August 25, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 2:48 a.m. ET, August 26, 2022
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12:29 p.m. ET, August 25, 2022

Analysis: A grim winter will test Western unity against Russia's war in Ukraine amid energy concerns

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

The West's response through six months of Russia's war in Ukraine has remained strong and largely united — to the surprise of many.

The trans-Atlantic alliance managed to pull together to provide financial and weapons support to Kyiv, reach agreements to stop using Russian energy, and implement sanctions designed to hit President Vladimir Putin and his cronies.

However, as the war reaches its half-year mark, officials across Europe are worried the consensus could fall apart as the continent enters a bleak winter of rising food prices, limited energy to heat homes and the real possibility of recession.

Western officials and diplomats spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe sensitive conservations among governments.

In a possible taste of more draconian measures to come, Berlin turned off the lights illuminating German monuments in order to save electricity, while French shops have been told to keep their doors shut while the air conditioning is on, or else face a fine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has captured the West's imagination and put heat on countries to support his war effort, might find it harder to get the attention of his fellow European leaders as the conflict drags on.

"That may well be why Zelensky said he wanted the war over before Christmas, because the real issues will be getting the West to stick to its promises in the long run," said Keir Giles, a senior consulting fellow at think tank Chatham House.

The winter fuel crisis is something that European officials and diplomats are thinking about daily, with Russia accounting for about 55% of Europe's total gas imports in 2021.

European countries also have a thirst for Russian oil, with almost half of Russian oil exports going to the continent. The EU reportedly imported 2.2 million barrels of crude oil per day in 2021.

"Within the European Union, it will be very difficult and we must try to stick to our promise to cut off Russia when it comes to any profits from gas and other sources," according to a senior European diplomat, referring to a deal struck between the EU member states to cut their use of Russian gas by 15%.

However, the agreement has been criticized for being voluntary, and officials fear that when push comes to shove, some EU countries simply won't play their part.

Related: Read about Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, which have been points of contention and sharpened the showdown between Russia and the West during this invasion.

1:10 p.m. ET, August 25, 2022

Russian actions at Zaporizhzhia "have created a serious risk of a nuclear incident," US official says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is seen outside of Enerhodar, Ukraine, on August 22.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is seen outside of Enerhodar, Ukraine, on August 22. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

A top US State Department official on Thursday warned that Russia’s actions at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant have increased risks of possible nuclear radiation release.

Russia has "created a serious risk of a nuclear incident, a dangerous radiation release that could threaten not only the people and environment of Ukraine, but also affect neighboring countries and the entire international community,” Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins said.

Jenkins reiterated calls for Russia to cease its military activities around the plant. She also stressed the importance of the International Atomic Energy Agency being able to visit and inspect the facility. She did not provide any details on that visit, which the agency’s head on Thursday described as “imminent.”

Jenkins told reporters on a briefing call that she was unable to confirm reports that the plant had been disconnected from the grid, but said “we are very concerned about turning off any of the other power plants; we are very concerned about any of the activities that are taking place, particularly since we do not have adequate access to see what is actually taking place and what can be the immediate impact of what's going on there.”

Earlier Thursday, the last power line at the plant was disconnected twice, according to the state nuclear regulator in Ukraine. The Russian-installed governor of occupied areas of Zaporizhzhia said that the power supply to all cities and districts of the Zaporizhzhia region had been restored after earlier disruptions.

Jenkins would not say whether there were discussions taking place on how to mitigate a potential nuclear catastrophe at the plant.

“Obviously there's a recognition of a possible issue there. We are all worried about a potential nuclear incident. We’re all worried about a potential radiation that can be leaked, based on the irresponsible actions of Russia. So I would just say that we are all aware of that, and we're taking that into consideration,” she said.
12:30 p.m. ET, August 25, 2022

Ukrainian nuclear operator chief explains why the last line of the Zaporizhzhia power plant is critical

From CNN's Sam Kiley and Bex Wright

Intensified shelling around Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant — Europe's largest — has sparked concerns around the world, prompting a demand for damage assessment on the site.

Normally, the plant has four lines that connect it to the Ukrainian power system, but three of them were damaged and only one remains, according to Energoatom CEO Petro Kotin, who spoke to CNN on Monday. Energoatom is a Ukrainian state enterprise operating all four nuclear power stations in Ukraine.

"If this line is also damaged, then we will have blackouts more through the whole plant," he said.

This establishes how critical that last power line and its operation is.

So it concerning when Ukrainian nuclear authorities claimed that the last power line was disconnected twice on Thursday. It has now been restored according a Russian-backed official.

Remember: CNN spoke to Kotin on Monday, prior to the reports of the last line being disconnected twice.

Kotin explained that there are diesel generators as backup to cool the fuel and keep things operational, but there are caveats to using that backup for an indefinite time. Kotin called this a "dangerous" situation to be in.

"For cooling of the fuel, we will use diesel generators to supply power to those cooling pumps, and that is a very dangerous situation, because you cannot rely only on diesel generators, because they need fuel for their work," he explained.

"Reliability questions could be an issue ... because in this case, they could be required to work for an indefinite time, and they have limited capacity to constantly be in work mode," he added.

The damaged lines cannot be restored or maintained at the moment because the location is under constant fire and that could put the workers' lives in danger, Kotin noted.

He claimed that Russians are disconnecting the remaining line from the Ukrainian power system "intentionally," and alleged that their aim is to "reconnect it to Russian system."

However, that won't be possible without a full shutdown of the plant and a full cut of all lines which are connected to the Ukrainian system, he said.

12:06 p.m. ET, August 25, 2022

Putin signs decree to increase military staff 

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the main naval parade marking Russian Navy Day in St. Petersburg on July 31.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the main naval parade marking Russian Navy Day in St. Petersburg on July 31. (Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images/File)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed a decree to increase the size of Russia's armed forces from about 1.9 million to 2.04 million.

According to a decree published on the Russian portal of legal information, the number of military personnel will increase to 1.15 million, adding 137,000 service personnel. 

The decree will come into force Jan. 1, 2023. 

According to the previous decree from Nov. 17, 2017, Russian troops numbered 1,902,758, including 1,013,628 service personnel. 

10:36 a.m. ET, August 25, 2022

Power supply from Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been restored, Russian-backed official says

From CNN's Petro Zadorozhnyy and Tim Lister

Power supply to all cities and districts of the Zaporizhzhia region has been restored after earlier disruptions, according to the Russian-installed governor of occupied areas of Zaporizhzhia.

"As a result of a strike by the armed formations of Ukraine on power lines in the area of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, the territory of the security zone of the 750 kV overhead line caught fire. The fire was provoked by a short circuit on power lines," Yevhen Balytskyi claimed.

"The relay emergency protection of ZNPP worked, two power units were turned off, after which the Zaporizhzhia region was left without power supply," he added.

"Immediately after the fire was extinguished, one unit was put into operation. Work was underway to restore the power supply to the region and launch the second power unit," he explained.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has six reactors, but only two are operational at the moment.

10:01 a.m. ET, August 25, 2022

Last power line at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant twice disconnected on Thursday, Ukraine authorities say

From CNN's Tim Lister, Julia Kesaieva, Uliana Pavlova, Olga Voitovych and Petro Zadorozhnyy

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar, Ukraine, on August 22.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar, Ukraine, on August 22. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

A power line from the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia was disconnected as a result of hostilities in the area, the state nuclear regulator in Ukraine said.

As a result, one of the nuclear power units at the plant had also been disconnected, according to the State Inspection of Nuclear Regulation, which quoted the nuclear operator Energoatom.

After being restored once, the 750 kV "Dniprovska" overhead line was disconnected again, the regulator said in a Telegram post, adding that this also affected the second power unit again due to "the subsequent tripping of the emergency protection."

Energoatom also posted on its Telegram channel, confirming that the "750 kV ZNPP - "Dniprovska" overhead line - was disconnected twice."

"The actions of the invaders caused a complete disconnection of the ZNPP from the power grid - the first in the history of the plant," it added.

It is unclear whether there is currently any disruption to the power supply at the plant. CNN has previously been told that there are 18 diesel generators at the plant as back-up sources of power to the reactors. 

Satellite view of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on August 13.
Satellite view of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on August 13. (Planet Labs PBC/Reuters)

The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported there had been "a short circuit in the network after shelling by Ukrainian troops and fires in Enerhodar [which] caused a blackout in the Zaporizhzhia region."

CNN has confirmed the disruption of electricity supplies to Melitopol, which is Russian occupied territory.

9:57 a.m. ET, August 25, 2022

France reiterates support for UN agency mission to Zaporizhzhia plant "as soon as possible"

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu and Pierre Bairin in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron, second right, attends a meeting with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi, second left, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, on August 25.
French President Emmanuel Macron, second right, attends a meeting with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi, second left, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, on August 25. (Alain Jocard/Reuters)

French President Emmanuel Macron restated France’s support for sending an expert group from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant during his meeting with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, the Élysée Palace said in a statement Thursday. 

“The President of the Republic reiterated his support for the deployment of an IAEA expert mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as soon as possible to address nuclear safety and security issues and safeguards, while respecting Ukraine's full sovereignty over its territory and infrastructure,” the Élysée said. 

“(Macron) confirmed that the Director General could count on France's support to ensure that the IAEA mission would have safe and unhindered access to the plant and could carry out its mission without interference,” the statement said.

The French president praised Grossi’s efforts in the past few months to ensure the security of nuclear power plants in Ukraine. His comments also come after shelling intensified around the massive Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe's largest, which has been under Russian control since March.

CNN previously reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed for a mission from the IAEA to access the plant via territory controlled by Ukrainian forces during a call with Macron last week, according to a source from the Élysée Palace.

Some context: Both Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for security and military action at and around the plant. The lack of independent access to the plant makes it impossible to verify what is happening there. Over the past month, a number of rockets and shells have landed on the territory of the plant, according to satellite imagery analyzed by CNN.

9:46 a.m. ET, August 25, 2022

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

International inspectors are close to agreeing a deal with Russia to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, while concern is growing over planned trials of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the occupied city of Mariupol.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • IAEA near Zaporizhzhia visit: Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told French channel France 24 he might soon be able to visit Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, currently under Russian control. An agreement with Russia is "very, very close," said Grossi.
  • Worries over POW trials: There are growing concerns over the scheduled trials of Ukrainian POWs in Mariupol. Denis Pushilin, leader of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), said that the trials will include soldiers from Ukraine's "regular army" as well as members of the Azov Regiment.
  • Russia-linked building targeted: Ivan Fedorov, mayor of the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol, has posted video of damage to a building allegedly used by Russian-backed officials in the region. "Tonight, the headquarters of the occupiers in the village of Pryazovske was blown up," Fedorov said on Telegram.
  • Russian forces target Kyiv region: Two Russian rockets hit communities near Ukraine's capital Kyiv overnight into Thursday, according to Oleksiy Kuleba, head of Kyiv's regional state administration. No injuries or infrastructure damage were reported.

  • Railway station death toll increases: The number of casualties in a Russian attack on a train station in Ukraine's Dnipropetrovsk region on Wednesday has risen to 25. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the President's office said search and rescue operations has been completed at the station in the village of Chaplyne.
  • Biden and Zelensky to speak: US President Joe Biden will speak Thursday with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to update him on US arms shipments and congratulate him on Ukrainian independence day, according to the White House.
7:36 a.m. ET, August 25, 2022

Russia claims attack on Chaplyne train station killed 200 Ukrainian soldiers

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova, Tim Lister and Radina Gigova

A missile strike on a train station in Chaplyne, in Ukraine's Dnipropetrovsk region, killed more than 200 Ukrainian servicemembers and destroyed 10 equipment units, according to Russia's Ministry of Defense.

CNN cannot independently verify accounts of the strikes referenced by the ministry.

Ukrainian officials say at least 25 people, including two children, died in the attack on the station on Wednesday, which marked both Ukraine's independence day and exactly six months since Russia invaded the country on February 24.

“As a result of a direct hit by an Iskander missile on a military echelon at the Chaplyne railway station in the Dnepropetrovsk region, 200 employees of the reserve of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and 10 units of military equipment were destroyed on its way to Donbas,” Russia's Ministry of Defense said in a statement published Thursday.