Russia's war in Ukraine

By Tara Subramaniam, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 2:25 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022
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4:14 p.m. ET, August 30, 2022

State Department confirms US assessment that Russia has received Iranian drones

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Christian Sierra

State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel confirmed that the US believes Russia has received unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Iran and “intends to use these Iranian UAVs, which can conduct air to surface attacks, electronic warfare, and targeting on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

“The Russian military is suffering from major supply shortages in Ukraine in part because of sanctions and export controls, forcing Russia to rely on unreliable countries like Iran for supplies and equipment,” Patel said during a phone briefing Tuesday. “We'll continue to vigorously enforce all US sanctions on both the Russian and Iranian arms trade and we will stand with our partners throughout the region against the Iranian threat.”

CNN’s Natasha Bertrand reported Monday evening that the US assessed that Russia was in possession of the UAVs.

2:45 p.m. ET, August 30, 2022

Top Kremlin official is leading Russian efforts to stage sham referenda in occupied Ukraine, US says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Christina Sierra

A top Kremlin official is leading Russia’s efforts to stage sham referenda in occupied parts of Ukraine, US State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said Tuesday.

“Preparations for the sham referenda are being led by the first deputy head of Russia's presidential administration, Sergey Kiriyenko,” Patel said during a phone briefing. 

“Kiriyenko is responsible for overseeing the Russia-held territories in advance of their attempted incorporation into Russia, which would be illegal if completed,” he said.

Kiriyenko was sanctioned in March 2021 and sanctioned again in February 2022 — two days before the Russian war in Ukraine began — in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics as “independent.”

Patel reiterated that the US assesses that Russia could hold sham referenda in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, and parts of Kharkiv. They “could take place in the coming weeks,” he said.

“We expect Russia to manipulate the results of these referenda in order to falsely claim that the Ukrainian people want to join Russia,” he said. 

“As part of the sham referenda, Russia will undoubtedly employ propaganda and disinformation campaigns, falsify voter turnout and exaggerate the percentage of those who supposedly voted in favor of joining Russia," he said. “We want to be clear any claim by the Kremlin that the Ukrainian people somehow want to join Russia is a lie. Polling shows that just 3% of Ukrainians say that they would like Ukraine to be a member of the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union.”
2:52 p.m. ET, August 30, 2022

Baltic Sea nations agree to increase offshore wind energy to offset reliance of Russian gas

From CNN's Manveena Suri

Wind turbines rotate in the Baltic Sea between the islands of Rügen and Bornholm, belonging to Denmark on August 29, 2020.
Wind turbines rotate in the Baltic Sea between the islands of Rügen and Bornholm, belonging to Denmark on August 29, 2020. (Jens Büttner/Picture Alliance/Getty Images/File)

European countries bordering the Baltic Sea agreed on Tuesday to ramp up offshore wind energy seven-fold by 2030, as Europe seeks to wean itself off Russian gas supplies.  

The agreement was signed at the Baltic Sea Summit in Copenhagen, which was hosted by Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and government heads from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. Organizers said the summit's aim was to strengthen the EU’s independence from Russian gas, improve energy security and boost the Baltic Sea’s offshore energy potential.

“Our dependency on Russian fossil fuels will only be over if we invest massively into renewable energy. And that is why we are here today. So we need clean, we need cheaper and we need home-grown power. We need it big and we need it fast,” von der Leyen said during her opening remarks. 

More on the agreement: Initial projects announced include a hybrid offshore wind park between Estonia and Latvia, a cross-border district heating grid between Germany and Poland and a project to produce renewable electricity in Italy, Spain and Germany for conversion, transport and use of green hydrogen in the Netherlands and Germany, according to a news release issued by the European Commission.

During a news conference following the summit, the European Commission president also addressed concerns over rising energy prices across Europe.

“The real driver for the increase of electricity prices is somewhere else, that is gas, and mainly Russian gas that has been manipulated by Putin. Putin who uses gas as a weapon and you can see that in the figures,” she said, adding the electricity market is no longer functioning because of Putin “who is systematically trying to destroy it and to manipulate it.”

7:36 p.m. ET, August 30, 2022

It's nighttime in Ukraine. Here's what you need to know.

From CNN staff

These are some of the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi ahead of a planned visit this week by a delegation of the IAEA, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.

As Ukraine and Russia continue to accuse each other of shelling the area around the plant, the European Union is donating 5.5 million potassium iodide tablets to Ukraine to safeguard people from potential radiation exposure in what the EU Commission called a “preventative safety measure.”

Ukrainian southern counteroffensive: US President Joe Biden's administration has been helping the Ukrainian military prepare for its now-ongoing counteroffensive for the last couple of months by fulfilling specific arms requests leading up to the launch this week, according to an administration official.

Ukrainian officials also said that the damage to bridges across the Dnipro river in the Kherson region means that Russian forces are unable to cross the river to assist units on the front lines further north.

Kharkiv strikes: At least four people were killed and nine others wounded in shelling of central Kharkiv — Ukraine's second-largest city — on Tuesday, according to Oleh Synehubov, the head of the regional military administration. 

Rssian gas supplies: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, while saying that Russia is using gas as a strategy in the war against Ukraine, assured Germans that "we can deal quite well with the threats that are coming our way" in terms of the gas supply for the coming winter months. On Aug. 19, Gazprom announced unscheduled maintenance orders onNord Stream 1 from Aug. 31-Sept. 2, which will suspend gas flow. Meanwhile, French industrial energy group Engie said that Russian gas company Gazprom will reduce its supply of gas to France, effective today.

2:45 p.m. ET, August 30, 2022

Zelensky meets with UN nuclear watchdog chief ahead of delegation's visit to Zaporizhzhia plant 

From Daria Makina, Vica Butenko and Petro Zadorozhnny in Kyiv

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy shakes hands with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in Kyiv on August 30.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy shakes hands with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in Kyiv on August 30. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters)

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky met with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi on Tuesday, according to a press officer with Zelensky’s office. 

The meeting came as Ukraine and Russia continue to accuse each other of shelling the area around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant ahead of a planned visit by a delegation of the IAEA, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, later in the week.

Zelensky told Grossi that the IAEA's mission in Ukraine is "urgent" and that Ukraine wants its team to do more than carry out an inspection at the plant.

Zelensky said that he hoped the delegation would "find an opportunity, thanks to our special services, thanks to the security corridors, to get to the station, and do the best to avoid all those threats on a global scale."

"Probably, today this is one of the most [high] priority issues regarding the security of Ukraine and the world," Zelensky said.

He blamed the Russian military for the "creation of great risks, regarding explosions, regarding the failure to work of the nuclear reactors, regarding the risks of disconnecting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant units from our network, and regarding the risks of the heating season for our citizens." 

Zelensky urged the IAEA to do more than inspect the plant, saying that strategic decisions were required "regarding the urgent demilitarization of the station, the withdrawal of all, any, military personnel of the Russian Federation with explosives, with any kind of weapon."

Zelensky insisted that the area should become a demilitarized zone and that there should be a transition of the plant to full control of the Ukrainian state.

11:36 a.m. ET, August 30, 2022

Recent US weapons shipments designed for Ukraine's southern counteroffensive, Biden official says 

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

The Biden administration has been helping the Ukrainian military prepare for its now ongoing counteroffensive for the last couple of months by fulfilling specific arms requests, an administration official says.

Ukraine had been asking the US for weapons specifically suited to their planned southern counter offensive in the months leading up to the launch this week, the official says.

The US fulfilled many of those requests — including additional ammunition, artillery and Javelins — over the course of several presidential drawdown assistance packages provided to Ukraine over the last two months, the official said. 

Those packages have been public knowledge, but it was not known at the time that they were designed in part to supply the now ongoing counteroffensive.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and top US General Mark Milley have routinely talked to their Ukrainian counterparts to determine what specific weapon needs depending on Ukraine’s battlefield goals. 

2:45 p.m. ET, August 30, 2022

EU member states agree on working towards a new military assistance mission for Ukraine, top EU diplomat says

From CNN’s Alex Hardie in London 

The European Union Parliament in Brussels on June 22.
The European Union Parliament in Brussels on June 22. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

All European Union member states agree on launching the “work necessary to define the parameters for a new military assistance mission for Ukraine,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Tuesday. 

There are “many training initiatives on the way” for the Ukrainian military, he said after a meeting of EU defense ministers in Prague.

The top EU diplomat also said that the Ukrainian defense minister had shown the EU a list of short-, medium- and long-term training activities that country’s military needs. 

"We need to ensure the coherence of this effort,” he said. “It’s clear that we need to be quick and ambitious, demonstrate added value, flexibility, once again based on the needs of Ukrainian armed forces."

2:45 p.m. ET, August 30, 2022

Russians are unable to reinforce units across the Dnipro river in Kherson, Ukrainians say 

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Tim Lister

A picture taken on July 21 shows a car moving past a crater on a bridge across the Dnipro river, near Kherson, caused by a Ukrainian rocket strike.
A picture taken on July 21 shows a car moving past a crater on a bridge across the Dnipro river, near Kherson, caused by a Ukrainian rocket strike. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian officials say that the damage to bridges across the Dnipro river in the Kherson region means that Russian forces are unable to cross the river to assist units on the front lines further north.

"The enemy is trying to pull up reserves from the Left (south) bank," Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for the Ukrainian military's Operational Command South, said at a briefing Tuesday.

That had proved impossible, she added, "because we carefully and precisely worked on these bridges: they are the main transport arteries across the Dnipro, they became impassable for heavy equipment." 

"Now, [the Russians] do not have the transport ability to pull up reserves from the left bank. Therefore, they create the illusion of pulling up reserves by moving military units between the settlements," she explained. "All bridges have been worked by us as impassable."

"They may continue to try to set up a ferry or pontoon crossing, but the whole area where it can be deployed is also under our fire control and will be hit," Humeniuk added.

There were further strikes reported on the main Antonivskiy road bridge connecting southern Kherson with Kherson city early Tuesday.

9:32 a.m. ET, August 30, 2022

Any EU visa ban for Russians should exclude persecuted opposition members, German foreign minister says

From Inke Kappeler in Berlin

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock, attends the closed meeting of the German Cabinet at Schloss Meseberg, Germany on August 30.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock, attends the closed meeting of the German Cabinet at Schloss Meseberg, Germany on August 30. Soeren Stache/picture-alliance/dpa/Associated Press

Germany would want to see Russian persecuted opposition members excluded from a possible European Union-wide visa ban for Russian citizens, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on the side of a German cabinet retreat on Tuesday. 

Berlin is ready to suspend a visa facilitation agreement with Russia and stop issuing multiple visas or multiple-years visas, Baerbock said. 

During a two-day informal gathering in Prague, EU defense and foreign ministers are considering further measures against Russia, and one proposal put forward by Eastern European countries is to ban Russian tourists from entering the EU.

The German government wants to enable "persecuted people in Russia to leave the country very quickly," Baerbock said. 

"We do not punish those who still have the courage to stand up against this regime," she said.

The visa opportunity should offer refuge not only for "very well-known journalists or very well-known opposition members, but we must also leave the possibility for students who have the courage at their university to inform themselves elsewhere," the minister said.

"We must prepare ourselves for the fact that Russia will continue to pose a threat to our security and our freedom in the near future and that at the same time we cannot view the entire security policy solely in terms of this Russian war of aggression,” she added.