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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9:30 p.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Zelensky demands withdrawal of Russian forces from Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant territory 

From CNN's Tim Lister and Petro Zadorozhnyy

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is seen as Russian military's presence at the power plant continues, on August 11, in Zaporizhzia, Ukraine.
Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is seen as Russian military's presence at the power plant continues, on August 11, in Zaporizhzia, Ukraine. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is demanding that Russian forces withdraw from the territory of the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.

In his daily video message, Zelensky said the Russian army "must withdraw from the territory of the nuclear power plant and all neighboring areas, and take away its military equipment from the plant."

"This must happen without any conditions and as soon as possible. Ukraine is ready to ensure proper control by the IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency), and the relevant mission can be sent to the Zaporizhzhia plant in a legal way, very fast and as efficiently as possible," he said.

He added that "Ukrainian diplomats, our nuclear scientists and the IAEA are in constant touch" and are working on "sending the IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant."

Zelensky is due to meet UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday in the Ukrainian city of Lviv.

In his address, Zelensky also referred to the current situation on the front lines in Donetsk and Kharkiv regions, saying, "the Avdiivka area, Bakhmut area, Kharkiv region, and some other regions are where the most difficult fighting is going on right now."

The Ukrainian military acknowledged Wednesday that Russian forces had "partial success" in advancing on some parts of the front west of Donetsk city.

3:44 p.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Europe's natural gas prices are roughly seven times higher than prices in the US

By CNN's Matt Egan

A BP Plc gas station is seen in London, UK on August 1.
A BP Plc gas station is seen in London, UK on August 1. (Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

As US natural gas prices spike to 14-year high, Europe's natural gas crisis is being driven by its reliance on energy from Russia, which has slashed natural gas flows to Europe in response to Western sanctions.

The European Union has been forced to lay plans to ration natural gas, a drastic step that will hurt families and businesses. Natural gas prices have skyrocketed so high in Europe that it threatens to send the continent's economy into recession.

For context, Europe's natural gas prices are trading at levels equivalent to about $70 per million BTUs, according to Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates. 

That is roughly seven times higher than prices in the United States.

But that is little consolation to Americans grappling with high prices at the grocery store, clothing stores and at restaurants. 

Even as natural gas prices surge, oil prices have tumbled, helping to drive gasoline prices sharply lower. The US national average for regular gasoline has dropped 64 days in a row, according to AAA.

Exports pick up to Europe

While analysts say Europe's natural gas crisis is contributing to the higher natural gas prices in America, although it's not the main driver.

"Higher global prices are trickling down to the US. Natural gas has become a global commodity with the emergency of LNG," said Rob Thummel, senior portfolio manager at Tortoise Capital Advisors.

The United States has stepped up its exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe in an effort to mitigate the impact of the loss of Russian gas. 

"Every spare molecule we can find, we are shipping to the eurozone," according to Robert Yawger, vice president of energy futures at Mizuho Securities. 

Read more here.

12:56 p.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Ukraine's strike in Kherson kills multiple Russian soldiers

From CNN's Tim Lister

The Ukrainian armed forces have published a video purportedly showing a strike on a Russian position in the occupied Kherson region.

The armed forces said between 10 and 15 Russian soldiers had been killed in the strike against a Russian post near the town of Nova Kakhovka.

"The base of the occupiers was destroyed in Nova Kakhovka," the State Border Guard Service said separately.

Russian positions in and around Nova Kakhovka — as well as ammunition depots and rail links — have been repeatedly hit by long-range Ukrainian weapons and combat aircraft over the past month.

6:36 p.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Ukrainian military acknowledges Russian progress west of Donetsk city

From CNN's Tim Lister

Emergency service workers tend to a woman injured in a shelling in Opytne, Ukraine, on August 1.
Emergency service workers tend to a woman injured in a shelling in Opytne, Ukraine, on August 1. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian military's general staff has acknowledged that Russian forces have had some success advancing westwards from the outskirts of Donetsk city.

It said Russian forces continued to fire at several settlements to the west and south-west of Donetsk.

"The enemy has partial success in the direction of Opytne," it said. Opytne is just north of Donetsk city's airport and has been a front line since 2014, when the airport was destroyed in fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists. 

The general staff also said that Russian forces had partial success "in the direction of Novomykhailivka (south of Mariinka)."

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

"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 the city of Donetsk and includes front lines in the areas of both Opytne and Novomykhailivka. 

In its briefing Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said it inflicted heavy casualties on Ukrainian forces through artillery strikes near Mariinka. It also said Russian air force attacks had inflicted losses on Ukrainian units further south around Vuhledar and Dobrovillia. 

The Russians also appear to be mounting new attacks in Kharkiv region, striking westwards toward Ukrainian defenses.

"The enemy tried to break through the defense of our troops in the direction of the settlements of Lebiazhe and Bazaliivka, but had no success and withdrew," the General Staff said. It added that the Russians had also failed to advance north of Sloviansk.

The Ukrainians also said there had been no change in the front lines around Bakhmut in Donetsk, which has been under bombardment for weeks.

They said that "Ukrainian soldiers suppressed all attempts by the enemy to improve the tactical position of units" in areas to the east and south of the town.

In recent days, Russian forces appear to have shifted the focus of their assaults to areas close to Donetsk city and to parts of Kharkiv region.

11:25 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022

UN secretary-general arrives in Ukraine ahead of meetings with Ukrainian and Turkish leaders

From CNN's Petro Zadorozhnyy

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Lviv on Wednesday ahead of his meetings with the leaders of Ukraine and Turkey, according to the office of his spokesperson.

Guterres will be in Lviv Thursday for bilateral issues and will travel to Odesa on Friday to discuss the grain deal, the UN previously announced.

Guterres will hold a trilateral meeting with Ukrainian leaders and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss the inner workings of the Black Sea grain deal, according to spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric. He also plans to hold a bilateral meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the UN said.

In July, Ukraine and Russia agreed to a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to allow the resumption of vital grain exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

Guterres will travel to Istanbul on Saturday. The Russians are aware of the secretary-general's plans, Dujarric said.

CNN's Richard Roth contributed reporting to this post.

10:49 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022

41% of Ukrainian schools ready to resume classes in September, despite war, education minister says

From CNN's Petro Zadorozhnyy and Vasco Cotovio

Nearly half of Ukraine’s schools and universities are ready to resume classes in September, the country’s education minister Serhiy Shkarlet said on Tuesday.

“Currently, about 41% of all educational institutions have the opportunity to start education in the traditional format,” Shkarlet said.

“The highest indicators of readiness for the educational process in the face-to-face form are in the Lviv region - 83%, Chernivtsi region - 78%, and Kyiv city - 68%,” he added. “Other regions continue active work in creating proper and safe conditions in educational institutions for offline learning.”

The education minister said schools would have shelters and that principals should invite parents in a bid to assure them of the safety of the building.

“It is very important that parents have the opportunity to make sure with their own eyes that their children will be safe in educational institutions,” he said. “Therefore, I urge school principals to give parents the opportunity to see the conditions of students in shelters in the event of an "Air Alarm" signal and to be in constant communication with them.”

“Principals can offer to organize parent meetings, which are traditionally held before the beginning of the new school year, in protective buildings,” he concluded.


10:21 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022

Extent of casualties at Wagner base hit by Ukrainian strike on the weekend is still unclear

From CNN's Tim Lister

Mystery still surrounds the extent of damage and casualties following a Ukrainian strike on the weekend against an apartment block in the Luhansk region being used by Russian private military contractors known as Wagner.

The building in the town of Popasna was said to be the local headquarters of the Wagner PMC group in Luhansk. Video and images from the site suggest extensive damage, but there are few details about casualties.

Ukrainian officials have suggested there were dozens of casualties.

"For now, we will not divulge the details. But if, in the end, it turns out that more than 100 members of the Wagner leadership have died, this will not be news to us," said Serhii Hayday, the Ukrainian official who is head of the Luhansk regional military administration.

Hayday and other Ukrainian officials have also suggested that a post on one of the pro-Wagner Telegram channels earlier this month had allowed Ukrainian forces to identify and attack the building, which is some 15 to 20 kilometers from the front line.

Hayday said that Ukrainian forces "hit an enemy HQ whose whereabouts were established, thanks to a Russian journalist."

That post appeared on the Grey Zone channel, run by Russian journalist Sergei Sreda, and was viewed at least 181,000 times before being deleted.

“Arrived to Popasna, visited the Wagner headquarters. I was greeted like family." the post read. It included a photograph that showed the address of the building in Popasna. 

The Grey Zone has more than 260,000 subscribers. However, there have been no posts on the channel since Aug. 13 — the day before the strike.

Another Telegram channel associated with Wagner has also gone silent.

Since April, Wagner contractors have been prominent among Russian and pro-Russian infantry units in Luhansk and Donetsk.

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.