August 16, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 2:43 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022
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9:07 a.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Train services suspended in most of Crimea after explosion at ammo depot

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Yulia Kesaieva

Train services from Russia into Crimea have been suspended across most of the occupied peninsula after an explosion at an ammo depot in the village of Maiskoye, according to a local administration official.

“After consulting with the leadership of the Crimean railroad, the decision was made to stop passenger trains coming from the mainland at the Vladislavovka station,” the head of the Russian-controlled Crimea administration, Sergei Aksyonov, said on his Telegram channel.

“There the passengers will be provided with buses to take them to the nearest bus stations," he added.

Russian state broadcaster TASS news agency said earlier that detonations at an ammo depot in Maiskoye had damaged the nearby train station.

Later Tuesday, Aksyonov said that the damaged tracks had been repaired.

“Train traffic on this section will resume after the completion of all necessary safety measures," he said.

Dzhankoi sits on a train line connecting Crimea to the occupied city of Melitopol. According to several Ukrainian officials, the line is regularly used to transport military equipment to the frontline.

5:05 a.m. ET, August 16, 2022

"Partial success" for Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian military says

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva 

Russian forces have had "partial success" in eastern Ukraine after making limited gains near the villages of Solodke and Novomykhailivka in the Donetsk region, the Ukrainian military said Tuesday.

“The hostilities continue,” the military’s general staff said in a situation update.

Ukrainian troops have been able to hold its ground in other parts of the Donetsk region, the general staff said.

Russian forces launched assaults in the directions of Volodymyrivka-Bakhmutske and Striapivka-Soledar, where Ukrainian soldiers pushed the invaders back, according to the general staff.

"Fighting continues on the Pokrovsk–Bakhmutske and Horlivka–Zalizne directions," the general staff said.

Near the city of Avdiivka, the Russians shelled the areas of Krasnohorivka, Spartak and Nevelske with barrel artillery, the general staff said.

Fighting is also ongoing near Staromykhailivka–Nevelske and the settlement of Ivano Dariivka, it added.

Southern front: Ukraine said it had been able to repel a Russian assault in the south. "An attempt to improve the tactical position by assault actions in the direction of Zeleny Hai–Novohryhorivka ended with significant losses and a retreat for the enemy,” the general staff said.

Belarus alert: Meanwhile, Kyiv's troops stationed near the border with Belarus are on high alert because there is “still a threat” that Russia could launch air and missile strikes with support from Minsk, the Ukrainian military said. Belarus is an ally of Russia and has been used as a launch point for Russian troops into Ukraine.

4:00 a.m. ET, August 16, 2022

At least 2 injured in explosion at Crimea ammunition depot, Russian official says

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova, Alex Stambaugh, Fred Pleitgen and Vasco Cotovio

Smoke rises above the area following an alleged explosion in the village of Maiskoye in the Dzhankoi district, Crimea on August 16.
Smoke rises above the area following an alleged explosion in the village of Maiskoye in the Dzhankoi district, Crimea on August 16. (Str/Reuters)

An explosion at an ammunition depot in annexed Crimea injured at least two people on Tuesday, the head of the Russian-controlled Crimea administration Sergei Aksyonov said on his Telegram channel. 

Aksyonov said the explosion in the village of Maiskoye, near the town of Dzhankoi, was caused by a fire, citing the Russian Ministry of Defense. Detonations were ongoing, he added.

“The evacuation of residents is underway, people are taken out of the five-kilometer zone from the incident to ensure safety. The forces of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the Russian Guard, emergency services are involved,” Aksyonov said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russian state news agency Ria Novosti said about 2,000 residents had been evacuated. 

What Ukraine says: Kyiv has not claimed any responsibility for the incident, but commenting on the explosions on Twitter, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said it was "demilitarization in action."

“Morning near Dzhankoi began with explosions. A reminder: Crimea of normal country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism, but Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouses explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves,” Podolyak said. 

Some context: The explosion Tuesday is the second security incident at a military installation in Crimea in a week. Last Tuesday, a series of explosions rocked a Russian air base at Novofedorivka, on Crimea's west coast, destroying at least eight Russian military aircraft, satellite imagery reviewed by CNN showed. The explosions also killed one person and injured 14, according to the Crimean Health Ministry. 

The Russian Defense Ministry said the incident was caused by the accidental detonation of ammunition. Ukraine would not definitively confirm it was responsible for an attack on the air base. 

4:12 a.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Grain ship carrying wheat for Ethiopia departs from Ukraine

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva 

The UN chartered bulk carrier Brave Commander carrying more than 23,000 metric tons of wheat destined for Ethiopia departed the port of Yuzhnyi, Ukraine on August 16.
The UN chartered bulk carrier Brave Commander carrying more than 23,000 metric tons of wheat destined for Ethiopia departed the port of Yuzhnyi, Ukraine on August 16. (Str/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

A cargo ship loaded with more than 23,000 metric tons of wheat destined for Ethiopia has departed from Ukraine, Kyiv's Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Tuesday.

“BRAVE COMMANDER left the Pivdennyi (Yuzhnyi) Sea Port. I’m thankful to the United Nations and World Food Programme for your support and all the hard work you have done,” Kubrakov tweeted.

The vessel is headed for Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, with the wheat ultimately destined for neighboring Ethiopia under the UN World Food Programme's response to a drought in the East African country. It is expected to reach its destination in two weeks.

The UN has said the "ripple effect" of the war in Ukraine threatens to worsen a food crisis in Ethiopia sparked by conflict and water shortages.

Some context: Since a deal was struck in Istanbul last month to unlock Ukrainian exports of grain via the country’s Black Sea ports, 17 ships carrying more than 475,000 tons of agricultural exports have departed, according to the Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry.

2:02 a.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Zelensky calls for more sanctions on Russia for "nuclear blackmail" around Zaporizhzhia plant

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his evening video address on Monday, August 15.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his evening video address on Monday, August 15. (Office of President of Ukraine)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday called for tougher sanctions in response to what he described as Russia's "nuclear blackmail" around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. 

"Provocative shelling of the territory of the plant continues. Under cover of the plant, the invaders are shelling nearby towns and communities. The Russian military hides munitions and equipment at the facilities of the plant. The station is de facto mined," Zelensky said during his evening video address.
"It is necessary to move from discussions and calls to new tough sanctions against Russia, against 'Rosatom' and the entire nuclear industry of the terrorist state. All Russian forces must immediately withdraw from the territory of the station and neighboring areas without any conditions."

Zelensky claimed that Russia “ignores” the security demands of the EU and 42 countries that have called on it to withdraw its forces from the station.

"Any radiation incident at the Zaporizhzhia NPP can be a blow to the countries of the European Union, and to Turkey, and to Georgia, and to countries from more distant regions. Everything depends on the direction and strength of the wind. If a catastrophe occurs due to Russia's actions, the consequences can hit even those who remain silent for the time being," Zelensky said.
"And if now the world lacks the strength and determination to protect one nuclear plant, it means that the world will lose. Lose to terrorists. Yield to nuclear blackmail."

Some context: Kyiv has repeatedly accused Russian forces, which seized the plant in March, of storing heavy weaponry inside the complex and using it as cover to launch attacks, knowing that Ukraine can't return fire without risking hitting one of the plant's six reactors — a mistake that would spell disaster. Moscow, meanwhile, has claimed Ukrainian troops are targeting the site. Both sides have tried to point the finger at the other for threatening nuclear terrorism.

2:03 a.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Russia ready to supply military equipment to allies and train foreign soldiers, Putin says

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

Participants listen to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a ceremony opening the international military-technical forum Army-2022 at Patriot Congress and Exhibition Centre in Moscow on August 15.
Participants listen to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a ceremony opening the international military-technical forum Army-2022 at Patriot Congress and Exhibition Centre in Moscow on August 15. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Russia is ready to supply military equipment to its allies and Moscow is open to training foreign fighters, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the opening ceremony of a military expo on Monday.

“Russia sincerely cherishes historically strong, friendly, truly trusting ties with the countries of Latin America, Asia, and Africa. (We) are ready to offer our allies the most modern types of weapons, from small arms to armored vehicles and artillery to combat aviation and unmanned aerial vehicles," Putin said during opening remarks for the during the Army-2022 forum.
“We highly value the fact that our country has many allies, partners, like-minded people on different continents.”

Putin also stressed the advantages of training foreign soldiers in Russia and said Moscow invites allies to do joint military exercises.

“We also see great prospects in the training of foreign servicemen and their advanced training. Thousands of military professionals from around the world are proud alumnus of the military universities and academies of our country,” Putin said.

Russia will continue to work energetically in this important area, he said.

9:08 p.m. ET, August 15, 2022

Russian presence in south complicated by Ukrainian attacks on supply lines, officials say

From CNN's Tim Lister

Russia's presence in parts of southern Ukraine is becoming more tenuous as Ukrainian long-range systems — many of them supplied by Western allies — target their supply lines, Ukrainian officials said.

Ivan Fedorov, mayor of occupied Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region, said the destruction of a railway bridge southwest of the city at the weekend had further complicated Russian resupply routes.

Fedorov, who is not in the city, said on Ukrainian television that "the enemy uses Melitopol as a logistics center for the transportation, trans-shipment of ammunition and heavy weapons. The enemy transports most of the ammunition by rail. On the night August 13- August 14, a railway bridge was blown up. The enemy still cannot restore it; the rubble is being dismantled.
"We see the migration of military personnel from Kherson to Melitopol. Military personnel take their families out of Melitopol."

The Russians had stepped up security in Melitopol, checking the local population, he added. "Mass filtering of local civilians continues in Melitopol, in people's homes, on the streets," he said.

Fedorov said the Russian security service (FSB), Russian reserve guards and special Chechen units were present in the city.

Up to 6,000 people were waiting in line for evacuation, he said. "People wait for five to seven days, spend the night on the roadsides. It is faster to leave through Crimea, people use this route as well," he said.

Kherson attacks: Meanwhile, Serhii Khlan, adviser to the head of Kherson Civil Military Administration, told Ukrainian television on Monday that persistent attacks by Ukrainian forces on bridges across the Dnipro River had caused serious difficulties for Russian forces.

"The impossibility of (the Russians) supplying ammunition allows us to say that if they cannot resolve the issue of crossing to the Dnipro right bank in the next two weeks, then they will have no other opportunity than to leave their positions," he said.

A substantial part of the Russian occupying force is on the right (northern) bank of the Dnipro, in Kherson city and further upstream. Khlan claimed the Russians had moved their command headquarters to the southern bank of the Dnipro.

9:57 p.m. ET, August 15, 2022

Casualties reported as Wagner base in Luhansk hit by Ukrainian strike

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

A base used by Russian mercenary group Wagner in eastern Ukraine was hit by artillery or rocket fire at the weekend, according to social media videos geolocated to the occupied town of Popasna.

The Wagner group of private military contractors has played an active role in the fighting in Donbas, often deployed as infantry to advance on towns from which Ukrainian forces have withdrawn. The paramilitary group is sponsored by Russia.

Serhiy Hayday, the Ukrainian official who is head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said on his Telegram channel Monday that "the Armed Forces of Ukraine once more successfully worked on the enemy headquarters."

"This time it was yesterday in Popasna, where the headquarters of PMC 'Wagner' was smashed with a well-aimed hit," Hayday said. "The number of dead is being clarified."

Over the weekend, pro-Russian Telegram accounts associated with the Wagner group showed extensive damage to a building in Popasna and said there had been casualties.