Ukraine Latest: Biden Says Putin Made ‘Overt Nuclear Threats’

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden excoriated Vladimir Putin for making “overt nuclear threats” to Europe as the Russian leader escalated his seven-month-old war in Ukraine with a partial mobilization and vowed to annex territory.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, Biden said Putin’s effort to stage “sham” referendums in occupied territory was an “extremely significant violation” of the UN charter. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier called Putin’s announcement an “act of desperation.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that as many as 300,000 troops would be called up as part of a gradual process. The development sparked protests in Russia, and a human rights group said more than 1,200 people were arrested.

Ukraine’s military has seized dozens of tanks left behind by fleeing Russian troops in the east, according to people familiar with the matter.

(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.)

Key Developments

  • Ukraine Seizes Dozens of Russian Tanks Left by Fleeing Forces

  • Russia Is Left an Outlier Among World Leaders Gathered at the UN

  • Why Russia’s Nuclear Threats Are Difficult to Dismiss: QuickTake

  • Putin Mobilizes More Troops, Renews Nuclear Threat Over Ukraine

  • UK Seeks LNG Supplies From US Ahead of Winter Energy Crunch

  • US Military Services Face Biggest Recruiting Hurdles in 50 Years

On the Ground

The Russian military is attempting to hold defensive lines in Ukraine’s south even as its drones continue to seek out civilian targets, the Ukrainian General Command said in an update on Facebook Wednesday evening. Two of the drones were shot down in the Kherson region. At the same time, artillery fire has hit civilian infrastructure in 30 places across the country. The Ukrainian army, according to the update, repelled attacks near Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia, and fired at Russian ammunition depots, troop concentrations and anti-aircraft and air defense equipment.

(All times CET)

Ukraine Seizes Dozens of Russian Tanks Left by Fleeing Forces (9:23 pm)

Ukraine’s military has captured dozens of tanks left by fleeing Russian troops in the east, according to people familiar with the matter, adding crucial weaponry to its arsenal almost seven months into a war where both sides have lost manpower and machinery.

One of the people put the number of tanks captured around 200, without specifying how many of those were operational or able to be repaired. At least some were destroyed. Another person said the cache included later design models such as T-80s.

The haul -- a third person described it as a significant outcome -- is likely to ease some pressure on Ukraine’s forces as they head into a potentially difficult winter, when the terrain is set to become boggier and harder to navigate without tanks.

Read the full story here.

Protesters Against Mobilization Arrested in Russia (9 p.m.)

Scattered protests took place across Russia despite a government clampdown after Putin dramatically escalated his flagging invasion in Ukraine by announcing what he called a “partial mobilization.”

More than 1,200 protesters were arrested in 38 cities, most of them in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Yekaterinburg, according to the Russian human rights group OVD-Info. The numbers are likely higher, because OVD-Info tallies only people it can identify by name. Russia’s Interior Ministry confirmed protests but said only an “insignificant” number of people participated.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Convenes Meeting to Respond to Putin (8:45 p.m.)

The European Union’s foreign policy chief said he would convene an ad hoc meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in New York in the US evening to come up with a common response to Putin’s latest announcements.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Josep Borrell said the ministers would probably discuss issuing new sanctions and how to continue military support to Ukraine. He said the Russian president’s claim that he was ready to use all arms at his disposal implicitly referred to nuclear weapons and that the EU ministers would discuss how the UN should react.

The ministers need to discuss “these threats to reiterate the continued support to Ukraine and to alert the international community about the unacceptable situation in which Putin is putting all of us,” he said.

Saudi Prince Helps Release Prisoners of the War (7:31 p.m.)

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said successful mediation by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the kingdom’s deputy prime minister led to the release of 10 prisoners of war in an exchange between Russia and Ukraine.

Among those released are Moroccan, US, UK, Swedish and Croatian nationals, the ministry said in an mailed statement.

Finland Working to Discourage Russian Transit (6:46 p.m.)

Finland doesn’t want to be a transit country for Russians traveling to other European Union countries and will prepare measures to address the issue, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters in New York.

At present, the Nordic country with a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia isn’t seeing increased traffic at the boundary, Haavisto said. Finland and Sweden have applied to join the NATO alliance since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Lavrov and IAEA’s Chief Grossi Meet During UN Assembly (6:20 p.m.)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, and “exchanged opinions” on nuclear safety, according to a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The Russian statement said Lavrov told Grossi that Russia is ready to continue working with IAEA to “force the Kiyv regime to immediately stop the shelling” of the Russian-seized Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and adjacent territories, including Energodar, where plant workers and their families live. Ukraine has blamed Russia for the shelling.

Later, Grossi tweeted a different account, saying that he had a “productive and professional exchange” with Lavrov on establishing a “Nuclear Safety and Security Protection Zone” at the plant.

Putin’s War Should Make ‘Blood Run Cold,’ Biden Says (5:27 p.m.)

The American president said Putin’s military campaign was about “extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people” in his address to the world body in New York. The Kremlin’s ambitions “should make your blood run cold,” he said.

“If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this very institution stands for -- everything,” he added.

NATO Chief Condemns ‘Dangerous and Reckless’ Rhetoric: Reuters (4:01 p.m.)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg slammed Putin for what he called his repeated “dangerous and reckless nuclear rhetoric” but added the military alliance so far hasn’t seen Moscow make any changes to increase the readiness of its nuclear forces.

Stoltenberg told Reuters that any further mobilization of troops by Moscow will escalate the conflict, but it will also take time and equipment. So far, Russian troops have been ill-equipped, lacked proper command and control and have struggled with logistics, the alliance chief said.

While the speech is an escalation, it’s not a surprise, Stoltenberg added. “Therefore, we have been prepared,” he said. “We will stay calm and continue to provide support to Ukraine.”

Zelenskiy Doubts Putin Will Deploy Nuclear Arsenal: Bild (2:25 p.m.)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed doubt that Russia will use nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine. “I don’t believe he’ll deploy these weapons. I don’t believe the world will allow him to deploy these weapons,” Zelenskiy told Germany’s Bild newspaper. Putin sees that his troops “are simply walking away,” he said.

US Administration Says Putin’s Move Shows He’s ‘Struggling’ (2:22 p.m.)

Putin’s mobilization is “definitely a sign he’s struggling,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday.

“He feels like he’s on his back foot” in northeastern Ukraine, where Kyiv’s troops have pressed back Russian forces in a counteroffensive, Kirby said. He condemned Russia’s “sham referendums” and Putin’s renewal of a nuclear threat.

“We’re monitoring as best we can their strategic posture so that, if we have to, we can alter ours. We’ve seen no indication that that’s required right now,” Kirby said.

Scholz Calls Kremlin Call-Up an ‘Act of Desperation’ (2:15 p.m.)

The German leader, speaking during the United Nations General Assembly, said that the Kremlin “cannot win this criminal war,” and said the source of the escalation lies with Putin’s blunder in invading Russia’s neighbor.

“With the latest decision, Putin and Russia are only making things much worse,” Scholz told reporters in New York. “He completely misjudged the situation from the start and underestimated both the spirit of resistance of the Ukrainians and also the determination and unity of Ukraine’s friends.”

Gold, Nickel Rise as Putin’s Move Raises Tension (2:03 p.m.)

Gold advanced as investors looked for havens after Putin announced the partial mobilization. Nickel moved higher amid heightened anxiety about Moscow’s exports.

Bullion climbed, despite gains in the dollar, on the back of Putin’s vow to use all means necessary to defend Russia. Earlier in the day, the precious metal had been steady near a two-year low, as traders braced for another hefty interest-rate hike by the US Federal Reserve.

Belarus Has No Plans to Follow Suit With Mobilization (1:47 p.m.)

Russian-allied Belarus won’t follow Putin’s example, with Aleksandr Volfovich, the state secretary of the nation’s Security Council, saying the mobilization “does not apply to us.”

“The people of Belarus and the country are mobilized as it is,” Volfovich said, according to state-owned news agency Belta. The Belarusian official had just met with his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, Belta reported.

Estonia Will Bar Return of Russians Fighting in Ukraine (12:45 p.m.)

Estonia will not stop Russian residents from fighting in Ukraine, but they won’t be welcome back in the Baltic nation, the Estonian public broadcaster cited the country’s Interior Ministry as saying.

“People with a conscience probably don’t need to be told this, but I’ll say it again - don’t go,” Estonian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mihkel Tamm said in an email. A country of 1.3 million people, Estonia is home to over 80,000 Russian citizens.

Putin Using Nuclear Threat in ‘Arsenal of Terror,’ EU Official Says (12:40 p.m.)

Putin is using the nuclear threat as part of his “arsenal of terror,” EU spokesman Peter Stano told reporters, when asked about the risk of the president using nuclear weapons to defend annexed territories after his address.

“It shows very clearly to what extent he’s willing to go to advance and continue this illegal and unjustified invasion against Ukraine,” Stano said, adding that any use of such weapons would not only affect the local region but all of Ukraine as well as Europe and Asia.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, will soon propose a sixth tranche of EU weapons financing, which currently amounts to 2.5 billion euros ($2.5 billion), Stano said, adding this was currently under discussion among the bloc’s member states.

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.