August 17, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sophie Tanno, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, August 18, 2023
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12:06 p.m. ET, August 17, 2023

Ukrainian prime minister calls for increased international pressure to restore grain deal

From Yulia Kesaieva

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 19.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 19. Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters/FILE

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal held a meeting with World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in Kyiv on Thursday, in which​ he called for increased international pressure to restore the Black Sea grain deal.

Shmyhal said in a social media post that he stressed that Ukraine is counting on WTO support in restoring agricultural exports. 

The prime minister also thanked the WTO for its political support and help with overcoming challenges posed by Russia, having described Russia​ as “provoking a global food crisis.”

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also emphasized the importance of reopening​ the grain corridor, according to the Ukrainian government readout of the meeting.

Wheat grains are unloaded inside a storage facility in Zghurivka, Ukraine, on August 9.
Wheat grains are unloaded inside a storage facility in Zghurivka, Ukraine, on August 9. Viacheslav Musiienko/Reuters/FILE

Russia withdrew from the grain deal exactly one month ago. The agreement was brokered​ in July 2022 by the United Nations and Turkey in order to ensure safe passage for the ships exporting Ukrainian grain.

Shmyhal also used Thursday's meeting to express hope for WTO assistance in removing mines from Ukrainian land, according to the readout.

Kostan Nechyporenko contributed to this report.

10:47 a.m. ET, August 17, 2023

National Guard of Ukraine says its forces are repelling Russian counterattacks in Donetsk village

From Kostan Nechyporenko and Lauren Kent

The National Guard of Ukraine said on Thursday that its forces are entrenched near the village of Urozhaine in the eastern Donetsk region and repelling Russian attacks after retaking the area. 

"National Guard units have cleared and demined the liberated settlement. At the moment, they have consolidated their positions and are repelling counterattacks by enemy assault groups trying to regain their lost ground," one of the National Guard's deputy directors said in a televised statement on Thursday. 

Kyiv said Wednesday that Ukrainian forces had retaken the village, after days of punishing battles as part of its counteroffensive against Russia.

Russian forces inside Urozhaine had been in a precarious situation for some time, especially since Ukraine took the neighboring village of Staromaiorske roughly two weeks ago. Russian soldiers and well-connected military bloggers had hinted it was a matter of time until Urozhaine would fall too, given that Ukrainian forces had since been able to attack it from several sides.

CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Alex Stambaugh contributed reporting to this post.

9:42 a.m. ET, August 17, 2023

Ukraine’s counteroffensive gradually moving forward with the help of cluster bombs

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, Florence Davey-Attlee, Kostyantin Gak and Brice Lâiné

Ukrainian soldiers stand with Ukrainian flag in Urozhaine, Donetsk Region, Ukraine, in this screen grab obtained from a handout video released on August 16.
Ukrainian soldiers stand with Ukrainian flag in Urozhaine, Donetsk Region, Ukraine, in this screen grab obtained from a handout video released on August 16. Ukrainian Armed Forces/Reuters

Ukrainian marines have advanced for the second time in two weeks on the southeastern frontlines, towards the key port city of Mariupol, with the recapture of the village of Urozhaine appearing to have been partially aided by the Ukrainian use of controversial cluster munitions.

Drone footage of the intense fight for the village has emerged in which dozens of Russian troops can be seen fleeing to the village’s south. They are apparently shelled as they flee, at times by what seem to be cluster munitions, two arms experts who reviewed videos of the incidents said. The experts did not want to be identified discussing a sensitive issue.

Dykyi, the callsign of an assault company commander, said of the Russian rout: “Very many died, especially when they started to run.”

The videos show dozens of Russian troops running along an open road, seemingly forced to use the asphalt as the adjacent fields and treelines had been mined. Dykyi said. The Russians also gathered in large numbers in houses which were then hit by artillery.

“Lots of them died there,” Dykyi said, adding that mortars and tanks were used in the rout. He would not comment on the use of cluster munitions.

The drone videos also showed a Ukrainian tank charging alone at Russian positions, firing, and dragging behind it a cable on which were attached mine-clearing explosives. The charges detonate when the tank turns away from the clashes, ensuring the clear advance of the next units through minefields that have caused significant losses.

The supply of cluster munitions to the Ukrainian military was preceded by great ethical debate inside the Biden administration, US officials have said. While brutally effective against infantry on open ground, the weapons scatter small droplet explosives that often fail to detonate and can be a residual hazard to civilians for decades to come.

More than 100 countries have banned the use of cluster weapons via treaty, though the Ukraine, Russia and the United States are not signatories to that international treaty.

The US military says the models they are supplying Ukraine have an improved “dud” rate in which only 2.5% of them fail to detonate on dispersal – a claim that is viewed skeptically by critics. By comparison, Russian cluster weapons, also said to be in use during their invasion of Ukraine, are claimed by Western officials to have a dud rate of 30%.

The Ukrainian military has confirmed the US weapons are in use on the frontlines, but declined to offer details. CNN was unable to confirm the devices identified by experts as likely cluster munitions in the videos from Urozhaine were US-supplied weapons. Ukraine is thought to have produced several similar devices domestically that could be in use on the frontlines.

Read more about Ukraine's counteroffensive.

9:28 a.m. ET, August 17, 2023

Russian general reportedly dismissed for failings in Ukraine dies from "long illness" at age 58

From CNN's Ivana Kottasova, Darya Tarasova and Lauren Kent in London

An official portrait of Russian Army General Gennady Zhidko.
An official portrait of Russian Army General Gennady Zhidko. mil.ru

A Russian general who reportedly served as the top military commander for Ukraine last year died on Wednesday, according to Russian state media.

Army Gen. Gennady Zhidko died “after a long illness” on Wednesday, according to the state news agency TASS. He was 58, TASS reported.

Zhidko served as Russia’s Eastern Military District commander between May and October last year. He was reportedly the overall theater commander in Ukraine during Moscow’s offensive against Lysychansk and Severodonetsk in the summer of 2022.

Zhidko’s death was first announced on Telegram by the governor of Russia’s Khabarovsk territory, Mikhail Degtyarev, who said, “I was lucky to know this man, very attentive to the needs of a simple soldier and very demanding to the service. It is these commanders who are called commanders.”

No official announcement of Zhidko’s death has been released. Zhidko’s biography published on TASS does not mention his time serving as commander in Ukraine.

He reportedly took over the leadership of Russian forces in Ukraine some after Moscow abandoned its botched attempt to take over Kyiv last spring, the investigative group Conflict Intelligence Team reported in May 2022.

The appointment was never officially confirmed, but in June 2022, Zhidko was seen sitting next to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during the minister’s visit to forces involved in the war in Ukraine, an event that appeared to confirm Zhidko’s elevation to the top role.

Read more about Zhidko's role here.

8:32 a.m. ET, August 17, 2023

Russian helicopters downed in Ukraine had foreign high-tech components, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

Russian assault Ka-52 helicopters shot down in Ukraine on Thursday morning were manufactured using foreign chips and processors, according to Andriy Yermak, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.

Yermak called for tougher sanctions to prevent Russia from procuring components for the weapons it uses in Ukraine. "Shooting down the Ka-52 is great. But it is much better to deprive Russia of the ability to produce it," he wrote on his Telegram.

Russian assault helicopters contain "high-tech components" from "Western and Asian countries," he added. Chips, processors, flash memory, telecommunication transformers, linear stabilizers, and other components are among the parts necessary to operate and repair the Ka-52 helicopters.

"Sanctions against Russia need to be strengthened. The Russian military-industrial complex should not have access to technology," the Ukrainian presidential adviser said.

Ukraine has repeatedly called for stronger Western sanctions against Russia, arguing that despite the existing tough sanctions imposed by the US, NATO and the EU, Russia is still able to procure components for the weapons.

10:12 a.m. ET, August 17, 2023

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

From CNN staff

A Hong Kong-flagged vessel laden with food products has become the first ship to leave Ukraine via the Black Sea shipping corridor since Russia pulled out a UN-brokered grain deal last month. It has now reached Romanian waters.

Elsewhere, a Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson has said that US-made F-16 fighter jets are not expected to arrive in the country this year amid requests for the long-awaited aircraft.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Kupiansk attack: Ukraine's northeastern city of Kupiansk has come under Russian shelling, killing one woman and wounding another, according to officials. The Thursday morning strikes damaged a private house and outbuilding.
  • Drone training: Russia's vocational schools will soon train the operators of unmanned aircraft systems (UAVs), the Russian Education Ministry announced on Thursday, according to state media.
  • Support for Kyiv: The Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have confirmed they will join the G7 Declaration of Support for Ukraine. In the signed Thursday statement, they said: “We firmly believe that only NATO membership will provide Ukraine with security guarantees.”
  • Grain ship travels south: Data from MarineTraffic on Thursday showed the Hong Kong-flagged Joseph Schulte traveling toward the Turkish port of Ambarli. It is carrying more than 30,000 metric tons of cargo, including food products, according to Ukraine's infrastructure minister.
  • Ukrainian drone shot down over Russia: Russian air defenses destroyed a Ukrainian drone over the southwest Belgorod region on Thursday, state-run news agency TASS reported, citing Moscow's defense ministry. No casualties or damage were reported. Drone attacks have become an almost daily occurrence in the border province.

Here's the latest map of control:

9:36 a.m. ET, August 17, 2023

Russia claims it hit 4 US-supplied Stryker armored vehicles

From CNN's Darya Tarasova

Russia said on Thursday that it hit four US-supplied Stryker armored personnel carriers, marking the first time the country has claimed to hit the US-supplied vehicles.

Russian units in Zaporizhzhia repelled a Ukrainian attack near the village of Robotyne, the Russian Ministry of Defense said, and claimed to inflict heavy losses on Ukrainian troops and equipment.

"The enemy losses totaled up to 195 Ukrainian troops, four Stryker armored personnel carriers, two infantry fighting vehicles, three motor vehicles, one U.S.-made M777 artillery system, one UK-made FH-70 gun, as well as two Msta-B and one D-20 howitzers," the Russian Ministry of Defense said in its latest briefing.

CNN could not independently verify Russia's claims.

American Bradley and Stryker vehicles, German Leopard 2 tanks, and British Challenger 2 tanks are among the Western equipment that has been sent to Ukraine.

More on Stryker vehicles: In January, the Pentagon announced a $2.5 billion Ukraine security package that included for the first time Stryker armored vehicles and more Bradley fighting vehicles. It marked a significant escalation in the armored vehicles the US has committed to Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

Also in the briefing: The Russian defense ministry also said Thursday that it carried out successful offensive operations in the Donetsk region, improving the position of its troops along the front line.

"In the Donetsk direction, units of the Southern group of troops, in close cooperation with aviation and artillery, repelled four attacks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the areas of the settlements of Zaliznyanskoye, Staromikhaylovka and Krasnogorovka of the Donetsk People's Republic," said the ministry in its daily update.

CNN cannot independently verify battlefield reports.

CNN's Katharina Krebs in London contributed to this post.

10:46 a.m. ET, August 17, 2023

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania join G7 Declaration of Support for Ukraine

From CNN’s James Frater and Louise McLoughlin

G7 leaders, President of the European Council Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky pose for a family photo during an event to announce a Joint Declaration of Support to Ukraine, as the NATO summit is held in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12.
G7 leaders, President of the European Council Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky pose for a family photo during an event to announce a Joint Declaration of Support to Ukraine, as the NATO summit is held in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12. Kacper Pempel/Reuters

The Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have released a joint statement confirming they are joining the G7 Declaration of Support for Ukraine

In the signed Thursday statement, they said: “We firmly believe that only NATO membership will provide Ukraine with security guarantees.”

“With this in mind, we join the G7 Declaration of Support for Ukraine. We will work with Ukraine within this multilateral framework to establish security commitments and arrangements that would help Ukraine win this war as soon as possible”

Some context: The G7 is shorthand for Group of Seven, an organization of leaders from some of the world’s largest economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Its Declaration of Support for Ukraine was issued following the NATO summit in Vilnius last month. It aims to provide Ukraine with sustained political, military, financial, and economic assistance through bilateral agreements and to help hold Russia to account.

The document outlined that G7 countries will work with Ukraine on “bilateral, long-term security commitments and arrangements" toward three goals.

The goals include "ensuring a sustainable force capable of defending Ukraine now and deterring Russian aggression in the future,” “strengthening Ukraine’s economic stability and resilience” and “providing technical and financial support for Ukraine’s immediate needs stemming from Russia’s war as well as to enable Ukraine to continue implementing the effective reform agenda.”

Estonia’s Government website says 18 countries — including Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — have now joined the declaration.

6:46 a.m. ET, August 17, 2023

One woman killed and one wounded in Russian attack in northeast Ukraine on Thursday

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Lauren Kent 

One woman died and another woman was wounded in Russian shelling of a village near Kupiansk, in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region, according to the head of the region's military administration. 

The Thursday morning shelling damaged a private house and outbuilding.

Another attack in Kupiansk in the last 24 hours damaged a private household, seriously wounding a 55-year-old man who later died in the hospital, according to the official, Oleh Syniehubov.

The State Emergency Service of Ukraine has inspected more than three hectares of territory in the region and defused 81 explosive items in the last 24 hours, Syniehubov added.

Some context: Kupiansk has come under heavy Russian shelling amid Ukraine's counteroffensive, as its forces attempt to break Moscow's’s land-bridge between annexed Crimea and eastern Donetsk.

On Thursday morning, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the government is working on evacuations from the Kupiansk district.

Zelensky added that the government is focused on providing help to victims of Russian shelling of civilian targets, including through the construction of new housing in the Kherson and Kyiv regions.

Last week, Ukrainian officials ordered the first evacuations of the city and its surrounding areas as Russian shelling intensified.