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Live Updates: Russo-Ukrainian War

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KYIV, Ukraine – MOSCOW – The Kremlin says the four Ukrainian regions that held referendums to join Russia will join the country on Friday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend a ceremony in the Kremlin during which the regions will be officially incorporated into Russia.

Peskov told reporters Thursday that the heads of the four regions where the five-day vote concluded on Tuesday will sign treaties to join Russia in the Kremlin’s St. George’s Hall.

Ukraine and the West have denounced the votes as a farce.

— US: Focus new sanctions against Russia on oil revenues and arms supplies

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— Europe strengthens energy security after alleged sabotage

— Moscow attempts to recruit fleeing Russian men at borders

— Ukrainian activist among ‘alternative Nobel’ winners

— Agency: Joining NATO makes Finland a target of Russian operations

BERLIN (AP) — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday dismissed Kremlin-orchestrated referendums in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine as a “farce.”

Baerbock told a news conference in the German capital that people are being brought “under threats and sometimes even (at) gunpoint” to cast their votes in transparent ballot boxes.

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He denounced the vote as a “peace dictate” that is contrary to free and fair elections and warned that no citizen is free or safe in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine as long as “this Russian dictate” prevails there.

KYIV – Ukraine’s presidential office says at least eight civilians have been killed and 16 others wounded by the latest Russian bombardment.

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The office said Thursday’s victims include two adults and a child killed by a missile attack in the city of Dnipro on Wednesday.

The attack injured five people, including a 12-year-old girl who was pulled from the rubble, and damaged 60 houses, a street market and power lines.

Russian shelling also reached Nikopol across the Dnieper River from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

In the eastern Donetsk region, Russian artillery shelling killed five civilians and wounded four.

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Meanwhile, authorities in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk say 11 people were injured, one seriously, after four rockets hit the city. The early Thursday morning attack damaged high-rise buildings and private homes.

STOCKHOLM — A fourth leak has been reported from the Nord Stream pipelines carrying natural gas from Russia to Germany in southern Sweden.

Previously, three leaks had been reported from the two subsea pipelines. Seismologists detected two explosions before the reports of the leaks that officials believe were “deliberate actions.”

Some experts have said that Russia is likely to blame for any sabotage: it benefits directly from higher energy prices and economic anxiety across Europe.

The Swedish coastguard told the Swedish news agency TT on Thursday that the fourth leak occurred off Sweden. All the leaks are in international waters.

KYIV — Authorities say Russian missile fire targeted the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro overnight, killing at least three people and wounding five others.

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Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the wider Dnipropetrovsk region, said the fire damaged homes, a market, cars, buses and power lines.

KYIV – Authorities say the hometown of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been hit again by Russian missiles.

Ukrainian military officials said on Thursday that a Russian Kh-59 missile hit Kryvyi Rih on Wednesday night. Russian fire hit one grain bin while others were knocked down.

Kryvyi Rih is about 350 kilometers (215 miles) southeast of Kyiv.

KYIV – The Ukrainian military says it is sending poorly trained fighters to the front lines as it tries to reinforce its positions in the eastern Ukraine town of Lyman.

The general staff of the Ukrainian army said on Thursday that of seven Russian tanks recently sent to Lyman, Russian troops crashed two of them on the way.

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He also said the troops manning the tanks received no training on how to use the vehicle’s weapons.

The Ukrainian military did not elaborate on how it knew about the condition of the tank unit. But Ukraine’s intelligence services have reproduced allegedly intercepted phone calls from Russian troops complaining about their conditions at the front.

KYIV – The British military says the number of Russian men of military age fleeing the country likely exceeds the number of forces Moscow used to initially invade Ukraine in February.

Britain’s Defense Ministry made the estimate at its daily intelligence briefing on Thursday amid a Russian push to mobilize more troops to replenish losses its forces have suffered in Ukraine.

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The ministry said that those who are financially better off and better educated are over-represented among those trying to leave Russia.

He added that the economic impact of the call as a result of labor loss combined with a ‘brain drain’ “is likely to become increasingly difficult”.

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KYIV — A Washington-based think tank says Ukrainian soldiers continue to advance around a key northeastern city held by Russian forces and could soon encircle it entirely.

The Institute for the Study of War, citing Russian reports, said on Thursday that Ukrainian forces seized more villages around Lyman, a town about 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

Lyman had been a key node in Russia’s frontline operations in the region before Ukrainian forces recaptured vast swathes of territory in the northeast earlier this month.

The institute said a possible collapse of the Lyman pocket would allow Ukrainian troops to “threaten Russian positions throughout the western Luhansk region.”

The institute suggested additional Russian losses would further erode morale amid a convocation of hundreds of thousands of men, the country’s first since World War II.

— Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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