Former Taliban Minister Denies Afghan Peace Talks
The meeting, hosted by Saudi King Abdullah, could still help open the way to dialogue between the Western-backed Afghan government and the Taliban to end fighting that has killed more than 3,800 people already this year, one-third of them civilians.
"It's totally wrong news. There were no talks and no Taliban representative was there. It was an ordinary and normal meeting and dinner," Muttawakil told the Pakistan-based AIP news agency.
"During our meetings with delegations from different countries, everybody talked about the problems of Afghanistan and expressed concerns and similarly, we came to know Saudi Arabia is also concerned," he said. "But neither were there formal negotiations, nor did Taliban representatives attend those discussions."
Muttawakil's comments follow similar denials from the Afghan government and other former Taliban present at the meeting.
But while the former foreign minister, always regarded as a moderate in the austere Islamist movement, insists he is no longer a member of the Taliban, he and others present in Saudi are believed to have regular contacts with the insurgents.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a direct appeal for peace to Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar last week and asked Saudi Arabia to help mediate talks, but the Afghan government also denies any talks have yet taken place.
With more than 60,000 troops in Afghanistan, NATO-led and U.S. forces have already suffered more casualties this year than in any entire year since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 for refusing to give up Al-Qaeda leaders behind the September 11 attacks.
Break With Al-Qaeda?
While Western officials, including U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, recognize reconciliation must be part of the solution in Afghanistan, it would be hard for them to make any accommodation with the Taliban while the movement still has ties with Al-Qaeda.
Saudi Arabia, one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban government in the late 1990s, would also insist the insurgents break with Al-Qaeda and Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.
But the Taliban is by no means a fully unified group and has allies, such as the Haqqani network operating in eastern Afghanistan, that analysts say are reliant on Al-Qaeda support.
In a possible sign of de-escalation of the conflict, the Taliban said they would not attack food and aid convoys as long as they were destined for Afghan civilians and the insurgents were informed in advance.
The statement comes two days after the UN special envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, appealed to the Taliban and its leaders to ensure safe access for humanitarian programs, including food distribution and polio vaccination.
"If we are sure that all food in the convoy is meant for the common people, we will never attack it," Taliban spokesman Qari Muhammad Yousuf told AIP. "The United Nations should contact the mujahedin before sending food supplies to areas controlled by the Taliban and not bring police and other forces along with them and then the Taliban will not attack them."
Attacks on aid workers and convoys have increased with more than 120 incidents this year as a result of which 30 aid workers have been killed and a further 92 abducted, according to the United Nations.
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Bulgarian President Didn't Sign Document Backing Ukraine Because Of Wording On NATO Membership
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said on October 3 that he did not join other leaders of Central and Eastern European countries in signing a declaration in support of Ukraine because he did not agree with the full text of the declaration.
Radev's office issued the response on October 3 after inquiries from journalists about why his name was not among nine heads of state who issued the declaration on October 2 supporting Ukraine.
Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine
Radev "does not agree with the full text of the declaration adopted by some countries in Eastern Europe regarding Ukraine's membership in NATO," a statement from his office said.
A decision on Ukraine joining NATO should be made "only after the development of clear parameters for the peaceful settlement of the conflict," it said.
But the statement said Radev supports other positions in the document signed by the leaders of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.
It came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced on September 30 that Ukraine had submitted an application for accession to NATO under an accelerated procedure after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Moscow had annexed four Ukrainian regions that are partially occupied by Russian forces.
The nine Central and Eastern European leaders reiterated their support for "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine" and said they "do not recognize and will never recognize Russian attempts to annex any Ukrainian territory."
Their declaration also said that the leaders “firmly stood behind the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit decision concerning Ukraine’s future membership.”
At the 2008 summit, NATO members welcomed Ukraine and Georgia’s aspirations to join but declined to provide a clear timeline for their possible ascension. Putin has cited the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO as justification for launching the ongoing full-scale invasion in February.
The statement from Radev's office on October 3 says that Bulgaria is part of the declaration from the 2008 NATO summit supporting the future accession of Ukraine, but notes that this declaration was adopted in a completely different security environment.
"Military actions on the territory of Ukraine today require that its membership in the Alliance be discussed within the full composition of [NATO] and not lead to a risk of the direct involvement of NATO countries in the war," the statement added.
U.S. Imposes Sanctions Against Head Of Bosniak-Croat Federation For Alleged Misuse Of Power
The United States has imposed sanctions on the head of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Bosniak-Croat federation and others over the alleged misuse of pensioner data.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Prime Minister Fadil Novalic on October 3, saying he acquired pensioner data through his official position in the week before the 2018 elections and used it “for the benefit of his own political party and contrary to [Bosnian] law.”
Novalic allegedly misused the data by sending out letters listing his accomplishments and promising increased pensions, the Treasury Department said in a statement.
Additionally, Bosnian tycoon Slobodan Stankovic and his engineering firm Integral Inzenjering A.D. Laktasi were blacklisted for allegedly having links to corruption.
The Treasury Department said major construction projects are often handed to Stankovic's firm without fair and open competition and that the vast majority of Stankovic’s wealth comes from public money.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to the sanctions on Twitter, saying political parties and leaders "should not be able to use public resources for their own benefit, and people should not get rich helping them."
The Treasury Department described Stankovic as one of the wealthiest people in Bosnia and said he was linked to Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, who was previously designated for U.S. sanctions for “secessionist rhetoric" and actions that threaten "stability and undermine" the Dayton peace accords.
The sanctions designation freezes any assets or property interests owned by Novalic, Stankovic, or his engineering firm in the United States and bars U.S. nationals from transactions involving them without special permission from the OFAC.
“Today’s action underscores how politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina are undermining democratic institutions and processes for their own political gain and to reward their patronage networks,” Brian Nelson, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in the department’s statement on October 3.
“We will continue to target those that destabilize the region, as well as their supporters, and hold them to account.”
The sanctions come less than a week after the Treasury Department levied sanctions on a Bosnian state prosecutor accused of being complicit in corruption and undermining democratic processes in the Western Balkans.
Treasury called Diana Kajmakovic a “brazenly corrupt state prosecutor with links to criminal organizations." She was designated for sanctions on September 26.
With reporting by AP
Russian Court Sets October 25 For Hearing On U.S. Basketball Star's Appeal Of Drug Sentence
A Russian court has set October 25 as the date for American basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession.
The Moscow regional court said on October 3 it will hear her appeal on October 25 at 11 a.m. local time, according to the Interfax news agency.
Griner, a star of the U.S. Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), was convicted on August 4 at the Khimki court near Moscow after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
Griner’s lawyers have argued that the nine-year sentence is excessive.
Griner admitted that she had the canisters in her luggage when she passed through the Moscow airport in February just days before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but she said she had inadvertently packed them.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was returning to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, where she plays in the WNBA's off-season.
She told the court that she had no criminal intent, and her defense team presented written statements showing she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain caused by injuries she suffered while playing basketball.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed in July that Washington had made a proposal to get Griner home along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.
Blinken said later that he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed a possible prisoner swap, but since then the White House has said it has not received a productive response from Russia.
U.S. media have reported that Washington has offered to exchange Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in a U.S. prison.
Based on reporting by AP and Interfax
Top Official At Hermitage Museum In St. Petersburg Leaves Russia In Protest At The War In Ukraine
A top official at the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg has left Russia in protest at the Kremlin's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Dmitry Ozerkov, the director of the modern arts section of the world's largest art museum by gallery space, wrote on Instagram on October 2 that he had quit his job after Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovsky praised the war in an interview in June while calling arts exhibitions organized by the Hermitage abroad another "special operation" to push forward "Russian world's ideas."
"I left because I don’t intend to have anything in common with today’s Russia," Ozerkov wrote, adding that "Russia squeezed out all of us who wanted nothing but good to its culture."
President Vladimir Putin has refused to call the conflict a war, and has signed legislation making it illegal to use the word to describe what he calls a "special military operation."
Since Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24, many celebrities, writers, actors, opposition politicians, and activists have left Russia.
Last month Putin announced a "partial military mobilization" to support the war in Ukraine, prompting tens of thousands of Russian men to flee the country for nations where they can enter without visas. Most headed to Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia.
The board of directors at the Hermitage museum, which was founded in 1764, has several members who have been included in sanctions by the West against Putin and those around him for the invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. Supreme Court Declines To Hear Case Over Dispute Between Ukraine, Russian Oil Company
The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the Russian oil company Tatneft in a dispute with Ukraine over the payment of a multimillion-dollar judgment awarded years ago by an arbitration panel.
The high court on October 3 did not comment on the case except to say that it would not hear it.
The decision, a win for one of Russia's largest oil companies as Moscow continues to wage war in Ukraine, means the case will continue in U.S. lower courts, which also have sided with the company and have declined to dismiss it.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled in Tatneft's favor in 2020, and an appeals court in Washington subsequently affirmed the enforcement of the judgment.
In its decision on October 3, the Supreme Court turned away Ukraine's attempt to avoid a Paris-based arbitration panel's order saying the Ukrainian government must pay a $173 million judgment to Tatneft.
The panel was established by the parties to consider Tatneft's accusations of Ukrainian wrongdoing over the handling of shares in an oil refinery.
The case involves Ukraine's Kremenchuk oil refinery, which was destroyed by Russia in April.
Ukraine originally owned half the refinery, while the other half was owned by Tatneft and the oil-rich Russian region of Tatarstan. A dispute between the parties led to arbitration in which Ukraine was ordered in 2014 to pay $112 million plus interest.
Tatneft since 2017 has argued in U.S. courts in favor of enforcing the arbitration panel's award, but Ukraine says the United States has no connection to the case.
Lawyers for Ukraine say Tatneft should be using courts in Ukraine which “remain open and would fairly consider its request for relief.”
Ukraine appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February.
Lawyers representing Ukraine raised Tatneft's ties to the Russian government and the ongoing invasion in their appeal.
They said Tatneft had used the case to target "third parties integral to Ukraine's national security" ahead of Russia's invasion. Tatneft has denied those allegations.
With reporting by Reuters and AP
Canada Sanctions Iranian Security Chiefs Citing Death Of Mahsa Amini
Citing the death of a young woman while in police custody, Canada has slapped a new round of sanctions on several high-ranking Iranian security officials for alleged human rights abuses.
Melanie Joly, the minister of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement on October 3 that the sanctions "in response to gross human rights violations that have been committed in Iran, including its systematic persecution of women and in particular, the egregious actions committed by Iran’s so-called ‘Morality Police,’ which led to the death of Mahsa Amini while under their custody."
"Iran’s continued grave and ongoing breaches of international law are well known and documented, including its blatant disregard for human life," she added.
The list of those added to the sanctions regime includes 25 individuals and nine entities, including officials in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the country's ministry of intelligence and security.
Among those named are Mohammed-Hossein Bagheri, a major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces; Major General Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the IRGC; Esmail Qaani, commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC; the Evin Prison, which houses political prisoners; and Iran’s morality police and its head, Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi.
Iran's state-run Press TV and its "morality police," which enforces the Islamic Republic's strict dress code, were also sanctioned by Canada.
Amini, 22, was taken into custody by the morality police before she died. She was detained for allegedly wearing a head scarf, or hijab, improperly.
Officials have said Amini died of a heart attack on September 16, but her relatives and supporters reject the claim, saying there are eyewitness accounts reporting she was beaten by police.
Amini's death has sparked widespread anger and daily protests in Iran, which the country's leadership has vowed to put down harshly.
"Our message to Iran is clear: the continued and systemic persecution of Iranian women must stop and they will be held accountable for human rights violations and blatant disregard for human life," Joly said in the statement.
"Canada applauds the courage and actions of Iranians and will stand by them as they fight for their rights and dignity.”
Director Of Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant Released After Detention That Raised 'Grave Concern' At UN Atomic Agency
The head of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine has been released, UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said on October 3.
"I welcome the release of Ihor Murashov, Director General of #Ukraine's #Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant; I have received confirmation that Mr Murashov has returned to his family safely," Grossi said on Twitter.
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for Murashov’s release over the weekend after reports that he had been abducted by a Russian military patrol while traveling between the Zaporizhzhya plant and the town of Enerhodar.
Murashov “was taken out of the car, and with his eyes blindfolded, he was driven in an unknown direction,” said Enerhoatom, the Ukrainian state company that oversees the plant.
Murashov's detention had a "very significant impact" on him and nuclear safety and security standards, the IAEA said in a statement on October 1.
“Such a detention of any member of the plant staff would be a source of grave concern in itself, but also for its psychological impact and pressure on the rest of the staff -- which is detrimental to nuclear safety and security,” said Grossi said in the statement.
It remained unclear why Murashov was detained. Russian authorities have made no statement about the detention.
The plant and the surrounding area have been controlled by Russian forces since March, while Ukrainian staff have continued operating the plant.
Its last reactor was shut down in September because of shelling near the plant.
Kyiv and IAEA have been warning of the possibility of an environmental catastrophe because of nearby fighting. The UN agency has called for the creation of a demilitarized zone around the plant, but Russia has rejected the proposal.
With reporting by Reuters
Russian TV Journalist Who Protested Ukraine War On Air Added To Wanted List
Russian TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who in March protested Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine in a live broadcast, has been placed on the Interior Ministry's wanted list after she allegedly escaped from house arrest.
Mediazona website said on October 3 that Ovsyannikova's name appeared in the ministry's registry of wanted persons. The ministry said the journalists is wanted for a crime but did not specify the accusations.
Two days earlier, Ovsyannikova's former husband, Igor Ovsyannikov, said she escaped from house arrest along with their 11-year-old daughter, adding that their current whereabouts are unknown.
Ovsyannikova's lawyer, Dmitry Zakhvatov, told Novaya gazeta.Europe at the time that he had no information about his client’s possible flight.
In August, a Moscow court placed Ovsyannikova under house arrest on a charge of distributing false information about Russia’s armed forces after police searched her apartment in the Russian capital.
Zakhvatov said then that Ovsyannikova may face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the charge.
Ovsyannikova gained international recognition on March 14 when she burst onto the set of Channel One's Vremya news program holding a poster reading: “Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you” in Russian. She also shouted: "Stop the war. No to war."
Ukraine-born Ovsyannikova was a producer with Channel One at the time of her protest. She was later detained and fined 30,000 rubles ($490) by a court for calling for illegal protests.
Ovsyannikova resigned from Channel One and spent several months abroad, including in Ukraine, repeatedly expressing her condemnation of the war.
After her return to Moscow in July, a court on August 8 ordered Ovsyannikova to pay a fine of 40,000 rubles ($660) for her latest online posts protesting the war.
A law signed by Putin in March provides for lengthy prison terms for distributing "deliberately false information" about Russian military operations.
Kyrgyz Court Rejects Former Kumtor Gold Mine Manager's Appeal Against His Arrest
BISHKEK -- The Bishkek City Court has rejected an appeal filed by the former interim manager of Kyrgyzstan's Kumtor gold mine against his arrest.
The court ruled on October 3 that Tengiz Bolturuk, a Canadian citizen, must stay in pretrial detention until at least November 10.
Bolturuk was arrested on September 13 along with his two subordinates, Aisha-Gul Janalieva and Ryspek Toktogulov, on suspicion of financial mismanagement.
They were fired in late August after the State Committee for National Security (UKMK) launched a probe against them, saying that the auditing chamber found financial violations in their activities.
The UKMK said at the time that Bolturuk and his assistants allegedly caused financial damage to the State Treasury assessed at 1 billion soms ($12,472,400).
Bolturuk rejects the charges.
Kyrgyzstan and the Kyrgyz state-owned gold mining company regained full control of the Kumtor gold mine earlier this year under the terms of a deal with the Canadian company Centerra Gold signed in April.
Bolturuk, who previously represented Kyrgyzstan at Centerra Gold, was interim manager of Kumtor at the time.
Kumtor had been the target of financial and environmental disagreements for years before turning into the subject of a control battle between the Kyrgyz state and Centerra Gold.
The Kyrgyz government has insisted that Centerra's operations endangered human lives and the environment, which the company denied.
In May 2021, the Canadian firm said it had "initiated binding arbitration to enforce its rights under long-standing investment agreements with the government."
Many Kyrgyz lawmakers have expressed concern about an alleged lack of transparency at Kumtor since the Kyrgyz government took control of the gold mine in April.
Iranian Currency Hits Record Low As Unrest Intensifies Economic Concerns
Iran's national currency, the rial, fell to a record low against the U.S. dollar amid a wave of protests triggered by the death in custody of a young woman.
The rial traded at 331,800 to the dollar on October 3, according to traders in Tehran and the Bonbast.com foreign-exchange website, down from the quoted price of 316,800 a week ago. At the start of September, the rial was at 298,200 to the dollar.
The weakening of the currency has intensified since widespread protests over the death of a young woman in police custody for reportedly improperly wearing a hijab, along with reports about the end of hopes for a revival of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and global powers.
Anger over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16 has swept the country, with demonstrations in cities across Iran, including on October 2 when security forces in Tehran cracked down on hundreds of university students overnight.
Iran has repeatedly accused outside forces of stoking the protests and last week said nine foreign nationals -- including from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland -- had been arrested.
When the 2015 nuclear deal was signed with world powers, the rial was trading at 32,000 to the dollar. The agreement gave Tehran relief from financial sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
The accord collapsed in 2018 when then-U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered Iran's economy and its currency. After Washington withdrew, Iran began to breach some of the pact's nuclear limits saying they could no longer be enforced.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda
Norway Deploys Soldiers At Oil, Gas Plants In Wake Of Nord Stream Leaks
NATO member Norway has posted soldiers to help guard major onshore oil and gas processing plants, its military said, as part of efforts to beef up security amid suspicion that sabotage caused leaks in the Nord Stream gas pipelines last week.
The Norwegian Home Guard, a rapid mobilization force, on October 3 began to deploy troops at plants responsible for processing and exporting oil and gas.
"The purpose is to assist the police in averting and preventing punishable or unwanted incidents in Norway," it said in a statement.
Four leaks were discovered on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea near Denmark and Sweden last week.
Neither pipeline was in use at the time of the suspected blasts, but they were filled with gas that has been spewing out and bubbling to the surface of the Baltic Sea since September 26.
Following the incidents, Norway last week deployed its navy and air force to patrol offshore petroleum fields and announced it would receive assistance from Britain, Germany, and France.
Norway is Europe's largest gas supplier and a major oil exporter.
The Norwegian government has said it decided to boost the security of its oil and gas infrastructure as an extra safety measure despite not being aware of any specific threats.
Among the onshore facilities receiving police and military protection on October 3 were the gas export terminals in Kollsnes and Nyhamna in southwestern Norway as well as the Kaarstoe gas and condensate plant and the Mongstad oil refinery.
Meanwhile, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the Joint Expeditionary Force group of northern European nations will meet on October 3 to discuss the safety of undersea pipelines and cables following the Nord Stream incidents.
The force consists of troops from 10 countries, including the Baltic and Nordic nations.
With reporting by Reuters and AP
Kyrgyz Security Forces Detain Seven Alleged Members Of Banned Islamic Group
BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz officials say seven members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group have been detained in the Central Asian nation.
The Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security said in a statement on October 3 that the suspects were arrested after investigators found books and electronic devices with texts and other materials that had been deemed as extremist.
According to the experts, the materials in question were propagating the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is a global organization based in London that seeks to unite all Muslim countries into an Islamic caliphate through peaceful means.
Kyrgyzstan banned the group in 2003, branding its supporters as extremists.
Buddhist Leader Becomes First Religious Head In Russia To Openly Condemn War In Ukraine
The Supreme Lama of Russia's Republic of Kalmykia has become the first religious leader in the Russian Federation to condemn Russia's ongoing unprovoked invasion in Ukraine.
Telo Tulku Rinpoche, also known as Erdni Ombadykov, said in an interview to a Russian blogger on YouTube over the weekend that he supports Ukraine because it was Russia that attacked Ukrainian territories.
"I think [the war] is wrong; nobody needs this war. We are all living in the 21st century, all of us want to live peacefully, each country wants to develop. I think the Ukrainian side, of course, is right -- it is defending its country, its land, its truth, its constitution, its people. It is very difficult to say and accept that Russia is right. It is very hard to say so, and this is what I cannot [say]," the leader of Kalmykia's Buddhists said during the interview.
Telo Tulku Rinpoche also said he had avoided expressing his thoughts about the war in Ukraine because he "did not want to damage the ties between the authorities and Buddhists," though he added that Buddhist leaders who openly supported the war in Ukraine could not sincerely believe in what they were saying if they are "real" Buddhists.
Telo Tulku Rinpoche is currently in Mongolia, where he is helping thousands of Kalmyks who fled Russia after Moscow launched its war against Ukraine in late February.
The influx of Russian citizens, mostly of Kalmyk, Buryat, and Tyvan origin, to Mongolia has dramatically increased in recent days after President Vladimir Putin announced on September 21 a partial military mobilization to support the war in Ukraine.
Kalmyks in Russia's southwest and Buryats in Siberia are mostly Buddhist, Mongol-speaking ethnic groups. Tyvans are another mostly Buddhist indigenous people in Siberia, whose language is Turkic.
EU Envoy Calls For Probes Into Videos Exacerbating Tensions Between Armenia, Azerbaijan
The European Union's envoy for the South Caucasus and Georgia has called for investigations into videos that appear to show potential war crimes being committed by Azerbaijan and Armenia in recent clashes that have threatened a fragile cease-fire agreement ending the worst fighting between the two neighbors since a 2020 war over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Toivo Klaar, the EU special representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, said intwo tweets on October 3 that the videos he received, which have not been independently verified, need to be investigated and, "if authentic" the perpetrators "need to be held responsible."
"The conflict has left deep wounds on both sides and to heal accountability is needed," he said.
The latest claims started on October 2 when gruesome video posted on social media appeared to show Azerbaijani soldiers executing several Armenian prisoners of war at close range.
On the same day, videos also surfaced that purportedly show a group of soldiers and civilians insulting corpses wearing military and civilian uniforms. The video claims that the dead soldiers and civilians are Azerbaijanis and those who insulted them are Armenian soldiers.
It is not clear when the videos were filmed, though they came after a flare-up in clashes last month that killed more than 200 soldiers in total from both sides.
Baku and Yerevan have been locked in a conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh for years. Armenian-backed separatists seized the mainly Armenian-populated region from Azerbaijan during a war in the early 1990s that killed some 30,000 people.
The two sides fought another war in 2020 that lasted six weeks before a Russia-brokered cease-fire, resulting in Armenia losing control over parts of the region, which is part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent districts.
Under the cease-fire Armenia ceded swaths of territory it had controlled for decades, and Moscow deployed about 2,000 troops to the region to serve as peacekeepers.
However, the situation in the region remains tense, with both sides accusing the other of breaking the cease-fire.
The foreign ministers of the two countries met on October 2 in Geneva for EU-mediated talks on a possible peace treaty.
Europe Takes Further Aim At Russia Following 'Sham' Referendums In Ukraine
Countries across Europe are ramping up diplomatic pressure on Moscow in condemnation of Russia’s attempt to illegally annex an additional four Ukrainian regions through referendums widely seen as sham events.
Lithuania on October 3 said it had declared Russia's envoy to the Baltic state persona non grata in the wake of last week's votes in four Ukrainian regions where Moscow has wrested at least partial control. The Kremlin used the votes as a pretense to then illegally seize the regions.
Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine
Vilnius explained the move by saying that Russia's interim charge d’affaires, Sergei Ryabokon, had taken recent actions and made statements that were "incompatible" with his diplomatic status and interfered with internal Lithuanian affairs.
"Lithuania's Foreign Ministry also strongly protested against the Russian President's decision of 30 September to illegally annex the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, parts of which were temporarily occupied by Russia," it added in a statement.
The move came amid a concerted effort around Europe to what many countries called "sham" referendums.
The Finnish Foreign Ministry in Helsinki said in a tweet on October 3 that it had summoned the Russian ambassador "to express the strongest condemnation of the referendums and the subsequent announcement of the "illegal annexation of occupied Ukrainian regions by Russia, a blatant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and the UN Charter."
In Warsaw, Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz told TVN24 on October 3 that Russia's ambassador had been summoned to discuss "Russia’s actions last week."
He added that further meetings were likely to be held across Europe to "express this position," though he did not expect to declare the Russian envoy persona non grata for the time being.
"I will not make such an announcement today," he said.
"We are hashing over such decisions with our allies in the EU and NATO. And if we come to the conclusion jointly with all [our] European and Euro-Atlantic allies that such steps would be necessary and beneficial, then we will take them," Przydacz added.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin signed documents on September 30 that formalized Russia’s attempt to annex parts of Ukraine’s four regions, Ukrainian armed forces managed to take over of a key city of Lyman in the Donetsk region and have continued to liberate other territories close to the city.
The Czech Republic’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on October 3 calling on Czech citizens to leave Russia as soon as possible due to a "worsening of security" in Russia for citizens of the European Union and NATO member-states.
The statement called on Czech citizens who are already in Russia and have decided to stay despite the ministry’s warning, "to exercise extreme caution during your stay, follow trusted media, and have an emergency exit plan in place."
"Due to the announcement of a partial military mobilization [by Russian authorities], citizens of the Czech Republic who are also holders of Russian citizenship should bear in mind that, if they are on the territory of the Russian Federation, they are perceived by the Russian authorities primarily as citizens of the Russian Federation and the Czech Embassy in Moscow cannot provide them with adequate, full consular protection," the statement said.
Since Putin announced the partial mobilization on September 21, many individuals with dual citizenship, especially men from Central Asian nations, have been summoned to enlistment offices for military recruitment.
Tens of thousands of Russian men have also fled the country to avoid fighting in Ukraine.
Well-Known Women's Rights Activist Arrested In Iran; University Suspends Courses Amid Protests
Well-known student and human rights activist Bahareh Hedayat was arrested in Tehran early on October 3, the BBC reported, amid a wave of protests triggered by the death in custody of a young woman.
The woman, Mahsa Amini, died on September 16 after she was detained by the morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely.
Hedayat is a former political prisoner who has been arrested and imprisoned several times.
Another political activist and former student activist, Hossein Masumi, was detained on October 2. His family does not know his whereabouts.
Since the beginning of nationwide protests in Iran, which continue for the 16th day, there has been a wave of arrests of political and civil activists.
Early on October 3, classes were suspended and moved online at Iran's Sharif University, a leading higher-education institution and traditionally a hotbed for dissent, after clashes erupted overnight between students and security forces, local media said.
Based on reporting by BBC and AFP
Russian Scientist Charged With Treason Dies While Under House Arrest
An 81-year-old Russian scientist placed under house arrest after being charged with high treason two years ago has died.
The Pervy Otdel (First Unit) human rights group said on October 2 that Valery Mitko died after suffering his fourth heart attack. The group noted he had been barred from taking regular walks outside of his apartment in St. Petersburg.
Mitko was placed under house arrest in February 2020 for allegedly transferring classified materials to China during regular visits he made there as a teacher.
Mitko denied the charges. He and his lawyers insisted the only materials he took to China were related to his scientific and teaching work.
Russian media reports said at the time that Mitko was accused of delivering top-secret information to China about hydroacoustic research and the detection of submarines.
For years Russian scientists had been encouraged to cooperate with fellow researchers in other countries, but those contacts forged with their counterparts abroad have recently led many to be arrested on treason charges they deny.
Kremlin critics say the charges often stem from unfounded paranoia and attempts to stifle any dissent.
Ukrainian Forces Continue Advance In Lyman Area As Russian Losses Mount
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Ukraine's armed forces are pressing ahead with advances against Russian forces after liberating more towns in a number of areas.
Zelenskiy gave no further details in announcing in his nightly video address that “offensive movement of our army and all our defenders continued” on October 3.
"New population centers have been liberated in several regions. Fierce fighting continues in many areas of the front," he said without specifying which settlements had been liberated.
Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine
He added that “more and more occupiers are trying to escape, more and more losses are being borne by the enemy army, and there is a growing understanding that Russia made a mistake by going to war against Ukraine."
A day earlier Zelenskiy said its forces took full control of the strategic eastern city of Lyman in the Donbas region.
Serhiy Cherevatiy, spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said Ukrainian troops went on to liberate the settlement of Torske near Lyman on October 2.
There were also reports on October 3 that Ukrainian forces were recapturing towns along the west bank of the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine.
The scale of the Ukrainian advance was unconfirmed, but Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed leader in occupied parts of Kherson, told Russian state television that there were breakthroughs.
"There's a settlement called Dudchaniy, right along the Dnipro River, and right there, in that region, there was a breakthrough. There are settlements that are occupied by Ukrainian forces," he said.
Russian military bloggers earlier on October 3 described a Ukrainian tank advance through dozens of kilometers of territory along the riverbank.
In a rare comment by a Ukrainian official on the situation, Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, posted what he said was a video of a Ukrainian soldier waving a flag in Zolota Balka, downriver from the former front line.
A senior U.S. military official said on October 3 that the attacks by Ukrainian forces have forced Russia into a “defensive crouch” in Kherson, hampering Russian efforts to resupply their front line troops.
The official, who briefed reporters in Washington on condition of anonymity, said that so far the U.S. has seen only small numbers of Russian reinforcements coming into Ukraine in an effort to shore up their defenses.
The recapture of Lyman was Ukrainian forces' most significant battlefield gain in weeks and followed a counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region to the north that swept Russian forces and stunned many observers.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Washington was "very encouraged" by Ukrainian gains.
The U.S. will soon deliver to Ukraine four more of the advanced rocket systems, U.S. officials said on October 3. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, have been credited with helping the country’s military gain momentum in the war.
HIMARS have been used to strike bridges that Russia has used to supply its troops. The additional four HIMARS will be part of a new $625 million package of aid expected to be announced on October 4, according to the U.S. officials, who were quoted in U.S. media reports.
The decision marks the first time the U.S. has sent more HIMARS to Ukraine since late July, and it will bring the total number delivered so far to 20.
Lyman sits at a crossroads and a switch yard for railroads, and analysts say Ukrainian troops would likely use the city as a staging post for further advances east.
The city had been the scene of intense fighting for days, with Ukrainian troops gradually encircling it and the estimated 5,000 Russian troops that were defending it.
Russia’s Defense Ministry on October 1 said it was pulling troops out of the area "in connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement."
Unconfirmed reports said Russian forces there had suffered heavy casualties and an unknown number of soldiers were taken prisoner.
It was the latest setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, coming one day after he proclaimed the annexation of four Ukrainian regions that have been partly occupied by Russian forces for months now.
The Donetsk region, where Lyman is located, is one of the four regions Putin claimed.
Kyiv and the West have condemned the annexation declaration as illegal and a farce.
Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Putin and head of Russia's Chechnya region, has said Moscow should consider using a low-yield nuclear weapon in Ukraine after the loss of Lyman.
In a statement criticizing Russian generals for the loss of Lyman, Kadyrov said it was time for the Kremlin to make use of every weapon at its disposal.
“I do not know what the Defense Ministry reports to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, but in my personal opinion we need to take more drastic measures, including declaring martial law in the border territories and using low-yield nuclear weapons,” Kadyrov said on his Telegram channel.
Putin's declaration that Russia was annexing Donetsk, along with Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, was a major escalation by the Kremlin. Observers said it signaled a further digging-in by the Russian leadership, dampening prospects for a peace deal.
Together with Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014, the four regions make up around 20 percent of Ukraine, including some of its most industrialized territory.
Russia's setbacks on the battlefield also come amid reports of chaos in a mobilization ordered less than two weeks ago by Putin that has seen tens of thousands of Russian men suddenly called up into the military and tens of thousands of others fleeing abroad.
Mikhail Degtyarev, governor of the Khabarovsk region in Russia's Far East, said around half of the thousands of men called up there had been found unfit for duty and sent back home. He said he fired the region's military commissar.
"The military commissar of the Khabarovsk region, Yuri Laiko, has been suspended," Degtyaryev said in a video posted on Telegram.
This will have no impact on the fulfilment of the tasks that the president has set for us," Degtyaryev said in a Telegram video.
With reporting by Reuters
Early Results In Bosnian Vote Show Reformist Bosniak Candidate Winning Seat In Shared Presidency
The first preliminary results in Bosnia-Herzegovina's general election showed cooperation-prone Bosniak candidate Denis Becirovic on course to win a seat in the country's tripartite presidency.
Becirovic, a candidate of the united Bosniak opposition front, will likely be joined in the tripartite presidency by Bosnian Croat representative Borjana Kristo, the candidate of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia, and Bosnian Serb Zeljka Cvijanovic from the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats.
Balloting on October 2 was held to choose the three members of the shared presidency, parliament deputies at the state, entity, and regional levels, and the president of the country’s Serb-run part. More than 60,000 observers were accredited to oversee the process.
The preliminary results were based on 1,816 processed polling stations or 54.83 percent of the total.
WATCH: Early voters came to polling stations in the Balkan state of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the morning of October 2 to choose the three members of the Bosnian presidency, parliament deputies at the state, entity, and regional levels, and the president of the country's Serb-run part.
Voter turnout was 50 percent -- more than 2 percentage points down from the 2018 general election.
The elections were expected to bring little change to the leadership of a country racked by clientelism, corruption, and poverty.
Officials said the voting had proceeded in a satisfactory manner despite reports of irregularities and the detention of some people over ballot fraud.
Voting at one polling station was suspended and five officials detained after independent monitors reported irregularities with ballots, news portal Klix had reported earlier.
After polls closed, Bosnia's international peace overseer announced he had imposed changes to the election law aimed at preventing blockades of the government.
"I imposed measures that will improve the functionality of the institutions in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They will enable all citizens to have their voices heard and ensure that they are truly represented by those they elected," said Christian Schmidt, who has vast powers as international high representative in Bosnia.
"It is crucial for destiny of this country that there will be no blockades," Schmidt added.
Bosnia-Herzegovina's 3.4 million registered voters were given a choice from a huge slate of more than 100 parties and coalitions in the country's eighth general election, but the beleaguered Balkan state's postelection landscape will almost certainly be dominated by many of the same personalities that have thrived on existential crisis and patronage for years and even amplified their ethnic vitriol in campaigning.
It also took place amid Russia's war in Ukraine, which has further divided Bosnia and stoked fears of raising the temperature on long-simmering issues in the Balkan state.
Bosnia remains divided into a Bosniak and Croat federation and the mostly Serb entity of Republika Srpska under the terms of the 1995 Dayton Agreements that ended three years of war in the former Yugoslav republic marked by ethnic cleansing and brutality.
A handful of races in the upper house of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina -- whose seats are chosen indirectly, after the elections -- could dramatically affect obstruction efforts that have paralyzed the government for years. The results could go a long way toward answering whether Bosnia is fated, at least for the near future, to remain one of Europe's most vulnerable hotspots.
Much of the attention was also expected to focus on Bosnia's Serb-run part, Republika Srpska, and its leader, Milorad Dodik, who has pushed for an acceleration of the Serb-dominated region's secessionist efforts.
Dodik chose to run for the president of Republika Srpska rather than seek a second term in the tripartite presidency.
Both Dodik, and his main contender, Jelena Trivic, proclaimed victory in the race for the Republika Srpska presidency.
Their claims will be tested later on October 3, when the election commission is expected to announce preliminary results of the presidential ballot for Republika Srpska and the races for parliament deputies at the state, entity, and regional levels.
Dodik has maintained close ties with neighboring Serbia and with Russia for diplomatic and other support to resist Bosnia's federal structure and international pressure.
The United States announced sanctions against Dodik in 2017 and again in January over his secessionist efforts.
With reporting by Reuters
Partial Results Show Party Of Bulgarian Ex-PM Borisov Winning Snap Poll
Partial results in Bulgaria's snap parliamentary elections show the center-right Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party of longtime leader Boyko Borisov has finished with the highest percentage of the vote, the fourth such poll in 18 months.
Results from 99 percent of ballots counted showed on October 3 that GERB won 25.4 percent of votes, while the reformist anti-graft We Continue the Change (PP) party of former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov came second, with 20.2 percent in the fourth election in the European Union's poorest member country in less than two years.
If confirmed by final official results that include ballots from abroad, expected on October 5, three-time Prime Minister Borisov looks set to have a chance at a fourth term in office.
Voter turnout on October 2 was estimated at about 30 percent.
Petkov and former Finance Minister Assen Vassilev, co-chairs of the PP party, conceded and declared they will not participate in a coalition with GERB.
"It is GERB's responsibility to form a government. We promised that we will never participate in a coalition with GERB and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and we will keep our promise," said Petkov, referring to the ethnic-Turkish backed DPS.
Vassilev added that GERB and DPS were both a "symbol of corruption" in Bulgarian politics.
The southeastern European country of nearly 7 million people has been plagued by political gridlock since 2020, when it was rocked by nationwide protests as public anger over years of corruption boiled over. Much of the ire was directed at Borisov and GERB.
The latest government, led by Petkov, collapsed in June after just six months when one of its coalition partners quit. Petkov and the pro-reform PP had struggled to deliver on his pledge to stamp out corruption.
Petkov has also backed Ukraine in its fight against Russia in a country traditionally friendly toward Moscow and has accused the Kremlin of helping orchestrate the collapse of his government, which refused to pay for gas in rubles as demanded by Russia.
The elections were marked by a lack of political enthusiasm, with turnout of just 25 percent by 4 p.m. local time.
After casting his vote earlier on October 2, Borisov told reporters that Bulgaria needs to clearly position itself in Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine.
"With this aggression, with this war, with a clear aggressor in the face of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin -- (I have) nothing against the Russian people -- with this farce with the referendums, Bulgaria must be very clear, categorical, and precise about its place in the European Union and NATO," he said, adding that Bulgaria's entry into the eurozone should be the first and most important task.
Besides GERB and We Continue the Change, five other parties are expected to have made it into the 240-seat chamber. They are the ethnic Turkish MRF party with 13.7 percent, the pro-Russian far-right Vazrazhdane (Revival) party with 10.2 percent, the Socialist Party with 9.3 percent, the liberal anti-corruption group Democratic Bulgaria with 7.5 percent, and the newly formed nationalist Bulgarian Rise party on 4.6 percent.
The ascent of Revival, which more than doubled its score compared to the previous election, when it garnered 4.9 percent, was facilitated, according to observers, by the pro-Russia sentiments shared by many Bulgarians, which provide fertile soil for aggressive Kremlin propaganda in the Balkan country.
Revival has promised to take Bulgaria out of the EU and NATO and advance policies friendly to the Kremlin.
While many experts dismiss the anti-Western rhetoric of Revival as little more than campaign bluster, they do caution that the party is doing the bidding of the Kremlin.
Early results gave Revival more than 10 percent of ballots counted.
With reporting by AP
Police Clash With Protesters At Tehran University
Iranian security forces have clashed with students at a university in the capital of Tehran in the latest protests in Iran linked to the death in custody of a young woman.
Since her death, Iran has seen a rare outburst of sustained public anger, driven in large part by Iranian women.
Videos posted on social media on October 2 showed Sharif University, traditionally a hotbed of dissent, surrounded by dozens of riot police.
One of the videos showed security forces firing teargas to drive the students off the campus and the sound of what appeared to be shooting in the distance could be heard.
Another video showed security forces chasing dozens of students trapped in the university's underground parking. The account said dozens of students had been arrested.
Iranian state media described "reports of clashes" at the university and said the country's science minister visited the campus to check on the situation.
Students were protesting at numerous universities on October 2 and demonstrations were held in several cities, such as Tehran, Yazd, Kermanshah, Sanandaj, Shiraz, and Mashhad, with participants chanting "independence, freedom, death to [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei," earlier social media posts showed.
Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based group, in a statement said that "so far 133 people have been killed across Iran," including more than 40 people it said died in clashes last week in Zahedan, capital of the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province.
With reporting by Reuters
Central, Eastern European States Back Ukraine's NATO Bid
Nine Central and Eastern European countries have given their backing to Ukraine's bid to join NATO and urged the Western alliance to provide Kyiv with more weapons to defend itself against invading Russian forces.
The statement, issued on October 2, was signed by the leaders of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.
The joint statement comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced on September 30 that Ukraine had submitted an application for accession to NATO under an accelerated procedure.
That announcement came the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had annexed four Ukrainian regions that are partially occupied by invading Russian forces.
Putin's declaration that Russia was annexing Donetsk, along with Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, was viewed as a major escalation by the Kremlin.
"We reiterate our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We do not recognize and will never recognize Russian attempts to annex any Ukrainian territory," the statement by the nine leaders said.
It said the leaders "firmly stood behind the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit decision concerning Ukraine’s future membership."
At the 2008 summit, NATO members welcomed Ukraine and Georgia's aspirations to join, but declined to provide a clear timeline for the two countries’ possible ascension.
Asked about Ukraine's NATO bid, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told U.S. TV that "any decision on membership has to be taken by consensus all 30 allies have to agree to make such a decision."
Stoltenberg also said Ukraine’s capture of the city of Lyman, which is in Donetsk, was proof that Ukrainians are making progress and able to push back against Russian forces.
"We have seen that they have been able to take a new town, Lyman, and that demonstrates that the Ukrainians are making progress, are able to push back the Russian forces because of the courage, because of their bravery, their skills, but of course also because of the advanced weapons that the United States and other allies are providing," Stoltenberg said in an interview with NBC's Meet The Press.
The best way to counter Russia's proclaimed annexation of parts of Ukraine is to continue supporting the government in Kyiv, Stoltenberg said.
German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, meanwhile, on October 2 announced the delivery of 16 wheeled armored howitzers produced in Slovakia to Ukraine next year. The weapons will be financed jointly with Denmark, Norway, and Germany.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Damaged Nord Stream 1 Pipeline Stabilized, Gas Leak Halted
Stable pressure has been achieved in the damaged Nord Stream 1 pipeline, authorities in Denmark say, indicating the outflow of natural gas from the last leaks has now halted.
A total of four leaks were discovered on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea near Denmark and Sweden last week.
While neither pipeline was in use at the time of the suspected blasts, they were filled with gas that has been spewing out and bubbling to the surface of the Baltic Sea since September 26.
On October 1, the Danish Energy Agency announced that gas was no longer flowing out of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Three leaks -- two in the Danish zone and one in the Swedish zone -- were discovered last week in the two major Russian underwater pipelines designed to ship natural gas to Germany, while Sweden on September 29 said its coast guard had found a fourth leak.
The incidents come amid rising tensions between Europe and Russia over the war in Ukraine.
While both NATO and the European Union say the leaks were caused by sabotage, they have so far refrained from directly pinning the blame on Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 30 accused the West of sabotaging the Russian-built pipelines, a charge denied by the United States and its allies.
European Union leaders will discuss the security of crucial infrastructure when they meet in Prague next week.
"Sabotage of Nord Stream pipelines is a threat to the EU," Charles Michel, who chairs meetings of EU leaders, said in a tweet on October 1 after talks with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in Brussels.
"We are determined to secure our critical infrastructure. Leaders will address this at the upcoming summit in Prague," he wrote.
The leaders of EU member states are scheduled to meet in the Czech capital on October 7.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Pope Calls On Putin To Stop 'This Spiral Of Violence And Death'
Pope Francis has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop "this spiral of violence and death" over the war in Ukraine.
Francis's remarks, made on October 2 in his weekly public prayer on St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, were some of the strongest remarks he has made since the February 24 invasion.
"My appeal is addressed first of all to the president of the Russian Federation, begging him to stop, also for the love of his people, this spiral of violence and death," Francis said.
"On the other hand, saddened by the immense suffering of the Ukrainian population following the aggression suffered, I direct an equally confident appeal to the president of Ukraine to be open to serious peace proposals," he said.
The Roman Catholic leader also decried the growing risk of nuclear war, calling it "absurd."
"I deeply regret the serious situation that has arisen in recent days, with further actions contrary to the principles of international law," he said. "In fact, it increases the risk of a nuclear escalation, to the point of fearing uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences worldwide."
The pope's comments came two days after Putin gave a fiery Kremlin speech in which he announced Russia was annexing four regions of Ukraine that are partially occupied by Russian forces.
In the September 30 speech, Putin also made veiled threats about using nuclear weapons in the conflict, echoing earlier remarks in which he warned the West "this is not a bluff."
The Kremlin had no immediate reaction to the pope's comments.
Zelenskiy Says Ukrainian Troops In Full Control Of Strategic City Of Lyman
Ukraine's president has declared that Ukrainian troops are in full control of the eastern city of Lyman, a strategic city in the Donbas region that Russian forces withdrew from a day earlier.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy made the brief comment in a video clip posted to his Telegram channel on October 2.
"As of 12:30 p.m., Lyman is fully cleared," he said. "Thank you to our soldiers. Glory to Ukraine."
The recapture of Lyman is the Ukrainian forces' most significant battlefield gain in weeks, and followed a counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region to the north that swept Russian forces and stunned many observers.
Lyman sits at a crossroads and a rail hub and analysts say Ukrainian troops will likely use the city as a staging post for further advances east.
Russia's Defense Ministry on October 1 said it was pulling troops out of the area "in connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement."
Unconfirmed reports said Russian forces there had suffered heavy casualties, and an unknown number of soldiers taken prisoner.
It was the latest setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, coming the day after he proclaimed the annexation of four Ukrainian regions that have been partly occupied by Russian forces for months now.
The Donetsk region, where Lyman is located, is one of those four regions Putin claimed.
Kyiv and the West have condemned the annexation declaration as illegal and a farce.
"The liberation of this city in the Donetsk region is one of the key factors for the further de-occupation of the Luhansk region," Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk military administration, wrote on Telegram.
Putin’s declaration that Russia was annexing Donetsk, along with Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, was a major escalation by the Kremlin. Observers said it signaled a further digging-in by the Russian leadership, dampening prospects for a peace deal.
Kyiv has said it will not negotiate with Moscow as long as Putin remains in power.
In the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, Ukrainian forces have been waging a parallel counteroffensive that has so far yielded few of the dramatic gains seen in Kharkiv.
Experts say Russian commanders shifted some of their most experienced and capable units away from the Donbas to Kherson in August, in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
With reporting by Reuters
Anger Over Russia's Battlefield Defeats Bursts Into The Open, Posing A Challenge For Putin2
Russia Withdraws Forces From Lyman In Major Victory For Ukraine3
New Pipeline Seen In Bulgaria As 'Freedom' From Russian Gas Imports4
'Inevitable' Conflict: In Daghestan, Kremlin's Mobilization Inflames Ethnic Tensions5
Join, Flee, Or Resist: Russia Pushed To The Brink Amid Putin's Chaotic Mobilization Order6
Ukrainian Forces Continue Advance In Lyman Area As Russian Losses Mount7
Russia Loses Place On UN Aviation Agency's Governing Council8
For Putin, Against 'Global Liberalism': Why So Many Bulgarian Parties Support Russia9
Turkey Joins Condemnation Of Russian Bid To Claim Ukrainian Territories10
Zelenskiy Says Ukrainian Troops In Full Control Of Strategic City Of Lyman