August 31, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Lianne Kolirin, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 2:23 a.m. ET, September 1, 2022
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9:10 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022

IAEA visit to nuclear plant to last "one day," says Russian-appointed local official

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

A team of IAEA experts and inspectors leave the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, early Wednesday, August, 31.
A team of IAEA experts and inspectors leave the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, early Wednesday, August, 31. Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team traveling to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant "must see the work of the station in one day," the head of the Russian-appointed local administration told news agency Interfax.

"The program of the visit is designed for one day. They must see the work of the station in one day," Yevgeniy Balitsky is reported to have said.

The IAEA delegation left Kyiv for Zaporizhzhia, in south-eastern Ukraine, early Wednesday. It is unclear when they plan to enter the power plant.

Balitsky said he did not have high hopes for the results of the IAEA mission.

He claimed he not been in touch with the delegation but would meet them and show them shrapnel from attacks on the plant, which Russia blames on the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

CNN is unable to verify who is responsible for the shelling, as both sides have accused each other.

9:10 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022

Analysis: Why Gorbachev's legacy haunts China's ruling Communist Party

Analysis from CNN's Simone McCarthy in Hong Kong

Tributes have poured in from around the world for Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the former Soviet Union who died on Tuesday age 91, with many global leaders hailing his role promoting peace and advancing freedoms.

But in China, Gorbachev's legacy is seen in a different light, as it raises the specter of a historical event that has long been cited as a cautionary tale for the ruling Communist Party: the fall of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev, who presided over the Soviet Union from 1985 until its collapse at the end of 1991, is widely credited with helping to end the Cold War and introducing key political and economic reforms to the USSR.

For an entire generation of Chinese leaders, however, Gorbachev has come to represent the perils of embracing democratic reforms, with officials long suggesting Communist-ruled China could face a similar fate to former ideological cousin the USSR if internal politics are left unchecked.

Beijing's official response to Gorbachev's death has been brief. A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, when asked for comment in a briefing Wednesday, said Gorbachev "had made positive contributions to the normalization of relations between China and the Soviet Union."

"We express our condolences to his family on his death caused by illness," the spokesman said.

As news of the former leader's death trended on Chinese social media platform Weibo on Wednesday morning, many users expressed their feelings of witnessing history and the end of an era, but some took a harder line.

"The Soviet Union was destroyed by him and the generations after him," wrote one user, who also asked if Gorbachev would be "ashamed" to meet Communist thinkers Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin after death. Others pointed sarcastically to how Gorbachev was loved by the United States and the West.

Read the full analysis here.

9:10 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022

World leaders mourn death of last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev

From CNN's Jessie Yeung

The death of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, known for his pivotal role in ending the Cold War and introducing key reforms to the USSR, has prompted an outpouring of condolences and tributes from world leaders.

Gorbachev died age 91 on Tuesday following a long illness, according to Russian state news agencies. He was the final leader of the Soviet Union, serving from 1985 until its collapse in 1991.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences and will send a message to Gorbachev's family and friends on Wednesday, according to state-run news agency RIA Novosti, citing Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

European leaders, meanwhile, praised Gorbachev's legacy, with French President Emmanuel Macron calling the former Soviet leader "a man of peace whose choices opened a path to freedom for Russians."

"His commitment to peace in Europe changed our common history," Macron said.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said on Twitter that Gorbachev had "opened the way for a free Europe."

"He played a crucial role to end the Cold War and bring down the Iron Curtain," she wrote.

Putin's relationship with Gorbachev: The two leaders were often ideologically opposed, with Putin, who served in the KGB security agency during Gorbachev's time in office, referring to the demise of the Soviet Union as the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century during a 2005 speech.

While earlier this year, the Gorbachev Foundation, a research institute set up by the former leader to promote "democratic values," issued a statement two days after Putin's invasion of Ukraine calling for "an early cessation of hostilities and (the) immediate start of peace negotiations."

"There is nothing more precious in the world than human lives," the statement said.

Read more here.

9:10 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022

Analysis: Why Gorbachev is remembered as a giant in the West and a pariah at home

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

Former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Washington, D.C. on March 19, 2009.
Former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Washington, D.C. on March 19, 2009. (Stephen Voss/Redux)

Mikhail Gorbachev's tragedy is that he outlived the thaw in the Cold War between Moscow and the US, after doing more than anyone to engineer it.

The last leader of the Soviet Union died on Tuesday at the age of 91, with Washington and the Kremlin on opposite sides of President Vladimir Putin's hot war in Ukraine, launched in part to avenge the Soviet collapse precipitated by Gorbachev's rule.

It is hard to encapsulate what Gorbachev meant to Western publics in the 1980s, after one of the most dangerous periods of the standoff between East and West. After generations of severe, hostile, hardline and elderly Kremlin leaders, he was young, modern, and fresh — a visionary and a reformer.

Gorbachev inspired sudden hope that the nuclear showdown that haunted the world in the second half of the 20th century would not end up destroying civilization. US President Ronald Reagan and his British soulmate, Margaret Thatcher, were the most hawkish of Cold warriors. But to their credit, they realized a moment of promise — as the British Prime Minister said of the Soviet leader: "We can do business together."

Fall of Soviet Union: After a heady series of nuclear arms control reduction talks and meetings with Western leaders, Gorbachev became a hero in the West. But it was his decision not to intervene with military force when popular rebellions erupted against Communist regimes in Warsaw Pact nations in 1989 that led to the liberation of Eastern Europe, the fall of the Iron Curtain, the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany.

But while he was lionized in the West, Gorbachev came to be seen as a pariah at home. It is often forgotten now that his goal wasn't necessarily to dismantle the communist Soviet Union. In many ways, his hand was forced by decades of economic decay in the communist system and the draining impact of a nuclear arms race with the West.

But in trying to save the system, he set off forces that destroyed it. Far from heralding the "end of history" as was often said at the time, his influence caused consequences that could still be felt on the day he died, with Moscow and the West again at loggerheads in a Cold War-style chill.

Read the full analysis here.

2:16 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022

Russia begins scheduled halt of gas supplies to Europe through Nord Stream 1 pipeline

From CNN’s Eyad Kourdi

Nord Stream 1 pipeline gas flows into Europe dropped to zero on Wednesday morning, according to operator data, as part of a scheduled halt announced last week.

The halt will last through September 2, Russian state energy giant Gazprom confirmed Friday. 

Nord Stream 1 is the largest pipeline bringing Russian natural gas supplies to Europe via Germany and was previously shut down for 10 days in late July for what Gazprom described as "annual maintenance." 

Some context: Wednesday’s outage has fueled concerns that Russia is deliberately cutting off supplies of its gas to Europe, in retaliation for Western sanctions over its war in Ukraine — an allegation Moscow denies. 

2:49 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022

UN nuclear inspectors leave Kyiv en route to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

From CNN’s Mitch McCluskey 

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi talks to the press in a hotel in Kyiv, on Wednesday before setting off with his team to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi talks to the press in a hotel in Kyiv, on Wednesday before setting off with his team to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. (Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP/Getty Images)

A team of United Nations nuclear inspectors has left Kyiv to travel to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, the delegation's leader Rafael Grossi told reporters Wednesday. 

"After six months of efforts, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is moving into the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant," said Grossi, director general of the organization.
"As you know, we have a very important task there to perform: to assess the situation, to help stabilize the situation as much as we can. I am very conscious of the relevance of this moment. We are ready, the IAEA is ready."

Grossi is leading a delegation of 14 experts to inspect the facility as fears mount over a potential nuclear accident amid recent shelling in the area. 

"We are going to a warzone, to occupied territory. This requires explicit guarantees not only from the Russian Federation but also from the Republic of Ukraine. And we have been able to secure that," he said. 

9:10 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022

Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet president who took down the Iron Curtain, dies

From CNN's Susannah Cullinane and Laura Smith-Spark

Mikhail Gorbachev — the last leader of the former Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991 — has died at the age of 91.

Gorbachev died after a long illness, Russian state news agencies reported.

"Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev died this evening after a severe and prolonged illness," the Central Clinical Hospital said, according to RIA Novosti Tuesday.

The man credited with introducing key political and economic reforms to the USSR and helping to end the Cold War had been in failing health for some time.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences, Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told RIA Novosti.

Putin will send a message on Wednesday to Gorbachev's family and friends, RIA Novosti added.

With his outgoing, charismatic nature, Gorbachev broke the mold for Soviet leaders who until then had mostly been remote, icy figures. Almost from the start of his leadership, he strove for significant reforms, so the system would work more efficiently and more democratically. Hence the two key phrases of the Gorbachev era: "glasnost" (openness) and "perestroika" (restructuring).

"I began these reforms and my guiding stars were freedom and democracy, without bloodshed. So the people would cease to be a herd led by a shepherd. They would become citizens," he later said.

He will be buried next to his wife at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, RIA Novosti reported, citing the Gorbachev Foundation.

Read more here.

9:11 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022

Ukraine doing "everything we can" to ensure UN nuclear watchdog can safely visit Zaporizhzhia, Zelensky says

From CNN's Petro Zadorozhnyy and Tim Lister

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant seen on Tuesday.
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant seen on Tuesday. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

As the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delegation arrives in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said their mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is important "and we're doing everything we can to make it happen safely and at full capacity."

"Unfortunately, Russia does not stop provocations precisely in those directions from which the mission is supposed to arrive at the station," he claimed. "But I hope that the IAEA mission will be able to start its work."

Both Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of daily attacks using rockets and artillery in the vicinity of the plant.

"The situation at the ZNPP and in Enerhodar [the adjacent city], in the surrounding areas, remains extremely threatening," Zelensky said.

Some context: Zelensky met with IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi on Tuesday, according to a press officer with Zelensky’s office. The delegation plans on visiting the power plant later this week.

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.”

The President 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.

8:49 p.m. ET, August 30, 2022

As Ukrainian offensive gets underway, Zelensky says Russians have two options: Run away or surrender

From CNN's Petro Zadorozhnyy and Tim Lister

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has spoken of the military's efforts to take the battle to Russian forces and says the occupiers "can do only two things: run away or surrender."

In his daily video message, Zelensky said the armed forces and security services were doing "everything possible and impossible so that every Russian serviceman will necessarily feel the Ukrainian response to this terrible terror that Russia has brought to our land."

He was speaking as a Ukrainian offensive in the south got underway. Few details have emerged about its goals and timeline, nor about Ukrainian advances in the Kherson region.

"Throughout the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, from Crimea to the Kharkiv region, the Russian army does not have and will not have a single safe base, a single quiet place," Zelensky said.

"Our defenders will destroy all warehouses, headquarters of the occupiers, and their equipment, no matter where they are located.

"This is Ukrainian land, and the occupiers can do only two things: run away or surrender. We leave them no other options."

Zelensky also addressed the people of Crimea, saying, "Please stay as far as possible from Russian military facilities. Do not be near Russian bases and military airfields, report to the special services of Ukraine all the information you know about the occupiers so that the liberation of Crimea can happen faster."