Ukraine live briefing: Putin formalizes annexation claims as Kyiv advances in the south and east

Ukrainian soldiers from 103rd Brigade in Verkhniokamianske, near Lysychansk, Ukraine, on Oct. 5. (Wojciech Grzedzinski/For The Washington Post)

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed documents Wednesday for the illegal annexation of four regions of Ukraine. He also called for steps to Russianize education in the annexed areas, saying at an event marking Teachers’ Day that it was “necessary to prevent a situation where the teaching of history is distorted.”

“It is necessary to pass on the moral and cultural code of the Russian people to children,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces were making a “fast and powerful advance” in the country’s south and liberating “dozens of settlements” from Russian control, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Outside Ukraine, the conflict’s economic impact continued to reverberate. In Vienna, the OPEC Plus group of oil-producing nations, which includes Russia and Saudi Arabia, announced it would slash oil production by 2 million barrels per day. It was a stinging rebuke to President Biden that could push up gas prices, worsen the risk of a global recession and bolster Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • Putin formalized annexation claims to the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson on Wednesday. The Russian leader also signed a decree authorizing Moscow to take over operations at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which Ukrainian staffers have continued to operate under occupation, even as fighting nearby raised international concerns about nuclear safety.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency said that its chief, Rafael Mariano Grossi, would consult with authorities regarding the new decree. Grossi is set to arrive in Kyiv, and later Russia, the agency tweeted Wednesday. The need for a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the Zaporizhzhia plant is “now more urgent than ever,” Grossi said.
  • Documents on Russian plans for the regions say Ukrainian offensives to regain territory would be seen as attacks on Russia itself. The documents also say pro-Moscow separatist militias in Luhansk and Donetsk will be incorporated into Russia’s military and residents will become Russian citizens upon taking an oath of loyalty.

Battleground updates

  • Russian troops have started to withdraw from the southern city of Snihurivka, which was annexed along with the Kherson region, the Associated Press reported Wednesday, quoting the governor of the neighboring Mykolaiv area. The city is a key railway hub that was seized by Russian forces in March.
  • Six Iranian-made kamikaze-style drones hit the city of Bila Tserkva, about 50 miles south of Kyiv, injuring one person overnight Wednesday, regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram. Shahed-136 drones have largely been used in the south of Ukraine, according to the Associated Press, with this attack the closest to the capital.
  • Ukrainian troops are approaching Luhansk, the eastern region that Russia claims to have annexed and that remains largely occupied by Russian and pro-Kremlin forces, the British Defense Ministry said Wednesday. “Politically, Russian leaders will highly likely be concerned” by the move, the ministry said.
  • Ukraine also continues to push ahead from the recently liberated city of Lyman, refuting Russia’s illegal annexation of the four Ukrainian regions, the Institute for the Study of War think tank said Tuesday. Lyman is a strategic supply hub in the eastern Donetsk region.
  • In some occupied regions, Russian forces have struggled to treat and evacuate their wounded, Ukraine’s military leadership said Wednesday. In Kherson, Russia is trying to evacuate up to 150 injured soldiers and 50 units of damaged military equipment. In Luhansk, the number of wounded Russian troops have overwhelmed the region’s medical facilities, forcing Moscow to convert a local school into a military hospital.

Global impact

  • European Union member states agreed on the bloc’s eighth round of sanctions on Russia, a package that includes a price cap on Russian oil aimed at hitting the Kremlin’s war chest, among other measures. A senior E.U. official also warned that an energy supply crunch tied to the war in Ukraine could cause widespread blackouts across Europe this winter.
  • The Russian journalist who protested the Ukraine war on live TV confirmed she has escaped house arrest, saying in a statement Wednesday: “I consider myself completely innocent.” Marina Ovsyannikova’s whereabouts remain unclear.
  • The OPEC Plus coalition announced that a cut in oil production of 2 million barrels per day would take effect in November. Higher energy prices could help Russia finance its war on Ukraine, a development the United States has sought to avoid. Biden is “disappointed by the shortsighted decision by OPEC Plus,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said in a statement.
  • Russia resumed supplying gas to Italy via Austria on Wednesday after Italian energy company ENI stepped in to pay a 20 million euro deposit on behalf of Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled energy giant. A person with knowledge of the deal told The Post, on the condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to speak to the media, that ENI had satisfied the Russian debt to let Italy get the gas.
  • Ukraine’s prosecutor general said Wednesday that authorities are finding more evidence of torture and unnecessary killings in areas where Russian troops were in control, the Associated Press reported. Speaking at the Warsaw Security Forum in Poland, Andriy Kostin said the effort to hold Putin accountable for alleged war crimes “is just another front line of our fight.”

From our correspondents

Putin faces the limits of his military power as Ukraine recaptures land. The Russian leader is hoping that an impending infusion of drafted troops can change the bleak dynamic on the ground in Ukraine, but he is losing time as Ukraine’s counteroffensive advances, writes Paul Sonne.

Putin has so far attempted to mask the reality that Russian troops are fatigued and poorly managed by orchestrating referendums, declaring annexations and making nuclear threats. The mobilization of at least 300,000 reservists, analysts say, is unlikely to help Russia in the conflict.

Mary Ilyushina, Emily Rauhala, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Stefano Pitrelli, Jeff Stein, John Hudson and Rachel Lerman contributed to this report.