August 29, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Heather Chen, Tara John, Hafsa Khalil, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 4:08 a.m. ET, August 30, 2022
25 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
7:47 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

It's nighttime in Kyiv. Catch up on the top headlines from the war in Ukraine today

From CNN staff

IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi, leads the IAEA expert mission that comprise IAEA nuclear safety, security and safeguards staff as they set for their official visit to the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), from Vienna, Austria on August 29.
IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi, leads the IAEA expert mission that comprise IAEA nuclear safety, security and safeguards staff as they set for their official visit to the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), from Vienna, Austria on August 29. Dean Calma/IAEA/Reuters

A team of inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog is on its way to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, according to the spokesperson for the country's foreign ministry, Oleg Nikolenko. He said the team is expected to start work at the plant in the next few days.

Meanwhile, a source told CNN that the Ukrainian military has taken four villages back from Russian occupation in the south near the city of Kherson as the battle for that region continues.

Here are the top headlines to know:

  • UN nuclear watchdog on its way: A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is on its way to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, IAEA Chief Rafael Mariano Grossi tweeted Monday. The mission will assess damage to the plant’s facilities, evaluate the working conditions of the staff and perform urgent safeguard activities. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the international community should demand Russia’s withdrawal from the plant so as to ensure nuclear security. The Kremlin allegedly welcomed the news of the visit, saying the IAEA mission will enter Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant from the Ukrainian side, but Russia will ensure its safety on the territory occupied by the Russian army.
  • New satellite images of Zaporizhzhia: Four holes have appeared in the roof of a building at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant near at least three Russian armored personnel carriers, according to new satellite images from Maxar Technologies. Russia has repeatedly claimed that they do not have any “heavy weaponry” at the plant. The holes in the building are almost 500 feet away from one of the nuclear reactors. CNN reached out to Ukrainian authorities about whether they conducted a military strike at the plant, but have not yet received a response. CNN has also reached out to Energoatom, Ukraine's state nuclear power plant authority for comment and to inquire on what the building's purpose is.
  • Nuclear tensions rise: US government scientists are monitoring radiation sensor data at Zaporizhzhia, according to a senior US defense official, and have seen “no indications of increased or abnormal radiation levels so far.” The official said the US is pressuring Russia “to vacate the power plant and allow the Ukrainians to be able to operate it in peace.”
  • Fighting in the south: Ukraine has begun a counteroffensive against Russian forces in southern part of the country, the White House said on Monday. John Kirby, the communications coordinator for the National Security Council, said Russia continue to have "manpower problems." Meanwhile, Moscow acknowledged the counteroffensive, but said the Ukrainian troops “suffered heavy losses” and “failed miserably” in their “attempted” offensive. 
  • More confirmed deaths: Russian shelling has killed at least two people and injured 11 more in Ukraine’s southern port city of Mykolaiv near the Black Sea Coast on Monday, according to Vitalii Kim, head of the Mykolaiv region civil military administration. Residential buildings and educational institutions were hit, he said.
  • A cold winter: Ukrainians are expected to face the coldest winter in decades, with the state gas company set to lower temperatures across the country’s centralized Soviet-era heating systems. Yurii Vitrenko, the head of state gas company Naftogaz, warned that if Ukraine faces a coal shortage, power will need to be generated using gas, adding that if the country has to import additional gas, it will need funding from international partners. 
5:08 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

Russian recruitment push "unlikely to succeed," senior US defense official says

From CNN's Michael Conte

The US believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree to increase the size of Russia's armed forces from 1.9 to 2.04 million is “unlikely to succeed, as Russia has historically not met personnel end strength targets,” according to a senior US defense official.

The official added, “any additional personnel Russia is able to muster by the end of the year may not in fact increase overall Russian … combat power” due to the measures Russia has taken to increase recruitment, such as “eliminating the upper age limit for new recruits, and also by recruiting prisoners.”

“Many of these new recruits have been observed as older, unfit and ill-trained,” the official, said, who reiterated that before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia “may have already been 150,000 personnel short of their million personnel goal.”

4:46 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

US monitoring radiation sensor data from Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, senior defense official says

From CNN's Michael Conte, Oren Liebermann, Barbara Starr and Jennifer Hansler

US government scientists are monitoring radiation sensor data at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, according to a senior US defense official, and have seen “no indications of increased or abnormal radiation levels so far.”

The official said the US is pressuring Russia “to vacate the power plant and allow the Ukrainians to be able to operate it in peace.”

“We’re very intent in ensuring that the IAEA can send its team into the plant and ensure the safety of those plant operations,” the official added.

IAEA mission to the plant: Principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said the US State Department “(hopes) that Russian lives up to its word and allows a full inspection of the facilities."

A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), led by its chief Rafael Grossi, is en route to the Russian-occupied power plant in southeastern Ukraine. Officials have warned of the risk of a catastrophic nuclear incident amid shelling near the facility. US and Ukrainian officials have called for a demilitarized zone around the plant.

Separately, a senior US military official said that “airstrikes and artillery bombardment that have gone on around the nuclear power plant,” and that the US knows “with great confidence that the Russians are firing from the area around the nuclear power plant,” as well as “using the nuclear power plant to store a bunch of their equipment.”

However, this official also said “there’s probably a likelihood” the Ukrainians have also fired in the vicinity of the plant.

“In a number of cases, it’s returning fire of the Russians who are firing from those locations,” said the official.

3:13 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

US has seen uptick in "kinetic activity" around Kherson region in southern Ukraine, military official says

From CNN's Michael Conte 

The United States has seen "an uptick in kinetic activity over the past few days” in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine, according to a senior US military official, including “artillery and rockets.”

However, the official would not say this was a new “counteroffensive” or not as the US has seen Ukrainian forces “making some offensive moves in and around the Kherson pocket” over the last few weeks.

Earlier Monday: CNN reported that Ukrainian forces have begun "shaping" operations in southern Ukraine to prepare the battlefield for a significant Ukrainian counteroffensive, two senior US officials briefed on the intelligence told CNN. 

3:09 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

Satellite images of Zaporizhzhia plant show holes in roof near Russian armored personnel carriers

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Tim Lister

A satellite image showing holes in the roof of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on August 29.
A satellite image showing holes in the roof of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on August 29. Maxar Technologies/Reuters

Four holes have appeared in the roof of a building at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant near at least three Russian armored personnel carriers, according to new satellite images from Maxar Technologies.

The Russian-appointed leader for the Zaporizhzhia region, Vladimir Rogov, claimed that the holes were the result of a Ukrainian military strike on the complex. Rogov published photos showing one of the holes on his Telegram channel.

CNN has geolocated and confirmed the authenticity of the photos, but not the claims that the holes were the result of a Ukrainian military strike.

The Ukrainian government has repeatedly denied that they have conducted military strikes at or near the plant in recent weeks.

In the satellite images, at least three Russian armored personnel carriers are seen sitting underneath a large structure with pipes, which feed from the building into all six of the nuclear reactors.

More context: Russia has repeatedly claimed that they do not have any "heavy weaponry" at the nuclear power plant. The holes in the building are almost 500 feet away from one of the nuclear reactors at the plant.

CNN reached out to Ukrainian authorities about whether they conducted a military strike at the plant, but have not yet received a response. CNN has also reached out to Energoatom, Ukraine's state nuclear power plant authority for comment and to inquire on what the building's purpose is.

The satellite image also shows a fire burning just north of the plant.

2:24 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

Ukraine to face coldest winter in decades as gas company lowers temperatures across central heating system

From CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Ukrainians are expected to face the coldest winter in decades, with the state gas company set to lower temperatures across the country’s centralized Soviet-era heating systems.

Indoor temperatures will be set at between 17 to 18 degrees Celsius (62.6 to 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit), Yurii Vitrenko, the head of state gas company Naftogaz, said on Monday.

That's around four degrees lower than normal for a country where temperatures can fall beyond the winter average of negative 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).

“If the winter is cold, there will not be enough gas for centralized heating without additional imports. Hence, there will not be enough power to supply heating to the population,” Vitrenko told CNN.

Vitrenko warned that if Ukraine faces a coal shortage, power will need to be generated using gas, adding that if the country has to import additional gas, it will need funding from international partners. 

“Without the [western] financial support, we will lack gas and it will mean we’ll have really high risks for the power system [going] down,” Vitrenko said.

In a scenario, where there is not enough gas or coal, Ukraine could face power blackouts.

“We have a single energy system, so in case there is not enough coal, then gas will be needed but it won't be enough of it either. Then, accordingly, the energy system will not have enough electricity and we will have to resort to rolling blackouts across Ukraine,” Vitrenko said.

7:45 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

Ukrainian troops took back 4 villages in the south from Russian occupation, military source tells CNN

From CNN's Olga Konovalova and Bex Wright

Oleksandr Shulga looks at his destroyed house following a missile strike in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, on August 29, 2022,
Oleksandr Shulga looks at his destroyed house following a missile strike in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, on August 29, 2022, Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian troops have taken four villages back from Russian occupation in the south near the city of Kherson, a Ukrainian military source tells CNN. Their main "target" is Kherson, the source added.

“The operation began at night with massive shelling of Russian positions and the rear,” the source, who CNN is not naming for security reasons, said.

“The main direction of the attack was on Pravdyne. We hit their infantry from the DNR (Donetsk People's Republic) and LNR (Luhansk People's Republic), and they fled. The Russian landing force fled after them," the source told CNN.

“We have now liberated four villages. Their first line of defense has been broken through in three places,” the military source said. 

The source said the village names are Nova Dmytrivka, Arkhanhel's'ke, Tomyna Balka and Pravdyne.

“Many of them were killed and captured, and a lot of [Russian] military vehicles [were destroyed].”

“We'll see how it goes from here. Our target is Kherson," according to the source. 

2:11 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

White House says threat of Ukrainian counteroffensive has already impacted Russian military

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Fred Pleitgen and Darya Tarasova

Ukrainian gunners prepare to fire with a self-propelled multiple rocket launcher at a position near a frontline in Donetsk region on August 27.
Ukrainian gunners prepare to fire with a self-propelled multiple rocket launcher at a position near a frontline in Donetsk region on August 27. Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images

The White House says it has seen reports that Ukraine has begun a counteroffensive against Russian forces in southern Ukraine but does not want to comment further on specific Ukrainian military operations, John Kirby, the communications coordinator for the National Security Council, said.

Kirby did note, however, that regardless of the size, scale and scope of the latest counteroffensive, the Ukrainians “have already had an impact on Russian military capabilities.”

“Because the Russians have had to pull resources from the east simply because of reports that the Ukrainians might be going more on the offense in the south,” Kirby said. “And so they've had to deplete certain units …in certain areas in the East in the Donbass, to respond to what they clearly believed was a looming threat of a counter offensive."

Kirby also said that Russia “continues to have manpower problems” in Ukraine, and is trying to expand its recruitment of fighters inside Russia as well as “entice” some of their conscripts and contract soldiers to serve beyond their time frames.  

That is “because they are experiencing manpower challenges—manpower challenges that are not made any easier by the way they’ve had to respond to reports of a potential counteroffensive by the Ukrainians,” Kirby said.

Kirby also said that “the idea of going on the offense is not new to the Ukrainians.”

“Now I recognize that what we're talking about here is the potential for a major counteroffensive, which is different than going on the offense in a more localized way,” Kirby said. But he said Ukrainian forces “have been taking the fight to the Russians inside” Ukraine for quite some time now, including in the early months of the war around the capital Kyiv.        

“So, it’s not a new development for them to do this,” Kirby said.

What Russia is saying: Moscow on Monday acknowledged Kyiv’s counteroffensive in Ukraine’s south, but said the Ukrainian troops “suffered heavy losses” and “failed miserably” in their “attempted” offensive. 

Ukrainian forces on Monday “attempted an offensive in the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions from three directions,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement, adding, "as a result of the active defense of the grouping of Russian troops, units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine suffered heavy losses."

The ministry said that during the fighting, 26 Ukrainian tanks, 23 infantry fighting vehicles, nine other armored fighting vehicles were destroyed and two Su-25 attack aircraft were shot down.

“Another attempt at offensive actions by the enemy failed miserably,” it concluded.

12:42 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

UN nuclear watchdog agency officials will reach Kyiv on Monday, Ukrainian foreign ministry says 

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

An inspection team from the UN nuclear watchdog on its way to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine will arrive in Kyiv on Monday, according to Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko. 

A delegation of 14 international experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “has already left Vienna and is due to arrive in Kyiv today [Monday]. It is expected that the mission will start work at the (nuclear plant) in the coming days,” Nikolenko said on Monday. 

The inspection mission is headed by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, the spokesperson added.