More security assistance for Ukraine will be announced in the days ahead, US official says
From CNN's Betsy Klein
John Kirby, the United States' National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said Wednesday to expect another announcement of military aid for Ukraine in the coming days.
“We ... committed more than $13 billion of security assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and we will continue to do that. And there will be announcements of future security assistance in the coming days,” he told reporters.
US aid provided so far: This would come after US President Joe Biden announced $2.98 billion in military assistance for Ukraine last Wednesday. The US has provided approximately $13 billion in military aid to Ukraine since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began Feb. 24, a National Security Council official told CNN.
Since the beginning of the war, the US has provided $7 billion in grants for direct budget support and over $1.5 billion of humanitarian aid for Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees, the official said.
11:05 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022
IAEA director says Zaporizhzhia mission is not risk-free but he looks forward to continuing presence
From CNN's Tim Lister
Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that his team's mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is "not risk-free" but has to be carried out.
Speaking to journalists in the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is in Ukrainian-held territory, Grossi said that visiting the plant was something "we need to do."
He said the visit would be carried out under the auspices of the safeguards agreement that the IAEA had with the Ukrainian government.
Grossi said he had brought an experienced team — the "best and brightest," as he called them — "and we will have a pretty good idea of what's going on" at the plant.
He said the mission would take a few days, but spoke of the possibility of a permanent or continuing IAEA presence at the plant, Europe's biggest nuclear power complex.
Grossi said his team's mission was a technical one that seeks to avoid a nuclear accident and required the political will of both sides in the conflict.
12:31 p.m. ET, August 31, 2022
EU foreign ministers reach political consensus to fully suspend visa agreement between EU and Russia
From CNN's Chris Liakos
Following a two-day informal meeting in Prague, the European foreign ministers have reached political consensus to fully suspend the visa facilitation agreement between the European Union and Russia.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a news conference following the meeting that this decision “will significantly reduce the number of new visas issued by the EU member states” given that the process would become more difficult and take longer.
Visas were already restricted to some categories of Russian nationals. Borrell said that this is not a legal text but only a political agreement at this point.
The agreement will have to be approved by all member states at an European Council level.
Borrell said that since mid-July, there has been a “substantial increase on border crossings from Russia in neighboring states,” which has become “a security risk for these states.”
“We have seen many Russians traveling for leisure and shopping as if no war was raging in Ukraine,” Borrell said.
“It cannot be business as usual,” he added.
9:46 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022
Ukrainian official says there have been "successes" in counteroffensive, while Russia disputes claims
From CNN’s Jo Shelley in London, Olga Voitovych in Kyiv and Uliana Pavlova
The Ukrainian Armed Forces have had “successes” in fighting in three areas of Kherson, according to Yurii Sobolevskyi, deputy head of the regional council.
Sobolevskyi told Ukrainian television that the successful operations were in the cities of Kherson, Beryslav and Kakhovka. He did not provide further details.
Separately, Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine's Operational Command South, said: “We are currently continuing our work on destroying the enemy's logistics centers, cutting off transportation to draw up [its] reserves, and destroying ammunition depots. This work is quite effective.”
A report released by the UK’s Ministry of Defence on Wednesday said Ukrainian forces had pushed Russian forces back “some distance in places” in the south.
“Ukrainian armoured forces have continued to assault Russia’s Southern Grouping of Forces on several axes across the south of the country since Monday,” according to the report. “Ukrainian formations have pushed the front line back some distance in places, exploiting relatively thinly held Russian defences.”
What Russia says: A post on the Russian defense ministry’s Telegram channel on Wednesday claimed that Ukrainian attempts to “resume offensive operations” in areas of southern Ukraine had failed. The ministry said Russian forces inflicted heavy losses of equipment and personnel.
Here's a look at the areas claimed as part of the Ukrainian counteroffensive:
9:27 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022
War in Ukraine drives up UK food prices to new high
From CNN's Zayn Nabbi and Alex Hardie in London
The price of food in the United Kingdom has increased at the "highest inflation rate since August 2008" as the country feels the impact of the war in Ukraine, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and NielsenIQ index.
Overall "food inflation accelerated strongly to 9.3% in August, up from 7.0% in July," which is "the highest inflation rate since August 2008" the report released Wednesday stated.
“Mounting cost pressures up and down supply chains meant shop price inflation hit a new high in August. The war in Ukraine, and consequent rise in the price of animal feed, fertilizer, wheat and vegetable oils continued to push up food prices," BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson said.
"Fresh food inflation in particular, surged to its highest level since 2008, and products such as milk, margarine and crisps saw the biggest rises,” Dickinson added.
Fresh food is now up to 10.5% from 8.0% in July.
“The rise in shop prices is playing into wider UK inflation, which some analysts are predicting could top 18% in 2023. The situation is bleak for both consumers and retailers," Dickinson added.
9:22 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022
Inspectors’ visit to nuclear power plant will take a few days, head of delegation says
From CNN’s Jo Shelley in London
Inspectors from the UN's nuclear watchdog will visit the Zaporizhzhia power plant for “a few days,” the head of the delegation told reporters on Wednesday.
“The mission will take a few days, and if we are able to establish a permanent presence or a continued presence ... then it's going to be prolonged. But this first segment, so to speak, is going to take a few days," Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi said.
Grossi described his team as being on a “technical mission” that “seeks to prevent a nuclear accident.”
Earlier Wednesday, the head of the Russian-appointed local administration told news agency Interfax that the team is expected to "see the work of the station in one day."
9:16 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022
UN nuclear watchdog plans to establish permanent mission at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, director says
From CNN’s Jo Shelley in London and Anna Chernova
The International Atomic Energy Agency plans to establish a permanent presence at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Director General Rafael Grossi told journalists in Kyiv early Wednesday.
He made the comments before 14 members of his team left for the city of Zaporizhzhia. They have now arrived and are expected to try to visit the plant tomorrow.
Asked whether it was his plan to establish a permanent mission there, Grossi said, “Yes, we are going to do exactly that.”
It is not clear under what conditions the IAEA would leave its personnel at the facility, which is occupied by Russian forces. Both the Ukrainians and Russians have accused each other of shelling it. CNN is unable to verify who is responsible.
What Russia is saying: A top Russian diplomat said Moscow “welcomes” the plan to leave a presence at the plant.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's representative to international organizations in Vienna, wrote on Telegram: “The IAEA Director General Mr. Rafael Mariano Grossi confirmed today his plans to establish permanent presence of Agency’s specialists at the ZNPP [Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant]. Russia welcomes this intention.”
9:17 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022
It's just past 3:30 p.m. in Kyiv. Catch up on the latest from Russia's war in Ukraine
From CNN staff
If you're just joining us, here's what you need to know about Wednesday's developments in Russia's war in Ukraine.
Zelensky to Russia: "Run away or surrender"
As Ukraine's southern counteroffensive continues, President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke Tuesday of the military’s efforts to take the battle to Russian forces and said the occupiers “can do only two things: run away or surrender.” Few details have emerged about the counteroffensive's goals and timeline, nor about Ukrainian advances in the Kherson region.
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, a State Department official confirmed.
UN nuclear inspectors head to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency have arrived in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia ahead of their planned visit to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to IAEA spokesperson Fredrik Dahl. The team will likely stay overnight in the city before visiting the nuclear power plant on Thursday, according to a report from Reuters earlier Wednesday. The team is expected to "see the work of the station in one day," the head of the Russian-appointed local administration told news agency Interfax.
A historic Soviet figure died
Mikhail Gorbachev — the last leader of the former Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991 — has died at the age of 91 after a long illness, Russian state news agencies reported. He is credited with introducing key political and economic reforms to the USSR and helping to end the Cold War.
Russian gas flow to Europe was halted again
Gas flow from Nord Stream 1, the largest pipeline bringing Russian natural gas supplies to Europe via Germany, dropped to zero on Wednesday morning, according to operator data, as part of a scheduled halt announced last week. This fuels existing 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.
9:15 a.m. ET, August 31, 2022
Team from UN nuclear watchdog arrives in city of Zaporizhzhia ahead of visit to nuclear plant
From CNN’s Kim Norgaard in Kyiv
Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency have arrived in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia ahead of their planned visit to Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to IAEA spokesperson Fredrik Dahl.
The IAEA delegation is likely to stay in the regional capital overnight before attempting to visit the facility in the city of Enerhodar on Thursday, Reuters reports.