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Hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled – Putin responds with a decree

In the face of panic among young men in Russia over the partial mobilization for the war in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin temporarily exempted other groups from military service.

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Hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled – Putin responds with a decree

In the face of panic among young men in Russia over the partial mobilization for the war in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin temporarily exempted other groups from military service. According to a decree published by the Kremlin in Moscow on Thursday, the recruitment of students to state-licensed private universities will be suspended. Accordingly, certain postgraduates and people who want to become priests or take up other religious professions also get a postponement.

According to the official statement, Putin wants to draft 300,000 reservists across the country to reinforce the Russian troops after the recent defeats. According to the Ministry of Defense in Moscow, 200,000 men have been conscripted so far. So far, students, employees of state media and IT experts, as well as fathers of four or more children, have been excluded. The head of state had recently admitted errors in the partial mobilization. According to experts, it has also led to a mass exodus of well-trained specialists from the country.

After several defeats, Russian troops have reported taking the Zaitseve settlement in Donetsk Oblast in eastern Ukraine. The town had been brought under Russian control, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in Moscow on Thursday. More than 120 soldiers from the 58th Panzergrenadier Brigade and the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade were killed on the Ukrainian side. This information could not be independently verified.

Ukraine did not confirm Zaitseve's loss until early afternoon. The Russian army has recently faced considerable criticism in its own country because the Ukraine had gained greater ground in its counter-offensive and pushed back the occupiers. Only last weekend did Russian troops give up the strategically important city of Lyman.

According to ministry spokesman Konashenkov, Ukrainian soldiers have repeatedly tried to break through the Russian line of defense in the north of the Kherson region. They were pushed back. More than 100 soldiers of the Ukrainian army are said to have been killed. In addition, Russia claims to have destroyed six tanks and several armored vehicles. This could not be checked either.

In Prague, the heads of state and government of more than 40 European countries are discussing the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. The goals of the new European political community are "more stability, more security, more peace," said EU Council President Charles Michel on Thursday. French President Emmanuel Macron expressed hope for a sign of "unity" against Russian President Vladimir Putin. He had initiated the new conversation format.

In his opening speech, the Czech host and head of government, Petr Fiala, recalled the Prague Spring of 1968. Even then, Moscow's tanks destroyed hopes for more freedom. "It's hard to face evil, but truth will prevail," Fiala said. "We all know in our hearts that Ukraine will win because the truth is on their side."

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) called the new discussion format a "great innovation" when he arrived at Prague Castle. "It's good for the peace for the security order," he added. The new community complements formats such as the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

In addition to Ukraine and the EU countries, the European Political Community also includes Turkey, the Western Balkan countries and the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal is in Prague for Ukraine, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyj should be added. Russia and ally Belarus are not invited. The main topics of the one-day summit are security policy and energy issues.

Already at the beginning of the summit, the lines of conflict between the EU countries became clear again. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sharply criticized the federal government: "It cannot be that the EU's energy policy is dictated by Germany," he said in Prague. Berlin has reservations about the demands of Poland and 14 other EU countries for a price cap for gas imports from Norway or the USA, for example.

Scholz defended the German stance against criticism. The federal government is concerned that "the security of energy supply is guaranteed for all countries and that the prices for energy fall dramatically," he said in Prague. Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) had warned that there would be a gas shortage if countries like Norway, the USA or Algeria sold their gas to Asia at higher prices because of an EU price cap.

The heads of state and government of the 27 EU countries will meet in Prague on Friday. In addition to the controversial gas price cap, the informal summit also deals with the further political and military support of the European Union for Ukraine.

According to its own statements, the Ukrainian army has recaptured more than 400 square kilometers of territory in the Cherson region within a few days during its counter-offensive. Since the beginning of October, the troops have been "liberating" this area in the south of the country, said the spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military command South, Natalia Gumenchyuk, on Thursday. Meanwhile, according to Ukrainian authorities, three people were killed and others buried in Russian attacks on the city of Zaporizhia.

Kherson is one of four regions in Ukraine that Russia annexed despite international protests. The annexations are not accepted by most countries in the world and are condemned as a breach of international law.

The capital of the region of the same name, which borders on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea annexed by Russia in 2014, was the first major city in Ukraine to be taken by the Russian army in early March, shortly after the start of the Russian invasion.

On Wednesday, Ukraine had already reported breakthroughs in the Luhansk region, which is also claimed by Russia. Several settlements have already been "liberated" and the Ukrainian army has raised the Ukrainian flag there. Luhansk was previously almost entirely under Russian control.

In the Zaporizhia region, which is partially controlled by Russian troops, Russian troops shelled several high-rise buildings, Ukrainian regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said on Thursday. According to local rescue workers, at least three dead were recovered from the rubble, several people were injured, and buildings were on fire.

"The Russians keep deliberately attacking civilians to incite fear," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told online services on Thursday. "Russian terror must be stopped - by force of arms, sanctions and complete isolation," he demanded.

The nuclear power plant occupied by the Russian army is also located in the city of Zaporizhia in the region of the same name. In the course of the annexation, Putin placed the nuclear power plant under Russian administration by decree on Wednesday.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, had said he wanted to travel to Kyiv and Moscow to hold talks on establishing an exclusion zone around the nuclear power plant. The need for an exclusion zone around the nuclear power plant is more urgent than ever, he said.

The nuclear power plant had come under regular fire in recent weeks, fueling fears of a nuclear catastrophe. Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for the shelling.

Ukraine has been reporting land gains in the areas claimed by Russia in the east and south of the country for days. Meanwhile, the Russian army said it had pushed the “enemy” on the southern front “back along the Russian line of defense.”

According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Russian head of state Vladimir Putin would not survive a nuclear war. He does not know whether the danger of a nuclear war has increased as a result of his military's successes in Ukraine, Zelenskyj said on Thursday via video link to the Lowy Institute think tank in Sydney. Ukrainian soldiers have recaptured territory illegally annexed by Russia.

Zelenskyy doubted that Putin had enough control over the Russian war to order a tactical nuclear attack. The Russians had problems "controlling everything that happens in their country, just like they don't control everything they have on the battlefield," Zelenskyy said.

The European Parliament is demanding more military aid for Ukraine from Germany and other EU countries. Specifically, a resolution passed on Thursday states that the EU countries should massively increase their military aid, "especially in the areas requested by the Ukrainian government". A good 500 MEPs voted for the text, 26 against. Ukraine also demands main battle tanks such as the modern Leopard 2 and armored personnel carriers from Western countries such as Germany. Such tanks could be of use to Ukraine in advances and recapture of territories.

The resolution calls on "particularly the hesitant member states" to "provide their fair share of the necessary military support". Individual states are not explicitly mentioned. Specifically, however, it says about the Leopard main battle tanks from German armories that Ukrainian soldiers should be trained in how to use them immediately.

More military aid would help shorten the length of the war, it said. In addition, the deputies emphasized in their text that hesitation prolongs the war and costs the lives of innocent Ukrainians. They are also in favor of stricter sanctions against Moscow.

The German federal government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SDP) has been criticized several times for being too cautious with arms deliveries. Scholz recently said Germany wanted to focus on providing air defense systems and artillery.

According to their own statements, the SPD MEPs did not vote unanimously for the resolution on Thursday. Parliament Vice-President Katarina Barley had spoken out in favor of approval within the German Social Democrats. Your party colleague Dietmar Köster, on the other hand, had announced that he would not agree. After the vote, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the EU Parliament, David McAllister (CDU), emphasized that the EU must continue to support Ukraine with all available means.

Norway, which borders Russia, plans to increase its defense budget by about 9.8 percent. "Russia's attack on Ukraine poses a threat to Norwegian and European security," Defense Minister Björn Arild Gram said on Thursday. The war is already having significant security, economic and humanitarian consequences, he said.

In its draft budget for 2023, the centre-left government in Oslo proposes spending 75.8 billion kroner (7.3 billion euros) on its armed forces, 6.8 billion kroner more than this year.

The NATO member Norway plans to use the funds to expand the military intelligence service and to replenish ammunition stocks. Part of the money will also be used to purchase replacement equipment for material delivered to Ukraine. Oslo delivered 22 howitzers, anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft missiles to Kyiv.

Since the government is in the minority in parliament, it needs the support of other groups to pass its budget proposal. Norway shares a 198-kilometer border with Russia.

The new sanctions package against Russia has now also been formally approved. "We continue to plague Russia's war economy, limit Russia's import/export capacities and are well on the way to freeing ourselves from Russia's energy dependency," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday. Before the sanctions come into force, the legal text has to be published in the Official Journal of the EU. This was planned for Thursday.

Part of the package is, among other things, the legal basis for a price cap on oil imports from Russia, supported by the G7 countries. This should significantly reduce Moscow's income. For example, the sea transport of oil products and crude oil from Russia should only be possible worldwide if the oil was bought below a certain price. This is to be achieved by linking certain services, such as insurance for oil transport, to compliance with the rule.

The price cap for Russian crude oil is due to come into force at the beginning of December, when an EU import ban via sea routes also comes into effect, and for petroleum products in February 2023. Further preparations must now be continued at the level of the G7 of economically strong democracies. The G7 also includes the EU countries Germany, France and Italy. After the details are set, the EU states must again agree unanimously.

Import and export bans are also part of the new sanctions. For example, certain steel products may no longer be imported into the EU. The EU is also introducing import restrictions on cigarettes, plastics, leather, ceramics, certain jewelry and cosmetics, among other things. According to the EU Commission, the new import bans are worth seven billion euros.

In addition, the export of products that Russia uses for the war against Ukraine will be further restricted. These include certain electronic parts, chemicals, small arms and goods that can be used in torture. Architectural and IT services as well as legal advice may no longer be offered to Russia.

In the future, EU citizens will also be banned from holding seats on the governing bodies of certain Russian state-owned companies. In addition, there are punitive measures against people who helped to hold sham referendums in the areas of Ukraine that have now been annexed by Russia. They are subject to entry bans and asset freezes.

According to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Russia is committed to the fact that a nuclear war must not be waged. Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says that this principle is still fully adhered to.

The number of Ukrainian students at German schools has continued to rise. The federal states reported 193,141 children and young people from Ukraine in schools for the 39th calendar week that ended on Sunday, as the Conference of Ministers of Education (KMK) announced on Thursday in Berlin.

Compared to the previous week, the number rose by 2242. The number of pupils given by the KMK refers to schools with general education and vocational schools.

Seven Russian rockets are said to have hit houses in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhia early Thursday morning. One person was killed and at least five were still trapped in the rubble, said the governor of the largely Russian-occupied region, Oleksandr Staruch.

Many people were rescued from the multi-storey buildings, including a three-year-old girl who was taken to a hospital for treatment, Staruch wrote on his Telegram channel. Photos released by the emergency services showed responders in the rubble of a destroyed building. Authorities reported another rocket attack late in the morning, but gave no immediate information on casualties or damage.

The Zaporizhia region is one of four Ukrainian regions that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed on Wednesday to annex in violation of international law. There is also the Ukrainian nuclear power plant Zaporizhia, the largest in Europe, which is also occupied by Russia. The city, on the other hand, is under Ukrainian control.

The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, is expected in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv this week to discuss the situation at the Zaporizhia plant, which continues to be run by Ukrainian workers. Putin had declared by decree on Wednesday that Russia would take over the plant with six reactors. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spoke of a criminal act and said it considered the decree null and void. The state-owned nuclear power plant operator Enerhoatom announced that it would continue to manage the power plant. After his visit to Kyiv, Grossi wants to travel to Moscow for talks.

In his evening video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi announced the capture of three more villages in the Kherson region by Ukrainian forces, all northeast of the city of Kherson. The Ukrainian troops have recently gained ground in areas annexed by Russia and repulsed the Russian military in several places.

The Kremlin has already lost because it still cannot explain to Russian society why the war and mobilization are necessary, Zelenskyy said in Russian on Wednesday evening. "And more and more citizens of Russia are realizing that they only have to die because one person does not want to end the war."

In the face of panic among young men in Russia over the partial mobilization for the war in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin temporarily exempted other groups from military service. According to a decree published by the Kremlin in Moscow on Thursday, the recruitment of students to state-licensed private universities will be suspended. Accordingly, certain postgraduates and people who want to become priests or take up other religious professions also get a postponement.

Bundeswehr soldiers have arrived in Lithuania for the first exercise of the German NATO brigade to increase the protection of the alliance partner. Troop members and military vehicles of Jäger Battalion 413 Torgelow were moved from Kiel across the Baltic Sea to the Baltic EU and NATO country by ship. After arriving in the port of Klaipeda, the German troop convoy made its way to the Lithuanian military base in Rukla on Wednesday evening, as a Bundeswehr spokesman announced on Thursday. An advance commando had already made their way to Lithuania by plane for the manoeuvre.

According to the Lithuanian army, a total of 250 soldiers from the German NATO brigade with equipment will take part in the "Fast Griffin" military exercise and practice with Lithuanian troops. It was the first joint exercise after the agreement reached in June on sending a German brigade to Lithuania, according to a statement. The maneuver is scheduled to begin on October 7th.

Hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled their country fearing military service in Ukraine - sometimes leaving their cars at crowded border crossings. These vehicles should now be confiscated, MP Oleg Morozov told the Russian state news agency Ria Novosti. "We urgently need to change the law so that decisions on the transfer of vehicles into state ownership can be made." A confiscation could come into question if a car has not been picked up after a month, said the politician from the Kremlin party United Russia.

It was a photo that caused a stir: the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense shared images from the recently liberated village of Pisky-Radkivski in the Kharkiv region. A gas mask and a box of gold dental crowns were on display. "A torture chamber," the ministry wrote in a tweet. “A gas mask placed on the head of a victim who was covered with a smoldering rag and buried alive. And a box of gold dental crowns. A mini Auschwitz.”

However, the suspicion that these are dental crowns from Ukrainian victims of Russian soldiers is apparently not correct, as research by the "Bild" newspaper shows. The teeth come from a local dentist.

"These teeth look like the ones from my collection that was looted here," the doctor, quoted by his first name Sergey, told the newspaper. "I'm the only dentist here. So if they were found here, they must be mine.” He suspects that the Russian soldiers probably mistook the teeth for real gold and therefore stole them. The crowns did not come from dead people. "They come from people I've treated over the years. I took these teeth out because they were bad.” The “Bild” could not clarify where the gas mask came from.

Nevertheless, according to "Bild", the people in Pisky-Radkivski were victims of Russian torture. Several residents told the newspaper they kept hearing cries for help. A man said, "They just took me away. When I was hit, they said, 'If you don't work with us, we'll shoot you in the legs and that's it'."

According to British intelligence services, Russia faces a strategic dilemma in defending fiercely contested areas on the Dnipro River in Ukraine. One of the biggest challenges for Russian commanders is the growing threat to the strategically important city of Nowa Kakhovka at the southern end of the Dnipro Dam, according to the British Defense Ministry's daily briefing. The Russians needed the damaged supply route across the Dnipro in this region to supply their own troops across the river.

A withdrawal of the units from there would strengthen the defense of the region around the regional capital of Cherson, but the political imperative will probably dictate not to withdraw, according to the British. Moscow has already deployed the majority of its undermanned air force to defend Kherson. As a result, the Kremlin hardly has any other highly qualified and rapidly deployable troops that could stabilize the front. It is likely that reservists will be used in the future, it said.

The Chairwoman of the Defense Committee in the Bundestag, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FDP), arrived in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Thursday for talks. She will speak there with government officials and members of the Ukrainian armed forces, the MPs' office said. The program also included a visit to places where there had been fighting to defend the country against the Russian attackers.

In view of the lack of clarity about the implementation of the planned gas price brake, SPD leader Lars Klingbeil has urged patience until Monday. "Everyone now wants something to happen immediately, I want that too, but I trust the experts who will then present a clever model next Monday," said Klingbeil in the ZDF "Morgenmagazin". It is important that the reliefs reach the citizens this year. The measure will "really push the prices down massively".

Ukraine is making progress in recapturing Russian-held territories, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. After Russian forces withdrew from the southern and eastern frontlines, Ukrainian troops liberated Novovoskresenske, Novohryhorivka and Petropavlivka northeast of the city of Kherson, Zelenskyi said in his daily video address.

Zelenskyy added that he and his senior military officials had met to discuss the recovery of all Russian-held territories. The Ukrainian military in the south said its forces killed at least 58 Russian fighters and destroyed nine tanks, 17 armored vehicles and four howitzers. The information cannot be directly verified independently.

Fighting in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhia continues overnight. “As a result of enemy attacks, fires broke out in the city, there may be casualties. Rescuers are already rescuing people from the rubble," said the region's governor, Oleksandr Starukh, on Telegram. Several houses were damaged or destroyed by the shelling.

According to reports, US intelligence services assume that parts of the Ukrainian government approved the assassination attempt on Russian war supporter Darya Dugina in Moscow. The United States had no prior knowledge of the plans, the New York Times newspaper and CNN reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.

However, it is unclear who exactly approved the attack. US officials warned Ukrainian officials about the assassination, it said.

The car driven by the daughter of right-wing nationalist Alexander Dugin exploded near Moscow on August 20. Shortly after the crime, the investigators accused a suspect from Ukraine who was put out to search. Russia blames Ukrainian secret services for the attack. Kyiv denies any involvement.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is expected in Prague on Thursday. He takes part in the founding summit of the European Political Community in Prague Castle (from 2 p.m., final press conference around 9.45 p.m.). The heads of state and government of more than 40 countries that support Ukraine in the Russian war of aggression have been invited. The participants want to send a signal of unity to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In addition to Ukraine and the EU countries, the new political forum includes Great Britain, Turkey, the Western Balkan countries and the Caucasus republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal is expected in Prague for Ukraine, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyj is to be added. The main topics are security policy and energy issues.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj sees Russia as losing in the war of aggression against his country. The Kremlin has already lost because it still cannot explain to Russian society why the war and mobilization are necessary, Zelenskyy said in his regular video address in Russian. "And more and more citizens of Russia are realizing that they only have to die because one person does not want to end the war," he added.

"Kick-off Politics" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or directly via RSS feed.

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