August 12, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Heather Chen, Jack Bantock, Hafsa Khalil, Aditi Sangal and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 3:44 a.m. ET, August 15, 2022
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2:58 a.m. ET, August 12, 2022

2 more grain ships have departed from Ukraine, Turkey says

From CNN's Alex Stambaugh and Josh Pennington

Two more cargo ships carrying more than 63,000 metric tons of grain departed from Ukraine on Friday, according to Turkey's Defense Ministry

The Marshall Islands-flagged Star Laura, carrying 60,150 metric tons of corn, left the Ukrainian port of Yuzhne for Iran, the ministry said. It added that another vessel, the Belize-flagged Sormovskiy 121, with 3,050 metric tons of corn aboard, departed from Chornomorsk port for Tekirdag in Turkey.

Two more arrivals: In a statement, the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) that oversees Ukrainian grain exports said it had authorized two cargo ships to travel to the port of Odesa, pending inspections on Friday. The JCC was one of the key creations of the grain deal agreed last month between Russia and Ukraine under the auspices of the UN and Turkey.

Grain for Ethiopia: Ukraine's Minister of Infrastructure tweeted Thursday that the country was awaiting the arrival of the cargo ship Brave Commander to load more than 23,000 metric tons of grain for export to Ethiopia. The UN says the "ripple effect" of the war in Ukraine threatens to worsen a food crisis sparked by conflict and drought in the East African country.

1:14 a.m. ET, August 12, 2022

Ukrainian nuclear plant facing "grave hour," UN watchdog says

From CNN's Richard Roth and Jonny Hallam

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is seen on August, 4, outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is seen on August, 4, outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters/FILE)

The "alarming" situation at a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine had reached a "grave hour," the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog said Thursday, as he called for an immediate inspection of the facility by international experts.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi warned that parts of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant had been knocked out due to recent attacks, risking an "unacceptable" potential radiation leak.

"IAEA experts believe that there is no immediate threat to nuclear safety," but "that could change at any moment," Grossi said.

"Any military action jeopardizing nuclear safety, nuclear security, must stop immediately," he added. "These military actions near to such a large nuclear facility could lead to very serious consequences."

Ukraine and Russia blame each other: The Zaporizhzhia facility — the largest nuclear plant in Europe — occupies an extensive site on the Dnipro river near the Russian-occupied city of Enerhodar. It has continued operating at reduced capacity since Russian forces captured it early in March, with Ukrainian technicians remaining at work.

Russia and Ukraine have so far been unwilling to agree to an IAEA inspection of the plant and have accused each other of shelling the facility — action the IAEA has said breaches "indispensable nuclear safety and security pillars."

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia on Thursday blamed Ukraine for the shelling and urged Kyiv's supporters to stop attacks and prevent a disastrous radiation leak.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pointed the finger at Moscow, which he said was putting all of Europe in danger.

"Only the complete withdrawal of Russians from the territory of the Zaporizhzhia NPP and the restoration of Ukraine's full control over the situation around the plant will guarantee the restoration of nuclear safety for all of Europe," Zelensky said.

More shelling: Ukraine's nuclear agency Energoatom said 10 shells landed near the complex on Thursday, preventing a shift handover.

"For the safety of nuclear workers, the buses with the personnel of the next shift were turned back to Enerhodar," the agency said. "Until the situation finally normalizes, the workers of the previous shift will continue to work."

Energoatom said radiation levels at the site remained normal, despite renewed attacks.

Read the full story here.

9:03 p.m. ET, August 11, 2022

Ukraine says it repelled Russian assaults in the east

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio and Petro Zadorozhnyy

The Ukrainian military has repelled assaults by Russian forces in the east, its General Staff said in an update Thursday evening. 

"The occupiers unsuccessfully tried to improve the tactical position" near the city of Kramatorsk, but they were "pushed back," it said.

The Ukrainian military also said it was also able to repel Russian forces pushing toward Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

"Ukrainian soldiers inflicted casualties on the occupiers and forced them to flee," the General Staff said, adding that Russia did not succeed in the direction of Avdiivka, "suffered losses, and withdrew."

The Ukrainian military said intense shelling and airstrikes were felt across the entire eastern frontline. 

11:50 p.m. ET, August 11, 2022

McDonald's is starting to reopen in Ukraine

From CNN's Danielle Wiener-Bronner

A man walks past a closed McDonald's restaurant in central Kyiv, Ukraine on February 25.
A man walks past a closed McDonald's restaurant in central Kyiv, Ukraine on February 25. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

After closing its restaurants in Ukraine six months ago because of the Russian invasion, McDonald's is starting to reopen in parts of the country.

"We have decided to institute a phased plan to reopen some restaurants in Kyiv and western Ukraine," Paul Pomroy, corporate senior vice president of international operated markets, wrote in a letter posted to the company's website Thursday.

McDonald's has nearly 110 restaurants in Ukraine. The chain has continued to pay its employees in the country despite the closures.

Read more here.

9:05 p.m. ET, August 11, 2022

Ukraine is expecting arrival of ship that will take much-needed grain to Ethiopia

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

Ukraine is expecting the arrival of a ship that will be taking 23,000 metric tons of grain to Ethiopia, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov tweeted on Thursday. 

“Ukraine is ready for the BRAVE COMMANDER arrival, which is expected tomorrow [Friday],” Kuvrakov said. “Thanks to the Black Sea Initiative we are ready to load more than 23,000 tons of grain & export it to Ethiopia.” 

Conflict in the north and a drought in the south have pushed about 20 million people to a vulnerable and precarious humanitarian situation in Ethiopia, which, according to the United Nations, has been made worse by the war in Ukraine. 

“At the same time, the ripple effect of the war in Ukraine is set to exacerbate Ethiopia’s food security crisis,” the UN said in a report published in June. “With over three-quarters of [World Food Programme] and government wheat – a country staple – coming from Ukraine or Russia, the precarious situation there is threatening to push its cost, as well as that of fertilizer, beyond the means of millions of Ethiopian farmers.