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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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.”
2:39 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022

He was abducted and tortured by Russian soldiers. Then they used his social media for propaganda

From CNN's Eliza Mackintosh and Yuliia Presniakova

Before the war broke out, Igor Kurayan, a 55-year-old from the southern Ukrainian port city of Kherson, shared frequent gardening updates on social media. His feeds were full of palms, pomegranate trees, marigolds, bamboo and avocados, grown at his home and small business near the Black Sea. He called it his "fairytale garden."

On Feb. 25, a day after Russia invaded Ukraine, Kurayan posted a selfie on Instagram with a rifle, announcing he had volunteered to fight in the Territorial Defense Forces, reserve units of Ukraine's military.

Soon after, Kherson fell to Russian troops and in early April, after weeks living under and protesting against their occupation, Kurayan was abducted. He was watering plants in his shoe store when he said Russian soldiers dragged him outside and threw him into a van.

Soon after Kurayan's kidnapping, his Facebook and Instagram pages, and a new TikTok account registered under his name, began posting messages entirely out of character for the man known to family and friends as a proud Ukrainian, a passionate activist and avid gardener.

Read the full story here.

8:29 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Ukraine's state nuclear power company says Russia-based hackers attacked its website

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom accused hackers based in Russia of launching a “powerful” attack on the company's website for three hours on Tuesday, but said the attack had not “significantly” affected operations of the site. 

"Today the most powerful hacker attack since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation took place on the official website of the state-owned enterprise NAEK Energoatom. The attack was carried out from the territory of the Russian Federation," Energoatom said in a statement on its verified Facebook page. 

The statement blamed the Russian group "People's Cyber ​​Army" for carrying out the attack using 7.25 million bot users, who simulated hundreds of millions of views of the company's main page. 

2:52 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Russians are shelling positions up to 800 times daily, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

A man tries to extinguish fire in a damaged house after a Russian airstrike in Slavyansk, Donetsk oblast on Tuesday.
A man tries to extinguish fire in a damaged house after a Russian airstrike in Slavyansk, Donetsk oblast on Tuesday.

Valeriy Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, has acknowledged that Russian forces "continue to advance" in Donbas but said the "intense" situation is "fully controlled."

"I have informed my counterpart about the situation at the front line. It is intense but fully controlled," Zaluzhny said after talking with Gen. Wayne Donald Eyre, chief of the Defence Staff of Canada.
Zaluzhny added that "the enemy continues to advance along the entire front line. At the same time, the enemy carries out approximately 700-800 [actions of] shelling of our positions every day, using from 40 to 60,000 pieces of ammunition."

That estimate is in line with many made by Western analysts about the volume of ammunition being used by Russian forces, after a relative lull in early July.

"The enemy’s main efforts are concentrated on pushing our troops back from the Donetsk oblast. The most intense situation is now on the axis of Avdiivka-Pisky-Mariinka," Zaluzhny said. 

That axis is a stretch of some 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Donetsk.

8:22 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Russian attempt to break through north of Sloviansk foiled but fresh battles brew in southern Donetsk

From CNN's Tim Lister

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

The battle occurred near Mazanivka on the border of the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions, an area that first saw Russian efforts to break through more than 40 days ago, according to the General Staff.

Another Russian assault further east also failed, despite support from combat aircraft, it added. "Near Ivano-Dariivka, with the support of aviation, the enemy conducted unsuccessful assault actions. It suffered losses and withdrew," the General Staff said.

Fighting has been going on in that district for well over a month. 

Ukrainians say Russian objectives remain the same — they are "focused on conducting active offensive and assault actions in the Kramatorsk, Bakhmut, and Avdiivka directions," the General Staff said.

Bakhmut and Avdiivka have been within a few miles of the front lines for several months, but they remain in Ukrainian hands.

The Ukrainians say further efforts to advance in the Bakhmut area had been rebuffed.

"Offensive and assault actions of the occupiers in the Soledar, Zaitseve and Maiorsk districts ended with losses and withdrawal," it added, saying another attack just south of Bakhmut [in the Vershyna area] had also been foiled.

Meanwhile, the Russians appear to have put renewed effort into breaking through Ukrainian lines in southern Donetsk, between Pavlivka and Novomykhailivka, where "hostilities continue," according to the General Staff.

Further north, in the Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian General Staff said nearly 20 settlements had come under fire, including several close to the border with Russia.

The mayor of Kharkiv, Ihor Terekov, urged civilians to stay indoors after shells landed in the Saltivka district.

8:17 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Town near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is under Russian rocket fire again, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

The town of Nikopol across the river from the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has again come under rocket fire from the Russians, Ukrainian authorities say.

Residential areas had been hit and four people were injured, said Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration.

Some 20 strikes from GRAD multiple rocket launchers and 10 artillery shells hit Nikopol, he added.

Nikopol has frequently come under fire from Russian forces' based on the opposite bank of the Dnipro River, where the nuclear power plant is situated.