August 18, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Heather Chen, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 5:26 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022
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2:40 p.m. ET, August 18, 2022

US says it is "aware of reports" that Russians have "abused and coerced" Zaporizhzhia plant staff

From CNN's Michael Conte, Jennifer Hansler and Saba Haroon

The US State Department said they are “aware of reports that Russian personnel have abused and coerced” staff at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, calling Russia’s actions “reckless.”

"We applaud the Ukrainian authorities and operators for their commitment to nuclear safety and security under the most trying of circumstances. The United States condemns in the strongest terms Russia's reckless disregard for nuclear safety and security,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

Price said the International Atomic Energy Agency must be allowed access to the plant “to help ensure the safety and security of the plant and monitoring of its nuclear material.”

2:55 p.m. ET, August 18, 2022

Zelensky says Ukraine agrees with UN on "parameters" of international mission to nuclear plant

From CNN's Anastasia Graham Yooll and Tim Lister

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a news conference in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a news conference in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky told a news conference in Lviv that Ukraine has agreed with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on the "parameters" of a possible visit to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant by international inspectors.

"Russia has to immediately and unconditionally withdraw all forces from the territory of the Zaporizhzhia power station and stop all provocations and all shelling. It is unacceptable that Russia puts all of us at the brink of nuclear catastrophe," Zelensky said, speaking alongside Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

"We agreed with the secretary-general parameters of a possible IAEA mission at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in a legal way through unoccupied territory," Zelensky said.

It's unclear how that might work in practice. The only way to access the plant without traveling through Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine would be across the Dnipro river. 

2:33 p.m. ET, August 18, 2022

Food markets starting to stabilize after agreement to unblock Black Sea ports, UN head says

From CNN's Tim Lister

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres listens during a news conference in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres listens during a news conference in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

After meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said there were signs that global food markets were beginning to stabilize in the wake of the agreement to provide safe passage for merchant ships from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

"As we speak, more than 560,000 metric tons of grain and other food produced by Ukrainian farmers is making its way to markets around the world," he said, according to remarks from his office.   

Ministers from Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement to unblock Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which was brokered by the UN and Turkey in Istanbul on July 22.

Guterres said that wheat prices dropped by as much as 8% following the signing of the agreement, and "the FAO Food Price Index fell by 9% in July - the biggest decline since 2008." 

But he warned that supply chains are still disrupted and energy and transportation costs high. 

He said it was "vital to help reverse the turmoil in the global fertilizer market that is now threatening next season’s crops – including rice, the most widely consumed staple in the world."

After meeting with Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the news conference that he was surprised by suggestions from Erdoğan that the grain deal might open a window to broader negotiations on ending the conflict. 

"I told President Erdoğan that I have no faith in the Russian Federation," Zelensky said.

"The people who are killing, raping, dropping rockets on our civilian infrastructures every day cannot want peace, so they have to free our territories first," he added.

CNN's Anastasia Graham Yooll contributed reporting to this post.

1:07 p.m. ET, August 18, 2022

UN chief calls for "safe, secure and unfettered access" to detention center where 150 POWs died

From CNN's Tim Lister

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky post for photos during a meeting in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky post for photos during a meeting in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres discussed with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about the UN's efforts to establish a fact-finding mission into the attack that killed more than 150 Ukrainian prisoners of war at Olenivka late in July.

He said the terms of reference for such a mission had been shared with Ukraine and Russia, and he had appointed a Brazilian general with long experience of peacekeeping operations, Carlos dos Santos Cruz, to lead the mission.

The Russian defense ministry said immediately after the attack that it was inviting the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the site, but the ICRC later said its requests had gone unanswered.  

Each side has accused the other of being behind the attack, but a CNN investigation found that the Russian version of what had happened was highly unlikely.

In remarks distributed by his office, Guterres said the UN "will now continue to work to obtain the necessary assurances to guarantee secure access to the site and any other relevant locations."

"The team must be able to gather and analyze necessary information. Above all, that means safe, secure and unfettered access to people, places and evidence without any interference from any party," he added.
1:15 p.m. ET, August 18, 2022

Turkish president warns of danger of "a new Chernobyl" around Ukraine nuclear power plant

From Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul and Sugam Pokharel in London

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday expressed concerns about the ongoing conflict around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, warning of danger of “a new Chernobyl." 

Speaking at a news conference alongside his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky and UN chief António Guterres after a trilateral meeting in Lviv, Erdogan said his country is trying to push for a diplomatic solution to the war, while “standing on the side” of Ukraine.  

Stressing Russia and Ukraine to find “the shortest and the fairest way to the negotiating table,” the Turkish leader said, "I maintain my belief that the war will eventually end at the negotiating table. In fact, Mr Zelensky and Guterres echo this view."

"We are ready to act as a facilitator or mediator towards the goal of reviving the negotiations over the parameters that took form in Istanbul," Erdogan said.

Turkey has been temporarily hosting about 325,000 Ukrainians since the start of the war and has dispatched 98 humanitarian aid trucks to the country, he also said. 

12:48 p.m. ET, August 18, 2022

UN secretary-general demands "demilitarized" area around Ukrainian nuclear plant

From CNN's Tim Lister

Left to right: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres shake hands after their meeting in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday.
Left to right: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres shake hands after their meeting in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Any potential damage to the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia would be "suicide," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said after meeting President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Ukrainian city of Lviv on Thursday.

In opening remarks distributed by his office, Guterres called for the area to be "demilitarized" and said that agreement was urgently needed to "re-establish Zaporizhzhia as purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area."

"We must tell it like it is – any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide," Guterres said.

"In close contact with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the UN Secretariat has assessed that we have in Ukraine the logistics and security capacity to support any IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from Kyiv, provided both Russia and Ukraine agree," Guterres said.  

"We must spare no effort to ensure that plant’s facilities or surroundings are not a target of military operations. Military equipment and personnel should be withdrawn from the plant," according to the statement.

Russian military personnel and some equipment have been based at the nuclear plant since it was occupied early in March. 

"Further deployment of forces or equipment to the site must be avoided. The area needs to be demilitarized," Guterres said. 

11:54 a.m. ET, August 18, 2022

Denmark will invest $5.5 billion in warships due to Ukraine war and "security situation in Europe" 

From CNN's Benjamin Brown in London

Denmark will invest 40 billion Danish Krone ($5.5 billion) into its naval fleet as the Scandinavian NATO member attempts to beef up its defense over Russia's war in Ukraine and the "new security situation in Europe," Defense Minister Morten Bødskov said Thursday. 

Bødskov announced a partnership between the Danish defense ministry and its national maritime industry to boost the nation's shipbuilding capacity. 

"With Russia's attack on Ukraine and the new security situation in Europe, it is more important than ever that Denmark is able to defend itself. Security of supply plays a decisive role here," Bødskov said. 

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced last week that Denmark will give another 110 million euros ($113.7 million) in financial aid to Ukraine for "weapons, equipment and training." 

Speaking at an international donor conference in Copenhagen, Frederiksen said, "I hope that we here today can agree on even more contributions. And of course, Denmark is ready to do our part." 

About 130 Danish soldiers are currently training Ukrainian troops in the UK, while Copenhagen has also assisted Ukraine in the cyber defense area, according to the Danish defense ministry.

CNN's Sarah Diab contributed reporting to this post.

12:03 p.m. ET, August 18, 2022

Ex-Russian soldier speaks out against Ukraine war in lengthy post

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova, Evgenii Shapovalov and Radina Gigova

Pavel Filatyev
Pavel Filatyev (from Pavel Filatyev)

Pavel Filatyev, a former Russian paratrooper, publicly spoke out against the war in Ukraine in a lengthy 141-page-long testimony posted to his VKontakte social media page.

Filatyev’s account marks one of the first detailed public accounts from a Russian soldier.

“It's been a month and a half since I returned from the war in Ukraine, yes, yes, I know that you can’t say this word 'war', it's banned, but still I will say exactly 'war'," Filatyev said in the beginning of his post, which was posted two weeks ago. 

Filatyev, 33, goes on to describe how his paratrooper unit was sent to Ukraine via Crimea and entered Kherson.

The testimony is filled with Filatyev’s personal reflections and impressions from the war, as well as philosophical discussions about the sense of guilt. 

Filatyev also wrote about the poor state of the Russian army on the front lines — including how Russian soldiers changed into Ukrainian uniforms because they are more comfortable.

“It's a pity that reporters are not allowed to visit us on the front lines, because then the whole country can admire paratroopers dirty, thin and embittered, it’s not clear with what more, stubborn Ukrainians who don’t want to be denazified, or with their mediocre command, incapable of equipping them even during combat action,” Filatyev said.

Filatyev also said Russian commanders tried to motivate paratroopers with money by promising $69 per day, but in the end, the soldiers received only half of what was promised and many were saying that the job is not worth the money.

Pavel Filatyev
Pavel Filatyev (from Pavel Filatyev)

The VKontakte post is still up as of Thursday and has been shared over 60 times. 

Filatyev has since fled Russia and is now traveling to a “democratic country,” according to Vladimir Osechkin, founder of Gulagu.net, who is in charge of the relocation. Gulagu.net is a human rights nonprofit that advocates against corruption and torture in Russia, according to its website. 

10:05 a.m. ET, August 18, 2022

Death toll in Russian rocket strike on apartment building in Kharkiv rises to 12

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

The Ukrainian state emergency service says the number of people killed in a rocket attack on an apartment building in Kharkiv Wednesday night has risen to at least 12.

As of Thursday afternoon "12 people are known to have died," the service said.

"All of them are civilians. Many of them are elderly and disabled. There is no military facility near the destroyed building," it added.