August 17, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Heather Chen, Josh Berlinger, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 2:15 a.m. ET, August 18, 2022
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10:27 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Kyiv was behind at least 3 explosions in Crimea, according to a Ukrainian government report

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio

A satellite image from August 10 shows the charred remains of at least seven aircraft after explosions at Saki air base. 
A satellite image from August 10 shows the charred remains of at least seven aircraft after explosions at Saki air base.  (Planet Labs)

Ukraine was behind at least three explosions in Crimea — at Saki air base, an ammunition depot in Maiske and an air field in Gvardeyskoe — according to a Ukrainian government report circulated internally and shared with CNN by a ​Ukrainian official. ​

The official requested anonymity because they were not authorized to share the information with the media. ​

The report describes the Saki air base as a hard but one-time loss for Russian military infrastructure in the peninsula, with subsequent attacks as proof of Ukraine’s systematic military capability in targeting Crimea. 

The air base was rocked by explosions on Aug. 9, which destroyed at least seven Russian warplanes and killed at least one person​. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility on the record.

Another set of explosions were reported in Crimea on Tuesday — this time at an ammunition depot in Maiske and at an airfield in Gvardeyskoe. Russian officials said the incident in Maiske had been the result of sabotage​, but they did not specify the kind of sabotage or who they believed was responsible. 

9:09 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Ukraine defense official suggests counteroffensive to retake territory may begin soon

From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman and Vasco Cotovio

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence has hinted the start of a long-awaited and touted counteroffensive to retake territory lost to Russia could be starting soon, its spokesperson said in a televised address on Wednesday.

“In the near future, there will be very acute events on the entire front,” said Andrii Yusov, a spokesperson for the Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

“This is not about binding to any dates, however, we have to consider [the] factor of the Independence Day of Ukraine,” Yusov added, referencing the country’s independence day on Aug. 24. 

“The Main Directorate of Intelligence has been saying for a long time that August and September will be extremely important periods for the further development of events on the entire front,” Yusov said.

Ukrainian officials have been announcing a Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake occupied territory — specifically in the south — for weeks, but so far they’ve limited their actions to striking Russian supply lines, air bases and ammunition depots, with very small gains at the front. 

4:33 p.m. ET, August 17, 2022

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

A building burns following a Russian missile strike in Odesa, Ukraine on August 17.
A building burns following a Russian missile strike in Odesa, Ukraine on August 17. (Operational Command South of the Armed Forces of Ukraine/Reuters)

Here are the latest developments:

Targets struck across Ukraine

Four people were injured overnight after Russian forces struck the port city of Odesa with anti-ship missiles strategic bombers, a local Ukrainian military official said.

Further north, Russian fighter jets flying in Belarusian airspace launched missiles targeting Zhytomyr, a major transportation hub, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, was also targeted.

More questions in Crimea

For the second week in a row, the peninsula on the Black Sea was rocked by a mysterious blast at a Russian military installation. Explosions at a key Crimean air base last week killed one, injured nine and destroyed several Russian warplanes. Then, on Tuesday, a Russian ammunition depot in the region went up in smoke, wounding two people.

The Kremlin said the first incident was caused by the accidental detonation of ammunition — though satellite imagery appeared to show that a deliberate attack had taken place — while the Tuesday blast was the result of a fire.

Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for either incident, but silence could be intentional. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier this month that Kyiv will not end the war against Russia until it retakes the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The battle for Donbas

Fierce fighting still rages across the key eastern Ukrainian region as Russia continues its advance. The Kremlin's forces are shelling targets in Donbas up to 800 times a day, according to one Ukrainian official.

Russia is trying to push Ukraine's troops out of Donetsk, one of the two regions that make up Donbas. The other region is Luhansk, which is effectively under Russian control.

Meanwhile, Russian forces reportedly tried to advance again from north of the key city of Sloviansk, but their offensive was unsuccessful and they withdrew, the Ukrainian military said.

7:41 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Beijing will send troops to Russia to participate in Vostok-2022 drills, Chinese defense ministry says

From CNN’s Beijing Bureau and Irene Nasser

China’s People’s Liberation Army will send troops to Russia to participate in the “East-2022” drills, also known as Vostok-2022, the Chinese Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday. 

“China’s participation in the exercise is aimed at deepening practical and friendly cooperation with the armies of the participating countries, enhancing the level of strategic cooperation among the participating parties, and strengthening the ability to respond to various security threats,” the defense ministry said, adding that “it is unrelated to the current international and regional situation.”

The exercises will include participation from India, Belarus, Tajikistan, Mongolia and other countries, according to China's defense ministry, and they are due to take place in late August. 

Some background: In July, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held "candid" talks for more than five hours, and Blinken raised concerns over Beijing's "alignment" with Moscow. Blinken said he said he did not think China was behaving in a neutral way as it had supported Russia in the United Nations and “amplified Russian propaganda.”

Shortly before Russia began invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, Beijing and Moscow announced a “no limits” partnership, although US officials say they have not seen China evade tough US-led sanctions on Russia or provide it with military equipment.

Putin says Russia can train foreign fighters: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is ready to supply military equipment to allied countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Moscow is open to training foreign fighters, Putin said during the “Army-2022” opening ceremony.

“We highly value the fact that our country has many allies, partners, like-minded people on different continents,” Putin said.

Putin also stressed the advantages of training foreign soldiers in Russia and said Russia 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 in this area, he said.

CNN's Uliana Pavlova contributed reporting to this post.

5:18 p.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Record traffic reported on Crimean Bridge after Saki base explosions

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Vasco Cotovio

Video taken on August 10 shows traffic near Kerch, Crimea.
Video taken on August 10 shows traffic near Kerch, Crimea. (From Kerch Novosti)

A record number of vehicles drove across the Crimean Bridge, Russian road state agency reported on Tuesday, just days after explosions rocked the Saki Air Base in Crimea’s western coast.

"During the day on August 15, 38,297 cars drove across the bridge in both directions," the statement read.

The number was recorded hours before another set of explosions at military installations in the Crimean peninsula.

Although Russia’s state road agency said the traffic record was recorded "in both directions," videos posted on social media and geolocated by CNN showed long lines and traffic jams in roads leading toward the Crimean Bridge, heading toward Russia, in the days after last week’s explosions.

Local officials have downplayed the size of the lines saying they were the result of stricter controls on the bridge for security reasons and not because of an increase in outward traffic.

"From the point of view that they are fleeing Crimea, this is a complete lie, there is no doubt about it," the head of the Russian-controlled Crimean administration, Sergei Aksyonov, told Russian state TV on Tuesday.

However, last month Aksyonov acknowledged the hit on the tourism industry in Crimea, saying that a 40% decline was expected over the summer. The Russian Tourism Association made a similar prediction in June.  

6:19 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Finland slashes number of visa appointments allotted for Russians

From CNN’s Benjamin Brown in London

Starting September 1, Finland will only allow Russian citizens to schedule 500 visa application appointments per day, authorities in the Nordic nation said.

The move is designed to punish Moscow for its decision to continue to wage war in Ukraine. The Finnish government had already slashed the number of appointments per day for Russian nationals to 1,000. But with no end to the fighting in sight, Helsinki decided to act again.

Of the 500 appointments per day, Finnish authorities will only allow 100 to be used for tourist visas, according to Jussi Tanner, the director general for consular services at Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Finland has long been a popular travel destination for Russians. In 2013, prior to Russia invading and subsequently annexing Crimea from Ukraine, Russians accounted for 75% of 13 million crossings over Finland’s eastern border, according to Tanner.

The number of Russian visa applications rejected has risen tenfold since 2019 and was now at around 15%, Tanner said.

Around 425 visas are now expected to be issued per day.

Sanna Marin, the Finnish Prime Minister, said that, while she recognizes the issue is not "black and white" and there are many Russians who do not support the invasion, many people in Europe are frustrated when they see "Russians traveling like nothing has happened."

"Ordinary Russian people did not start the war, but at the same time, we have to realize that they are supporting the war," Marin said at a news conference in Oslo on Monday. "I think it’s not right that Russian citizens can travel, enter Europe, enter the Schengen area, be tourists, see the sights while Russia is killing people in Ukraine. It’s wrong.” 

Finland’s decision follows European leaders on Monday exchanging arguments over a potential Schengen or European Union visa ban for Russian citizens, with the leaders of Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark agreeing to further discuss the matter. 

7:12 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Alexey Navalny believes the West should sanction 6,000 oligarchs identified by his foundation

From journalist Uliana Pavlova

Alexey Navalny attends a rally in Moscow, Russia, in 2019.
Alexey Navalny attends a rally in Moscow, Russia, in 2019. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Western nations are not doing enough to punish Russian oligarchs with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to prominent Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny.

Navalny, who is serving a prison sentence that Putin's critics say is politically motivated, wants Western governments to sanction thousands of people his organization, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, accuses of wrongdoing.

“We must get the foreign officials to support our list of 6,000 or create their own instead of babbling on endlessly, and actually do what has been loudly and fervently proclaimed since the first day of the war,” Navalny said in a lengthy Twitter post on Tuesday.

According to Navalny, only 46 out of the 200 Russian oligarchs from the Forbes list have been sanctioned by the West. Others, despite their close ties to Putin, were spared.

The jailed Kremlin critic also proposed imposing a 20-year travel ban to the UK, the US and the EU for Russian officials and oligarchs who publicly support the war in Ukraine.

Specific cases: Navalny decried the fact that Alexei Miller, the head of Russia's state-run energy giant Gazprom and purportedly a friend of Putin's, is not on the European sanctions list.

Navalny also questioned why the US had not sanctioned Roman Abramovich, the former owner of Chelsea football club. Navalny claims Abramovich supplies metal to the Russian defense ministry. 

Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government in March and forced to sell the club, despite repeatedly denying that his business activities merited any punishment.

4:20 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Russian rockets strike Odesa in southern Ukraine

From CNN's Mayumi Maruyama and Josh Pennington

A firefighter works at a site of a hotel building hit by a Russian missile strike in the Odesa region on Wednesday.
A firefighter works at a site of a hotel building hit by a Russian missile strike in the Odesa region on Wednesday. (Operational Command South of the Armed Forces of Ukraine/Reuters)

At least four people were injured in a Russian attack on the southern city of Odesa overnight, Ukrainian officials said.

In a Telegram post, Serhii Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odesa military administration, said a recreational center and several buildings had been destroyed and a fire was now raging in a 600-square-meter area.

Russia fired on the city with Kh-22 anti-ship missiles from Tu-22M3 strategic bombers Bratchuk wrote. Russia has previously used anti-ship missiles against targets on land. 

Rescue operations were ongoing, Bratchuk added.

This post has been updated with additional information.

3:35 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Ukraine says Russia fired on northern city from Belarus

From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman

Russia flew Su-34 fighter jets in Belarussian airspace to launch missiles on the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr, a major transportation hub that links to the capital Kyiv, the Ukrainian Air Force said.

The strike on the northern city Tuesday damaged an airfield and surrounding infrastructure, officials said, adding that Russia had also used Kh-59 tactical land-attack missiles.

Elsewhere in the northern and eastern regions of the country, fighting raged as Russian forces focused on taking territories still under Ukrainian control. Ukrainian officials reported shelling in multiple cities including Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

The city of Kharkiv, the country's second largest, was also targeted.

“In the Bohorodychne district, enemy tried to conduct an offensive battle, was unsuccessful, and withdrew. Fighting continues near Mazanivka and Novodmytrivka,” the military’s General Staff said. “The enemy was conducting aerial reconnaissance in the Kramatorsk area. Near Spirne, the invaders decided to go on the offensive, suffered losses and retreated.”

The General Staff added that Russian forces had also been trying to take control of the Donetsk town of Bakhmut but Ukrainian forces continue to hold it, despite air and missile strikes, and intense shelling.

“[Russia] led offensive and assault actions near Zalizne, Shumy and Zaitseve, was unsuccessful, withdrew,” the General Staff said. “Fighting continues in the Soledar and Bakhmutske districts.”