IAEA mission delayed en route to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, says spokesman
From CNN’s Kim Norgaard in Kyiv
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission has been delayed on the Ukrainian-controlled side of the front line for about three hours en route to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), and IAEA spokesman has said.
"Director general Grossi has personally negotiated with Ukrainian military authorities to be able to proceed and he remains determined that this important mission reaches the ZNPP today," Fredrik Dahl told CNN on Thursday.
Setting off for the plant from Zaporizhzhia city earlier Thursday, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said the mission would persevere despite the "inherent risks" his monitoring team would face.
4:54 a.m. ET, September 1, 2022
It's "time to stop playing with fire" at Zaporizhzhia, warns ICRC chief
From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman and Sarah Dean
It is "high time to stop playing with fire" around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned Thursday.
Speaking to reporters in Kyiv, ICRC director-general Robert Mardini urged "concrete measures" be taken "to protect this facility and others like it from any military operations."
"The slightest miscalculation could trigger devastations that we will regret for decades," he warned.
"When hazardous sites become battlegrounds, the consequences for millions of people and the environment can be catastrophic and last many years," he said.
"In the event of a nuclear leak, it will be difficult if not impossible to provide humanitarian assistance."
4:29 a.m. ET, September 1, 2022
Ukrainian official accuses Russian forces of trying to disrupt nuclear plant inspection
From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv, Ukraine
A Ukrainian presidential adviser on Thursday accused Russian forces of trying to disrupt the visit of UN nuclear inspectors to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by shelling the nearby city of Enerhodar.
"The Russians shelled Enerhodar and the territory of the ZNPP," said Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine. "They want to disrupt the visit of the IAEA mission. These are the actions of a terrorist state, which is afraid that the world will learn the truth."
Shelling has been ongoing in Enerhodar since Thursday morning, according to Ukrainian and Russian-installed regional officials as a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) traveled to the plant for a planned inspection of the facility in southeastern Ukraine, which has been held by Russian forces since March.
"It is Russia that is responsible for everything that happens at the ZNPP and Enerhodar. Criminals must be stopped," Yermak said.
Some context: CNN has not been able to independently verify claims from either side about the shelling near the facility. CNN reached out to the IAEA regarding any obstacles or security issues on its prearranged route to the plant but has not received a response.
Setting off for the plant from Zaporizhzhia city earlier Thursday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said the mission would persevere despite the "inherent risks" his monitoring team would face.
4:10 a.m. ET, September 1, 2022
Shelling in city near Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as UN watchdog travels for inspection
From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Hannah Ritchie
Shelling in the city of Enerhodar near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power has been ongoing since Thursday morning, according to Ukrainian and Russian-installed regional officials.
"Since 5 a.m. [local time], constant mortar shelling has not stopped," Enerhodar’s Mayor Dmytro Orlov said in a Telegram post, adding that "helicopters" had been circling over the city. "One can hear automatic weapons. It is known that several civilian facilities were hit. There are victims! We are clarifying how many."
The Russian-appointed military-civilian administration of Enerhodar also claimed there had been "at least three" civilian casualties and five injuries, including a child.
CNN has not been able to independently verify claims from either side.
Inspectors on the way: The reports come as a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) traveled to the nuclear plant for a planned inspection of the facility in southeastern Ukraine, which has been held by Russian forces since March.
In a separate report, the head of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia regional military administration Oleksandr Starukh accused Russian forces of “shelling the pre-agreed route of the IAEA mission from Zaporizhzhia to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.”
CNN reached out to the IAEA regarding any obstacles or security issues on its prearranged route to the plant but has not received a response.
Setting off from Zaporizhzhia city earlier Thursday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi acknowledged the “inherent risks” his monitoring team would face after leaving the “gray zone” where the last line of Ukrainian defenses end but said the mission would persevere.
3:28 a.m. ET, September 1, 2022
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant shuts down another reactor due to shelling
From CNN’s Sarah Dean and Olga Voitovych
The fifth reactor at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was shut down and its emergency protection system activated on Thursday due to shelling, Ukraine's nuclear operator Energoatom said in a statement.
The shutdown comes as a team of international experts were traveling to the Russian-occupied plant in southeastern Ukraine for a planned inspection amid fighting in the area that has sparked fears of a nuclear accident.
The plant, which was disconnected from the country's power grid last Thursday, has six reactors, only two of which have been functioning — number five and number six.
"Today, September 1, 2022, at 4:57 a.m., as a result of another mortar shelling by the Russian occupying forces at the site of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, the emergency protection was activated and the operating 5th power unit was shut down," the Energoatom statement said. "In addition, the backup power supply line 330 kV for own needs of the ZNPP was damaged. In the transition mode, the non-working power unit No. 2 was de-energized with the start-up of diesel generators."
Energoatom said the remaining reactor "continues to work in the energy system of Ukraine and at the same time feeds the ZNPP's own needs."
Some context: Nuclear plants use a number of auxiliary safety systems, such as diesel generators and external grid connections, to keep reactors cool. Zaporizhzhia also uses a spray pond, a reservoir in which hot water from inside the plant is cooled. If those systems failed, then the nuclear reactor would heat up swiftly, triggering a nuclear meltdown.
Ukraine has accused Russian troops of using the plant as a shield, risking a potential disaster at the plant. The Kremlin has in turn repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant.
3:03 a.m. ET, September 1, 2022
UN nuclear inspectors on way to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant despite "significant" risks
From CNN's Hannah Ritchie
A team of international experts were traveling to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant for a planned inspection of the facility on Thursday despite the "significant" risks of their mission, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi said.
Upon arrival at the plant, the team will start an immediate "assessment of the security and safety situation,” Grossi told reporters, with the ultimate goal of “establishing a continued presence of the IAEA at the plant.”
The plant is near the front line of the war in southeastern Ukraine and was captured by Russian troops in March. Both sides have accused each other of shelling it.
“I have been briefed by the Ukrainian regional military commander about the inherent risks but weighing the pros and cons and having come so far, we are not stopping, we are moving now," Grossi said. "We know that there is a so-called 'gray zone' where the last line of Ukrainian defense [ends] and the first line of Russian occupying forces begin; where the risks are significant. “At the same time, we consider that we have the minimum conditions to move, accepting that the risks are very high. Still, myself and the team feel we can proceed with this, we have a very important mission to accomplish.”
It is uncertain how long the IAEA visit will last.
8:46 p.m. ET, August 31, 2022
Projectile veers off course after launching from near Russian city of Belgorod
From CNN's Julia Kesaieva
A rocket or missile fired from near the Russian city of Belgorod appears to have gone off course and crashed into a residential area, according to multiple social videos uploaded to the Telegram channel Belgorod Informant on Wednesday night.
It's unclear how much damage it caused, or whether there were any casualties. Videos show the projectile flying in a shallow arc across the city before coming down somewhere close by. Residents posted on Telegram that it had hit the Komsomolskiy district.
There has been no comment from local officials.
Belgorod is close to the border with Ukraine.
8:42 p.m. ET, August 31, 2022
Russia facing "severe" military personnel shortages, US officials say
From CNN's Jeremy Diamond
The United States believes that Russia is facing "severe" shortages of military personnel in Ukraine and is seeking new ways to increase its troop levels, two US officials told CNN.
"The Russian military is suffering from severe manning shortages in Ukraine. We believe that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) is seeking to recruit contract service members to make up for these personnel shortages, including by compelling wounded soldiers to reenter combat, acquiring personnel from private security companies, and paying bonuses to conscripts," a US official told CNN.
The latest US assessment is based on downgraded intelligence and confirmed to CNN by two US officials. It is the latest effort by the Biden administration to downgrade and publicly release intelligence findings about Russia's war effort.
The officials also said that the US has "credible reporting" that Russia's Defense Ministry is "likely to begin" recruiting convicted criminals in Ukraine "in exchange for pardons and financial compensation."
As with previous releases of downgraded intelligence, the officials did not provide additional details about the intelligence behind these assessments.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last week ordered the military to increase the number of troops by 137,000, though it was not clear how the Russian Defense Ministry intended to reach that target.
The Pentagon estimated earlier this month that as many as 80,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded during the war in Ukraine.
12:17 a.m. ET, September 1, 2022
US war-gamed with Ukraine ahead of counteroffensive and encouraged more limited mission
From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis and Natasha Bertrand
In the buildup to the current Ukrainian counteroffensive, the United States urged Kyiv to keep the operation limited in both its objectives and its geography to avoid getting overextended and bogged down on multiple fronts, multiple US and western officials and Ukrainian sources tell CNN.
Those discussions involved engaging in "war-gaming" with Kyiv, the sources said — analytical exercises that were intended to help the Ukrainian forces understand what force levels they would need to muster to be successful in different scenarios.
The Ukrainians were initially considering a broader counteroffensive, but narrowed their mission to the south, in the Kherson region, in recent weeks, US and Ukrainian officials said.
Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told CNN that "the United States has routine military-to-military dialogue at multiple levels with Ukraine. We will not comment on the specifics of those engagements. Generally speaking, we provide the Ukrainians with information to help them better understand the threats they face and defend their country against Russian aggression. Ultimately, the Ukrainians are making the final decisions for their operations."
Officials say they believe there is now increased parity between the Ukrainian and Russian militaries. But western officials have been hesitant to label the nascent Ukrainian operation — which appeared to begin on Monday in the southern province of Kherson — a true "counteroffensive."
How successful Ukraine is likely to be in regaining lost territory remains an open question, sources familiar with the latest intelligence tell CNN. Ukrainian officials have already said this offensive will likely be a slow operation, and punishingly cold winter weather is coming and then an early spring mud, both of which could force pauses in the fighting.
Still, there is a distinct feeling amongst Ukraine's US and western advisers that the Ukrainian military is on much more even footing with Russia than was believed even just a few short months ago, multiple officials told CNN. Russia still maintains superior numbers in overall manpower and massed artillery.