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Zelensky hits back at Elon Musk’s ‘peace plan’; Russia says it hasn’t finalised borders as Ukraine retakes more of annexed regions

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Elon Musk

Elon Musk

Elon Musk

As Russia's forces lose ground to Kyiv's counteroffensive, the Kremlin said it still hasn't finalized the borders of two of the four regions of Ukraine that President Vladimir Putin laid claim to last week.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that liberating settlements from Russian occupation is now "the trend" as his forces press further into the eastern Donetsk region and seek gains in the south.

His comment comes after the strategic eastern town of Lyman was "fully cleared," the president said in a brief video. The town is part of the regions Putin annexed following referendums termed illegal by Ukraine and its allies.

Ukrainian forces resumed a counteroffensive in the southern Kherson region and have secured positions in Zolota Balka and Khreshchenivka, the US-based Institute for the Study of War said. Ukrainian forces continued to win back settlements east and northeast of Lyman and have taken Torske in the Donetsk region. Infrastructure in the city of Zaporizhzhia was damaged by missile strikes Monday morning. Over the past day, Russia launched 11 missile and 10 air strikes and over 65 rocket attacks, attacking some 35 Ukrainian settlements, Ukraine's General Staff said.

Tesla Chief Executive officer Elon Musk is drawing the wrath of Ukrainians from the president down for Twitter posts urging Ukraine to seek a negotiated solution to the invasion by Russia and to cede Crimea for good.

Musk also launched a Twitter poll asking citizens of occupied areas of eastern Ukraine recently annexed by Russia – plus Crimea, which Moscow took in 2014 - to decide if they want to live in Russia or Ukraine. The survey comes as Ukraine, Europe and the US denounce President Vladimir Putin's move to annex four regions and declare them Russian territory.

In another post, Musk called for the sham referendums conducted by Russia in occupied areas - which led to Putin authorizing their annexation - to be redone under UN supervision. He also said Crimea should be formally part of Russia. On Ukraine, he said it should "remain neutral."

The reaction from Ukraine was immediate. President Volodymyr Zelensky responded by posting his own poll to Twitter asking his followers if they preferred an Elon Musk who supports Ukraine.… or Russia.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president's chief of staff, responded there was "a better peace plan" already that included the liberation of territory, including Crimea.

Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine's top diplomat in Germany, didn't mince words.

Since the early days of the war, Musk has provided Starlink dishes to Ukraine, a network that has proved crucial in supporting infrastructure across Ukraine as it counters disinformation from Russia.

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"The Russians have escalated dramatically in the last week," Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's "Balance of Power With David Westin."

Putin's annexation claims make it "almost impossible to think about sitting down with the Ukrainians in the near to medium term but it also puts Putin in a corner because he's going to lose a lot of this land."

"The Russian didn't even control all of it when he annexed it," Bremmer said. "I think that's the first time in history you can say that."

The US will announce another package of security assistance for Ukraine "in the next few days,"John Kirby, spokesman for the US National Security Council, said Monday in an interview on Bloomberg Television's "Balance of Power With David Westin."

"You're going to see us continue to provide them the kinds of weapons and capabilities that are well-suited to the fight that they're in," Kirby said. A $625 million package is expected to include four more High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), Reuters reported, citing sources it didn't name. The launchers are prized by the Ukrainian military.

Kirby also said in the interview that the US so far has "seen no indication" that countries are moving to recognize Russia's annexation claims after conducting bogus referendums.

Russian forces "dumped" Ihor Murashov, director general of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Ukraine-controlled territory after holding him captive, according to the country's nuclear operator Energoatom.

Murashov was kidnapped by Russian forces Sept. 30 as he was heading from the plant seized by Russia to the nearby city of Energodar, according to Energoatom. Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, played a significant role in his release, the company said.

Following something of a pause in offensive operations in the south, Ukrainian troops have begun a renewed counteroffensive in the Kherson region. According to Russian military bloggers, by Monday morning they had made significant inroads along the northern reaches of the massive Dnipro river's western bank.

Russia's Defense Ministry conceded that its forces pulled back after "superior tank units were able to pierce deep into our defenses" near Zolota Balka and Oleksandrivka.

Although Putin last week annexed four Ukrainian provinces, including Kherson and Donetsk, Moscow's forces don't fully control of any of the areas and are being pushed out of some towns they've held for months, raising concerns over Putin's threats of escalation, including the potential use of nuclear weapons.

The Russian Interior Ministry put on its wanted list a journalist who gained international attention for staging an anti-war protest on the main TV news channel.

Marina Ovsyannikova accompanied by her daughter fled house arrest in Moscow, her ex-husband said at the weekend. Her lawyer said he couldn't confirm whether this is true or not.

Ovsyannikova faced prosecution under a law on spreading information discrediting the Russian army, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne warned lawmakers that the war in Ukraine would last, while defending Emmanuel Macron's choice to continue talking with Putin.

The future "will be written around a negotiation table, and not on the battlefield," she told the National Assembly before a debate about Ukraine. These talks "must allow Ukraine to be fully heard," she added.

"The war in Ukraine will last but we are ready," she said, adding that France had already sent €200 million worth of equipment to Ukraine totaling 2,500 tonnes.

The first liquefied natural gas shipment from Russia's newest plant is nearing Greece, as Europe continues to import the super-chilled fuel despite Moscow imposing severe curbs on pipeline-gas flows.

Moscow is throttling gas shipments to the region following its invasion of Ukraine but Europe continues to import Russian LNG.

Read more: LNG From New Russia Plant Nears Greece as Europe Keeps Importing

Kyiv city authorities cite a rising Covid case rate in calling for a return to wearing masks in public places. "We recommend wearing masks in transport, public service places and educational institutions", according to a statement on Kyiv's Telegram account. "The incident rate in Kyiv is increasing rapidly - up to 2,515 cases of COVID-19 within a week, 22 people died."

The European Union is aiming for a preliminary deal as soon as Monday on a new sanctions package meant to punish Russia for escalating its war in Ukraine and illegally annexing four occupied territories there.

"I am hopeful in a couple of hours we can have a unanimous agreement on the sanctions package," Polish ambassador to the EU, Andrzej Sados, told reporters. "We are very close to it and there is determination to clinch a deal ASAP."

Member states are eager to reach an agreement before EU leaders meet in Prague on Oct. 7, said people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call that Moscow will continue to consult with people who live in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to determine the boundaries of territories Russia seeks to annex.

He declined to elaborate on how that might take place or whether the new frontiers would be set out in separate laws. "I've said all I can say on that," he said when pressed by reporters for clarification.

His comments fuel the uncertainty around Russia's hastily organized drive to absorb the four regions that its troops still partially occupy in Ukraine. Putin signed documents Friday to make them part of Russia "forever," but the Kremlin at the time said it couldn't say precisely what the borders of the annexed zones were.

The flow of Ukrainian refugees over the Russian-Estonian border has surged to an average of 550 crossings in recent days, with migrants arriving hungry after days of waiting in line, Estonian authorities said.

"The wait time for people who crossed the border from Russia has sometimes been as long as two days, and many have waited there without eating or drinking in the cold," Peter Maran, a border official, said by email. "People are afraid of the consequences of the Russian mobilization."

Russian diplomats are being summoned across Europe to hear of displeasure over sham referendums and the subsequent annexation by Moscow.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz told TVN24 television that together with colleagues at the European level, they agreed to "at the same time, more or less on the same day, to present this position to the Russian ambassadors residing in our respective countries."

Last week, the focus of military reports was the list of settlements won back from the Russian army as part of Ukraine's ongoing defence operation, President Zelensky said in video posted on Telegram late Sunday.

"This, you know, is the trend," he said. "Recently, someone somewhere held pseudo-referendums, and when the Ukrainian flag is returned, no one remembers the Russian farce with some pieces of paper and some annexations."


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