August 22, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Rhea Mogul, Eliza Mackintosh and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 2:19 a.m. ET, August 23, 2022
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2:22 p.m. ET, August 22, 2022

UN announces fact-finding team to investigate Ukraine prison attack

From CNN’s Richard Roth

A destroyed barrack is seen at a prison in Olenivka, Ukraine, on July 29.
A destroyed barrack is seen at a prison in Olenivka, Ukraine, on July 29. (AP)

The United Nations has a fact finding team ready to investigate the Ukraine prison attack in Olenivka — but for now — it’s going nowhere.

Despite Russia and Ukraine requesting an independent probe, the UN believes the situation around the prison is not safe for access without proper assurances. 

The UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced other members of the team Monday. 

Joining a veteran retired police Lieutenant-General from Brazil is a diplomat from Iceland and a police official from Niger. 

The panel would establish facts and report back to the UN Secretary-General.

Some background: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said at the end of July the attack on the prison in separatist-held eastern Ukraine, which resulted in the deaths of at least 50 prisoners, was "a deliberate war crime by the Russians." Russia, meanwhile, blamed Ukraine for the attack.

Olenivka is in the part of the Donetsk region which has been held by pro-Russian forces for eight years.

The facility has been used to house many of the Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol several months ago. CNN could not independently verify the allegations of either side.

1:25 p.m. ET, August 22, 2022

Russian State Duma to hold special session on Thursday on Zaporizhzhia’s nuclear power plant  

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova 

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen outside Enerhodar, Ukraine, on August 4.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen outside Enerhodar, Ukraine, on August 4. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters/File)

The Russian State Duma Speaker, Vyacheslav Volodin, called for a special session on Thursday to address the situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in eastern Ukraine.

"The meeting will be held on Thursday, Aug. 25, at 15:00 [3:00 p.m. local time]. The main issue is a statement in connection with the threat arising from the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by the Kyiv regime," the State Duma press service told Russian state-run news agency, RIA Novosti. 

According to RIA Novosti, Volodin said that before the end of the week the proposal regarding the nuclear plant will be discussed with the heads of the factions, with the final decision made on Monday.

Kyiv and Moscow have made a barrage of accusations against each other about security and military action at and around the plant, the largest nuclear complex in Europe. But the lack of independent access to the plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since March, makes it impossible to verify what is happening there.

Recent satellite images from Maxar Technologies of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant show no signs of "systemic shelling," despite claims by Russian president Vladimir Putin that the Ukrainian military was conducting repeated military strikes at the plant.

12:59 p.m. ET, August 22, 2022

US says it does not support blanket visa ban for Russians

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The United States does not support a blanket visa ban for Russian citizens, a State Department spokesperson said Monday.

“The US wouldn’t want to close off pathways to refuge and safety for Russia’s dissidents or others who are vulnerable to human rights abuses. We’ve also been clear that it is important to draw a line between the actions of the Russian government and its policies in Ukraine, and the people of Russia,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson added that the US has “worked with Allies and partners to impose costs, including visa restrictions for Kremlin officials and their enablers.”

“Since Feb. 24, 2022, the United States has taken steps to impose visa restrictions on nearly 5,000 individuals in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” they said. “We will continue to identify those involved in Russia’s invasion and will promote accountability for their conduct. We are looking at all tools to hold the Kremlin to account.”

Some context: Josep Borrell, the European Union's top diplomat, on Monday also came out against a blanket visa ban, saying that "to forbid the entrance to all Russians is not a good idea."

Ukrainian officials have called on nations to stop allowing entrance for Russian citizens, with President Volodymyr Zelensky telling the Washington Post in early August, "the most important sanctions are to close the borders — because the Russians are taking away someone else’s land.”

Several countries, including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, have backed a tourist visa ban for Russians.

11:40 a.m. ET, August 22, 2022

Official: Law — not Russian accusations — will determine if Estonia shares details about who crossed border 

From CNN's Teele Rebane

Estonia's Police and Border Guard said Friday it can share information about people crossing the country's border "only in cases as determined by the law," and not because of accusations by Russia's special service in the media.

Estonian Police and Border Guard media representative Ragne Keisk provided a statement in an email to CNN.

The statement come after Russian news agency TASS reported that the Russian security service — the FSB — alleged the woman suspected for Russian political commentator Darya Dugina's murder was Ukrainian and had fled to Estonia after the attack.

"We can share information about people moving across the border only in cases as determined by the law and the Russian special service accusing them of doing something in the media is not one of them," Keisk said in the email to CNN.

"We have not received any formal information or request from the Russian authorities on this topic," Keisk said. 

The Estonian Foreign Ministry could not comment and directed inquiries to the Justice Ministry and the Border Guard. 

11:54 a.m. ET, August 22, 2022

UN nuclear watchdog continues consultations with Ukraine and Russia to visit Zaporizhzhia plant

From CNN's Mostafa Salem

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine on August 19.
This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine on August 19. (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies/AP)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, continues its consultations with Ukraine and Russia to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine where intensified shelling has raised international concerns.

“It is in the midst of a warzone, it’s something that’s never been done before, to send a group of international inspectors,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told CNN’s Becky Anderson.

Grossi said there “is progress” in the difficult negotiations and if the visit goes ahead, he will be leading the team to the nuclear plant, the biggest in Europe.

“To get this operation together, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” Grossi said describing the difficulty of the visit in terms of logistics. 

More background: Attacks at the complex, which have ramped up as fighting flares in Ukraine's south, have sparked concerns about the specter of nuclear disaster, leading the UN's watchdog and world leaders to demand that a mission be allowed to visit the site and assess the damage. 

The risk for a nuclear accident “exists” and could potentially be “very, very big,” Grossi said.

 “We cannot say what magnitude it could have, but potentially it could be very, very big,” he said.

“The mere fact that there is active conflict, shelling taking place there…the danger that something may go astray or something unexpected may happen is of course unsustainable,” Grossi said.

 

11:41 a.m. ET, August 22, 2022

Ukrainian Defense Intelligence: Ukraine's National Guard was not involved in car explosion that killed Dugina

From CNN’s Victoria Butenko

Ukraine's National Guard was not involved in a car explosion that killed Darya Dugina, the daughter of an influential ultranationalist Alexander Dugin, the country’s Defense Intelligence said Monday.

“It is a fake that Ukraine is involved in this (killing of Darya Dugina). It is a fake that the National Guard of Ukraine is involved in these events. The National Guard is fulfilling its legal tasks at the territory of Ukraine,” Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for the Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, said in a statement.

Yusov went on to point to Russia for an answer concerning the murder of Dugina near Moscow on Saturday, saying: “This looks more like sorting things out within Russia. Both Dugin and his daughter are marginal characters and not a point of interest to Ukraine.”

Earlier Monday, Russia blamed an agent with the Ukrainian security service for the car bomb explosion, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

10:31 a.m. ET, August 22, 2022

Key things to know about Putin ally Alexander Dugin, whose daughter was killed by a car bomb outside Moscow

Analysis from CNN's Tim Lister and Josh Pennington

Alexander Dugin is seen in his TV studio in central Moscow on August 11, 2016.
Alexander Dugin is seen in his TV studio in central Moscow on August 11, 2016. (Francesca Ebel/AP)

Alexander Dugin, whose daughter Darya was killed Saturday by a car bomb outside of Moscow, is the high priest of a virulent brand of Russian nationalism that has become increasingly influential in Russia's capital.

At the age of 60, from a family of Russian military officers, his journey has been remarkable: from fringe ideologue to the leader of a prominent strand of thinking in Russia that sees it at the heart of a "Eurasian" empire defying Western decadence. He is the spiritual founder of the term "the Russian world."

Along the way, this strand has incorporated a deep loathing of Ukraine's identity outside of Russia.

Dugin helped revive the expression "Novorossiya" or New Russia — which included the territories of parts of Ukraine — before the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin used the word in declaring Crimea part of Russia in March of that year.

Dugin has long had a visceral loathing of Ukrainians resisting assimilation into "mother Russia." After dozens of pro-Russian protesters were killed during clashes in Odesa in May 2014, he said: "Ukraine has to be either vanished from Earth and rebuilt from scratch or people need to get it. I think people in Ukraine need total revolt on all levels and in all regions. An armed revolt against junta. Not only in the South-East.

"I think kill, kill and kill. No more talk anymore. It is my opinion as a professor," he said.

The following year, Dugin was sanctioned by the United States as "complicit in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, or sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine."

Read the full analysis here.

11:26 a.m. ET, August 22, 2022

Ukraine denies Russian media reports that Dugina's alleged killer had served in Azov regiment

From CNN's Tim Lister and Victoria Butenko

Ukraine's national guard denied reports in Russian state media that the alleged killer of Darya Dugina had previously served in the Ukrainian military as a member of the Azov regiment.

The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti had shared a post from a Telegram channel run by Russian hackers (RaHDit) which claimed that the alleged assailant — a woman — had served in Azov, which is categorized in Russia as a terrorist organization.

With this report, Russian propagandists are "trying to justify among its citizens the previous decision to recognize a unit of the National Guard of Ukraine as a terrorist organization, showing Russians 'crimes committed by Azov' on the territory of the Russian Federation," the National Guard said

The woman had not served in the Azov unit of the National Guard, it added.

In a statement, Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov called the reports of National Guard's involvement in the car bombing "fake."

“The National Guard is fulfilling its legal tasks at the territory of Ukraine,” he said. “Both Dugin and his daughter are marginal characters and not a point of interest to Ukraine.”

9:57 a.m. ET, August 22, 2022

Ukrainian official says Russia's Darya Dugina murder accusation shows it lives in "fictional world"

From CNN's Tim Lister

A senior Ukrainian official has provided the first official comment from Kyiv on the accusation by the Russian Security Service — the FSB — that Ukrainian security services murdered Darya Dugina in a car bomb attack near Moscow on Saturday.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the office of the Ukrainian President, commented on Twitter:

"Ru-propaganda lives in a fictional world: 🇺🇦 [Ukrainian] woman and her 12-year-old child were "assigned" responsible for blowing up the car of propagandist Dugina. Surprisingly, they did not find the "Estonian visa" on the spot," he said, a reference to the claim by the FSB that the woman had since escaped to Estonia. 

Podolyak added: "Vipers in 🇷🇺 [Russian] special services started an intraspecies fight."

On Sunday, Podolyak strenuously denied Ukraine's involvement in the car explosion, saying in a Ukrainian TV interview that "Ukraine definitely has nothing to do with this because we are not a criminal state, which the Russian Federation is, and even more so, we are not a terrorist state,"