear Weapons (3:15 p.m.)

President Joe Biden’s administration has told the Kremlin that any use of atomic weapons in Ukraine would have “catastrophic consequences” for Russia, said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.

President Vladimir Putin renewed his atomic threat last week after Ukrainian forces recaptured a swath of Russian-occupied territory. Those threats are “a matter that we have to take deadly seriously,” Sullivan told CBS. That’s been “communicated directly, privately at very high levels to the Kremlin.” 

Russia Ally Serbia Won’t Recognize Annexation Votes (1:50 p.m.)

Serbia, which has condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine but stopped short of endorsing sanctions, said it won’t accept the result of the referendums in eastern and southern Ukraine that are expected to lead to the regions being annexed by Russia.

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic told reporters in Belgrade that his government can’t accept the results, as the votes are contrary to international law and the United Nations Charter.

Putin Stages ‘Votes’ to Annex Occupied Ukrainian Territories 

Fears Grow About Russian Border Closures (12:55 p.m.)

Concerns are growing in Russia that President Vladimir Putin will shut the country’s borders to prevent draft-age men from leaving. 

The Meduza news website and exiled tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s media group on Sunday cited people they didn’t identify say men of conscription age will be barred from leaving the country after staged referendums in occupied Ukrainian territory are completed this week. Similar reports of an imminent border closing circulated in the days after Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine in February.

Russian lawyer Pavel Chikov, who advises on conscription cases, said on his Telegram channel that the Federal Security Service, or FSB, has begun stopping men from leaving on the orders of military officials. He posted photos of notices handed out at different border crossings with Kazakhstan.

Odesa Slammed With Drones Bought From Iran (12:34 p.m.) 

Russian forces for a second day targeted Ukraine’s key southern Black Sea port city of Odesa with Shahed-136 kamikaze drones purchased from Iran.

Two of the drones struck buildings next to the city’s port on Saturday, killing two people. On Sunday morning, a further three UAVs hit a central administration building, with no casualties yet reported. 

Russia also has deployed the newly arrived weapons on the front lines, leading Ukraine to withdraw accreditation from the Iranian ambassador to Kyiv. Ukraine has shipped millions of tons of grain from Odesa and nearby ports since early August. 

G7 Criticizes Governance at Ukraine’s Energy Companies (12:26 p.m.)

Group of Seven ambassadors expressed concern about Ukrainian authorities’ interference in the management of the gas transmission system’s operator and state-run energy company Ukrenergo. 

Maintaining corporate governance principles will increase investor confidence, stop corruption and hasten Ukraine’s reconstruction, they said on Twitter. 

The statement followed attempts last week to dismiss Serhiy Makohon, CEO of the country’s gas transmission system operator. 

Zelenskiy Says Moscow’s Troops Can Surrender Safely (8:30 a.m.) 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy directly addressed Russians in Saturday’s nightly video address, saying they were being sent “to their death” by Kremlin authorities. 

Speaking in Russian, Zelenskiy said that any of Moscow’s troops who surrender “will be treated in a civilized manner in accordance with all conventions.” 

“Russian commanders do not care about the lives of Russians -- they just need to replenish the empty spaces left by the dead, wounded, those who fled or the Russian soldiers that were captured,” Zelenskiy said. “It is better not to take a conscription letter than to die in a foreign land as a war criminal.”  

Ukraine Says Eight Countries Sent Observers To Fake Referendums (8:02 a.m.) 

Eight countries sent officials to observe “fake referendums” being held in four regions of Ukraine, the country’s ministry responsible for “temporarily occupied areas” said on its website. 

Ukraine denounced Belarus, Syria, Egypt, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, South Africa and Togo for their participation. 

Ukrainian Minister Pushes Back on Nuclear Rhetoric (8 a.m.) 

Ukraine’s foreign minister called Kremlin statements on the “possible use” of atomic weapons “completely unacceptable.” 

“We call on all nuclear powers to speak out now and make it clear to Russia that such rhetorics put the world at risk and will not be tolerated,” Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter. 

President Vladimir Putin has said he’s prepared to use “all means” to defend Russian territory, interpreted by many as a threat to resort to nuclear weapons. 

Putin Defers Conscription for Some Students (8:20 a.m.)

Putin gave students at state universities a deferment from conscription, accord to a decree on the Kremlin website. The order applies to full- and part- and part-time students getting their degrees for the first time.

The General Staff’s mobilization department said people with the rank of private and sergeant who are under 35 years old, junior officers up to 50 years old, and senior officers up to age 55 are subject to conscription, RIA Novosti reported.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma, said the lower house of parliament will react to reports of violations in the mobilization, Tass reported.

Russia May Reinforce National Guard Via Mobilization, UK Says (7 a.m.) 

Russia may use its new partial military mobilization to shore up the Rosgvardia, or National Guard, the UK defense ministry said in an update. The guard units are currently involved in the conduct of referendums on four Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, it said. 

“With a requirement to quell growing domestic dissent in Russia, as well as operational taskings in Ukraine, Rosgvardia is highly likely under particular strain,” the UK said. “There is a realistic possibility that mobilization will be used to reinforce” the Guard’s units.   

Mazda Discussing Exit From Russia (4:10 a.m.)

Japan’s Mazda Motor Corp. is considering a permanent exit from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine put a halt to the carmaker’s production in the country.

Mazda said its withdrawal is under discussion as it sees no path to restarting production in Russia, following a Yomiuri report that said it had decided to pull out. The Hiroshima-based carmaker had manufactured cars for the Russian market in the eastern city of Vladivostok since 2012, according to the Yomiuri.

On Friday, Toyota decided to cease vehicle production permanently at its lone car plant in Russia. 

Russian Lawmakers May Hold Sept. 29 Annexation Vote (7:10 p.m.)

The Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, may vote on Sept. 29 on the accord for occupied Ukrainian regions to join Russia, Ria Novosti reported, citing a source it didn’t identify. 

President Vladimir Putin plans to address the Federal Assembly, a joint session of both houses of parliament, the next day, the news agency reported earlier Saturday.

The president addresses the body annually on major domestic and foreign policy topics. 

China Warns Against Ukraine War Spillover (6:35 p.m.)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on all sides to avoid widening the war in Ukraine and said the solution is to “address the legitimate security concerns of all parties.”

“We call on all parties concerned to keep the crisis from spilling over and to protect the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries,” Wang said in a General Assembly speech at the United Nations on Saturday.

Moscow Plans One-Time Payments to Draftees (5:30 p.m.)

Deputies from the ruling United Russia party and the Communist Party submitted the bill to be reviewed by the parliament on a one-time payment of 300,000 rubles ($5,184) to all Russians, who will be drafted to fight in Ukraine, according to the parliament’s disclosure.

The drafted people will also be offered waivers of paying interest on mortgages and consumer loans for the duration of their service. Housing and communal services will also be canceled during this period.

As many Russian trying for flee from mobilization abroad or at home already Russia has offered salaries for draftees equal to those that contracted military staff gets, which is several times the Russian average. The average real salary in June was 66,500 rubles, according to statistics service. 

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